Using Black for Drama in Jewelry Designs

Today I'm sharing a column by color expert Margie Deeb who writes the "Colorworks" column in every issue of Step by Step Beads.  This column on using black (originally published in the January/February 2008 issue) will give you several ideas on how to combine black with other colors or black beads of different finishes.  I've recently been fascinated by the effect of black on other colors, particularly in seed bead work.  Take a look at my Jane of the Jungle bracelet as an example.–Michelle Mach, Beading Daily editor.

Dramatic Black

by Margie Deeb

Black backgrounds improve the readability of light colors because of the contrast it provides.  Light, pure colors–yellows and oranges–shine brightest when surrounded by black.  Bright jewel tones advance, leaping forward.  Black frames other colors, setting them off and making them prominent.

Dark, pure colors like blues and violets appear a bit dulled when surrounded by black.

Combining Black with Pastels

With tints and pastels, black will make a striking statement, providing the pastels have enough color to stand their ground.  With weaker tones, black will wash them out completely.

Black is a powerful presence, heavy, dominating, and pervasive.  Like blue, it recedes, luring us toward it.  Because of its association with mourning and funerals, too much black becomes overwhelming, even oppressive.

Adding (or Toning Down) Drama

At the height of its power, black requires a companion that will stand up to it, one charged with intensity and luminosity.  Red has both.  Black and pure red make a most dramatic color statement.

To tone down drama while retaining flair, try black with maroon instead of bright red.  Pair garnet and black onyx.  Modulate them with the sophistication of pearl and gold.

Mixing FInishes

Variation is the secret to successful black-on-black beadwork.  Even among blacks alone, an array of textures and finishes achieves contrast.  The shine of an opaque finish next to a flat matter finish makes the latter appear dark gray and furnishes a slight bit of value contrast.  Try rough against smooth textures and cool blacks against warm blacks.  Midnight Sun displays myriad textures, temperatures, and finishes of silver and black.

In fashion, black will always be the ultimate chic statement.  The simplicity of a strand of black-and-gold, black-and-silver, or black-and-pearl beads is timeliness and never out of vogue.

Look for Margie Deeb's column "Colorworks" in every issue of Step by Step Beads.  In the November-December issue, Margie discusses how to translate the colors of a culture into a palette for beaded jewelry.  She shares photos of two pieces, once inspired by an Indian marketplace and another by the Taj Mahal.  Subscribe to Step by Step Beads so you don't miss this issue!  You might also check out Margie's appearance on episode 808 on the Beads, Baubles, and Jewels TV show where she she talked about choosing colors.  For more information about Margie, visit her website at

Michelle Mach shares beading news, contests, reader galleries, and other beady stuff every Monday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website.

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