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What is Glass Jewelry?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Glass jewelry can be formed in many different ways. It is all made from glass, but each technique forms a distinctly different look in earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. Glass jewelry making is thought to date back as early as the 9th century in Italy, when beads were traded from Rome and Venice to neighboring countries. The old Italian decorative glass techniques of millefiori and lampworking are still used in fashionable jewelry designs today.

Millefiori and lampwork glass jewelry are often defined as being Murano after the Italian city of the same name where the techniques were perfected. Lampwork is the technique of heating rods and applying melted glass to them. Many different textures and patterns can be created; lampwork beads are especially popular in the glass beading types of jewelry making. A torch is used to melt the glass, while hand tools are applied to twist and form the melted material into different layers. Lampwork beads often feature small dots of glass on top of detailed and multi-colored patterns.

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Millefiori means "a thousand flowers" in Italian. This glassmaking technique also has tiny details with many colors and patterns. The millefiori glass jewelry making process differs greatly from lampworking, however. Each lampwork bead is formed individually over a torch, while millefiori beads are sliced from a roll of heated glass rods. The millefiori artist combines different colors and sizes of glass rods before heating them to create one fused piece. The fused roll is then sliced into many beads.

In contrast to the multi-colored, highly detailed Italian glass beads used to make necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, there are many plain colored glass-beaded types of jewelry available. For example, sea glass is made naturally by the ocean. Collectors comb the beaches for it and jewelry makers form it into wearable art. Glass that ends up in the ocean gets tossed by water and sand; this process creates a frosted type of surface and smooth edges. Green, amber, and clear are most commonly seen in sea glass jewelry, but other colors are possible.

Dichronic glass is often used by jewelry designers. This type of glass features layers of metal oxide colors that create a crystal-like finish. Dichronic-coated glass jewelry is often seen in highly original, large pendants that look almost like ceramic, but have even more shades of color.

Glass styles of jewelry tend to be at least a little more expensive than plastic types. Glass jewelry usually looks much more elegant than plastic, however. Glass beads can be used to accent gemstones, while plastic pieces don't usually blend well with gems. A striking glass pendant, earrings, or bracelet can create a personal fashion statement in an otherwise plain outfit.

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