Thursday, July 17, 2008

A thousand flowers

part 2

I posted a few days ago about one type of lampworked beads used in paternosters, namely the kind with looped and dragged surface decoration. Everything else I know about lampworked beads should easily fit into one more post, with some room left over! ;)

Another fairly easy technique for decorating the surface of lampworked beads is to roll them in "frit" -- which is what glass workers call little ground-up bits of glass. "Frit" can be made from leftover bits of glass in whatever colors are available, ground up and sifted to produce bits of whatever size range the glassmaker wants.


The hot bead is rolled in the frit, and when the resulting bits are melted into the surface of the bead, you get random dots of color, something like the beads below. (These have a thick layer of clear glass added over the spotted core.)


500 Jahre Rosenkranz includes one rosary made from spotted, or as the description says, "marbled" glass beads. Unfortunately the photo is small, black and white and terrible, but here it is, for what it's worth:



The gift rosary I made that prompted me to investigate lampworked beads in the first place is shown below, and it's the reason these two posts are titled "A thousand flowers." That's the literal translation of "Millefiori," the type of beads I used for the Ave beads.


I will happily recommend Venetian Bead Shop, where I bought these: they carry a wide variety of colors, shapes, foiled and sparkly beads, swirls, hand-blown hollow beads, and many other types traditionally made in Murano, the glassmaking district near Venice. Their shipping is fast and their prices very reasonable. Occasionally they are out of stock of a particular color, but seldom for long.

Millefiori beads are created by first making a rod of glass out of many smaller rods, arranged in a flower-like pattern and melted together. The rod is then drawn out into a long, thin cane, and slices from such a cane will all show the same flower pattern. To make a millefiori bead, several such slices will be applied to the surface of a hot bead of some other color, which is then quickly rolled smooth. (You can see that these beads are hand made, because some of them are more smooth than others!)

These beads are quite nice: I've seen so-called "millefiori" beads from other countries that are much less well done and look more like multi-colored mishmash than flowers. These are sometimes labeled as "ethnic," which always makes me snort.

What I don't know here is when and where millefiori beads have been actively made and traded. The technique seems to have been known in Italy in the 15th century, but this says nothing about whether it was popular or rarely used. Wikipedia (for what it's worth) seems to think that millefiori beads have only become really common in the last century or so. Resources, anyone?

This paternoster was made for someone who likes "everything Italian," hence the bright colors. I tried a couple of different shades of plain blue glass for the marker beads before I found one that looked right.


This just about concludes all I know about the use of lampworked beads in rosaries! But I'd certainly like to find out more.

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Blogger Karen said...

Wow, that is such a beautiful rosary Chris! Could you please post the address and email for the shop you bought them from?

9:09 PM  
Blogger Chris Laning said...

The Ave beads are 8 millimeter green millefiori beads from Venetian Bead Shop ( You can get there by clicking here.

The Pater beads are 10 millimeter plain dark-blue opaque glass. I usually buy them by the string from Fire Mountain Gems (

The thread is Gudebrod silk, navy blue, size FFF I think -- also available from Fire Mountain. The tassel takes about 10 yards of thread.

And the instructions are here:

7:50 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Thanks Chris,
They are so reasonably priced,too!

7:43 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I received my bead order. (Very lovely people) and made a paternoster in the circle style without a pendant. I used white howlite as spacer beads and 12mm filligree sterling beads as paters. I will get some pictures up of this and my latest projects as soon as I can get hold of a digital camera.

5:26 PM  

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