Beadmaking in Jablonec

There are several techniques for making glass beads. Generally, beads are either wound, blown, drawn of molded. On my trip to Jablonec I mostly looked into molded beads. They show a great variety in colours and shapes and are very attractive. The technique of molding beads is more than 200 years old, and has not changed that much since. In this post I will go into the basis technique.

It starts with large glass canes. These canes are made in the larger factories or workshops, and bought by the smaller pressing workshops. They cane be made from one solid colour, or have different colours for special effects. This picture shows some different left over pieces of cane. The full canes are generally about 4 feet long. They come in different widths.

There are two ways for molding the beads. One is manual molding, where the glass cane is heated and pushed into shape with big metal pliers or pinchers. Sometimes the pliers also pierce a hole into the bead, or this is done by a second person. In Jablonec I bought one of these old pliers that both shape and pierce a bead.

The second and now more common type of making molded beads is mechanical, and much quicker. Several glass canes are heated in a furnace and used one after another in a machine for molding. The end of the glass canes gets very hot and malleable, and beads can be molded. After a few inches of one cane is used, it is put back in the furnace and the beadmaker coninues with another hot cane. I saw this fascinating process in a small workshop in Jablonec.

The next picture shows the molded beads, still attached to each other, coming out at the other end of the machine. Unfortunately, the picture is not very good. Also added is a picture of the molds used in a machine like this.

After this molding, the bead is far from finished yet. The flash on the seam has to be removed. This can be done with a simple piece of equipment of two round blades cutting off the glass.

After this, sometimes the seam is ground down further, and the bead is tumble-polished and/or fire-polished.

The result? Wonderfully diverse beads in all the shapes you can imagine.

Below are some examples of bead sample cards form the museum in Jablonec.