What Sizes are the Holes in Murano Glass Beads?

This is a question every new beader asks when they first encounter Venetian Beads. And then they ask, “What size wire should I use?”

Venetian Beads, Murano Beads

The most common size of holes of Murano Glass Beads is approximately 1mm. Approximate because they are most often made on 1mm diameter copper rods, which heats up and naturally expands. The glass wrapped around it expands as well, but when the glass and the copper cool, they both shrink. So we generally have a ~1mm hole and for larger beads, the mandrel will be larger as the mandrel must support the bead in the fire.

Venetian Bead Shop Beads on Mandrel

Copper Mandrels on our Venetian Dichroic Beads

We also make beads like our PerlaVita, European Large Hole Beads, Bimbi, our smaller European Large Hole Beads for Children, Duo and 2mm Rondelles which we developed for Leather and they each have different sizing. We make these on stainless steel rods using a bead release to keep the glass from sticking to the rods. Bead Release was used in Venice prior to the 1920s and was called “fango” meaning mud because it came from the lagoon. Bead Release is similar to kiln wash and contrary to popular believe it was not invented by Americans, but they did add graphite to it.

Mandrels for Large Hole Beads

Stainless Steel Mandrels Ready for making PerlaVita Beads

So the short answer is that any wire which is less than 1mm can be used for Venetian Beads. The important issue is the weight of a bead. So larger beads from 16mm up through our 30 and 40mm beads will need a larger gauge wire. Venetian/Murano Beads will always be slightly abrasive around the edges. This is not a defect, simply how the beads are made.

Bracelets or Necklaces?

Bracelets will require a heavier gauge because bracelets are much more active and get more abuse than a necklace. Necklaces, especially those with Swarovski or small beads can be strung on a smaller gauge because they will not be subjected to as much stress.

Beadalon and SoftFlex

We carry wire from both Beadalon and SoftFlex, which are the standard setters in the beading industry. SoftFlex is produced in the US and much of Beadalon is also produced in the US, though they also import, each spool of wire will tell you the place of manufacture. Beadalon is part of a larger corporation which manufacturers fishing line. So your beading wire’s not-so-distant relative is fishing line! And probably the reason each line has a “pound” weight limit – so if you are fishing for really big fish, you need a heavier gauge line. If you are stringing large bead, you need a heavier gauge wire!

Strands of Wire

You will notice that both Beadalon and SoftFlex have different number of strands.The more strands in the wire, the more it can flex without breaking – and the more strands in the wire, the higher the pricing.

Wire Gauges for Venetian Glass Beads,Beadalon Wire

SoftFlex Label

The SoftFlex Label on the wire gives you a wealth of information, including recommendations for use of each type wire.The wire shown is 49 Strands with a 26 pounds test strength, and a diameter of .019 Inches which is .48mm. Since our Venetian Beads are generally 1mm holes, this is a good choice.

SoftFlex Wire, Wire Gauges,Venetian Beads

Wire Gauges are confusing! 

The larger the number – the smaller the wire


Sizes of Wire for Venetian Glass Beads

Make an Adjustable Charm Bangle with Beadalon Bracelet Jig

VenetianBeadShop Adjustable Bangle Bracelet Free Design

Make This Bracelet – So Popular This Year

We love this Beadalon Bracelet Jig to make an adjustable charm bangle. It was voted “Hot” Product of CHA in 2015 (CHA is the Craft Hobby Association).

It is simple and so very popular this year thanks to Alex and Ani. You’ll want to make dozens. Wear them in stacks.

You don’t have to have this jig to make the bracelet. Use a drink can or other bottle to wrap the wire to give it a nice round shape. You can spread the overlap apart if you need it larger or squeeze it a bit further for a smaller size.

The key here is that you want to put the charm which fits inside the overlapping wire before you close the loops. The charms that float you can add at the end. You need only a pair of side cutters to cut the wire and 2 long nose pliers to open and close the endings as well as the charms you add. Watch Wyatt White, Product Manager, from Beadalon as he shows you how to make this bracelet.

Wyatt recommends 18 gauge half hard wire so it maintains it’s shape better. In our bracelet, we used Beadalon 18 gauge Silver Plated Wire. We also have pre-made bracelets in Sterling Silver and in Vermeil (Gold Plate over Sterling).

VenetianBeadShop Adjustable Bangle Bracelet in Vermeil

Vermeil Adjustable Bangle Bracelet

VenetianBeadShop.com adjutable Bangle Bracelet in Sterling Silver

Sterling Silver Adjustable Bangle Bracelet

Gold, Gold Fill, Gold Plate and Vermeil – What You Need to Know

Gold (24kt) is really too soft for daily wear (and expensive) so Gold jewelry is generally alloyed with another metal to maker it stronger. It bears the mark of the karat weight. So 14/24kt Gold is 58.3% Gold, divide the karat weight by 24 (pure gold) to get the actual gold in a piece.

Gold Plate became an economical alternative to Gold and is applied to the finding or piece of jewelry after it is made of a base metal. It has a very thin layer of gold, again stated in karat weight, and a limited life. It is made by an electro-chemical process or flash, which is a very thin coating less than 0.25 Microns. The jewelers supply business sell small kits for gold plating like the one shown below for the DIY. The equipment ranges from a few hundred dollars to several thousands for the professional jeweler.

Electro Plating Equipment - Gold Plating Jewelry

Vermeil is a higher value Gold Plate, by law must be .2mils thick and is plated over Sterling Silver using the same electro-chemical process. This combination make it better for those with allergy to nickel and other metals. It is one of our favorite, namely because the base is Sterling.

Gold Plating Colors - Gold Plated Jewelry

Facts about Gold Fill

  1. It has a longer life than Gold Plate, wearable from 5 – 30 years.
    14/20 Gold Fill means that 14kt Gold was used and that the weight of the gold compared to the base metal is 1/20 or ~5%.
  2. Gold Fill cannot be cast.
  3. Gold Fill cannot be soldered.
  4. The color may not be as bright as Gold Plate.
  5. It is legally required to contain 5% or 1/20 gold by weight. They are identified as 14/20 or 12/20 Gold Filled.

Gold Fill uses more gold in the process making it last longer than Gold Plate, yet still less expensive than Real Gold Jewelry. The gold is bonded to the base metal, usually sterling silver or brass with pressure and high heat. The bonded raw material is then sold as sheet or wire to jewelry manufacturers.

The process was patented in 1900 by Charles Russell and Edward Goddard of Providence RI. This is no surprise as that was the home of the costume jewelry industry for years. If you’d like to read the log version, you can find at http://www.google.com/patents/US651533

Patent for Gold Fill 1900 Providence RI, USA

To see how it was made in 1955 and still today in Attleboro, another important area for jewelry manufacturer.

We offer all them all on our website www.venetianbeadshop.com just look in our Findings and Chains Section.

Measuring Crystals and Pearls – PP, SS, MM Made Simple

Swarovski and others crystals, rhinestones and flatbacks use PP, SS and MM, what do they mean and why!

PP means Pearl Plate and was originally used to measure, well Pearls. That’s because the pearls were graded through stacks of plates with varying size holes.

Pearl Plates are still Used

Pearl Plates are still Used

Actually we still use these in our first sort on sizes of our Murano Glass Beads. So if a bead/or stone is size PP 10 it will fall through larger plates but will stay in the PP10 and smaller. This helps us quickly sort through sizes of hundreds of beads – and obviously gives us a bit of range, which is why we always say “approximately”. And it would be virtually impossible for us to measure each bead with a micrometer.

SS means Stone Size and with the advent of better measuring equipmentm like bead gauges and micrometers, it has become the standard, just not as colorful history!!

Relative Sizes to Millimeters

Relative Sizes to Millimeters

They can all be converted to MM (Millimeters) and of course Inches and if you must, fractions!

Use our handy guide to understand or for reference.

Need the Exact Measurements?

Need the Exact Measurements?



Unraveling the Mystery of Gauges of Wire

SoftFlex Wire,Beadalon Wire,SoftTouch Wire

Choosing Wire for Venetian Beads

We often hear from customers that they just don’t understand wire gauges. It is confusing,and we can blame it on “Brown & Sharpe” who established the AWG standardized wire gauge system for the American market in 1857 and was mainly used to describe the diameters of electrically conducting wire. They had no idea that jewelers would be using this slightly mind bending system.

By definition, 36 AWG is 0.005 inches in diameter, and  0000 AWG is 0.46 inches in diameter. So you get the picture, the larger the number, the smaller the wire. Other countries simply use the metric system with the wire being described in millimeters.

Wire Gauges,Wire Sizes,Converting Wire Gauge to Inches,Converting Wire Sizes to Millimeters

Wire Gauges Made Simple

The nominal size of the holes in our Authentic Venetian Beads is 1mm, because as a rule we use a 1mm mandrel in our lampwork beads. We like to work with the 19 Gauge as it is strong enough for our Murano Glass Beads. For Swarovski Crystals, you will want to use about 14 Gauge.

We do make larger size holes for specific uses, like our PerlaVita line of large hole European Bracelet Beads and our beads for leather, like our Murano Glass beads for RegalizTM.

If you have any other suggestions or questions, drop us a note. We’ll do our best to answer. ;>)


Calcedonia Murano Glass Beads

Calcedonia Murao Glass Beads - Exquisite

Calcedonia Murao Glass Beads – Exquisite

Calcedonia Murano Glass was developed in Murano during the mid fifteenth century. In the glossary of glass, written in Murano, Angelo Barovier is attributed with developing this polychrome glass in 1460. The secret of this glass was closely guarded and entirely lost when the Venetian Republic fell.

It was once again rediscovered by Lorenza Radi in 1856 but by the 20th Century none was in production. It is widely acknowledged that Loredano Rosin mastered this technique in the 1970s and his pieces are still on exhibit around the world and in private collections. His untimely death from a boating accident was a blow to the artist community.
Fortunately, his brother Dino Rosin has carried on the family tradition and has continued to perfect this glass in large and beautiful glass sculptures. You can often find Dino Rosin sculptures available at very hefty sums on ebay and in fine galleries everywhere, just search for the name, Dino Rosin. Today there are several well known masters who create sculptures in this unpredictable glass.
Calcedonia,Venice,San Marco Square,Sculpture

Rosin Glass Sculptures in San Marco Square

For all of us in the Venetian Bead world, we are fortunate that there is another furnace who produces (with proper begging) canes of this unpredictable glass which we can chop and use in beads. However, this is a difficult production and we can only get small quantities made – never knowing what color will arrive.
We all dream of the blues and aquas…and sometimes we get it. The amazing, never the same, colors are produced by adding silver nitrate to the glass and the colors are affected by the humidity, the heat, and factors we don’t understand. The glass begins as salt, soda, sand and minerals days before the glass master is ready to work. The recipes for glass depend on very accurate measuring and minerals of the highest quality.
Any small difference will result in color changes or in glass which does not react well in the flames when the beads are being made. It pops and cracks. The Calcedonia has a mind and life of its own, the colors can not be reproduced with any certainty. They continue to turn colors in the flames as the beads are made and even after the beads are in the annealing oven with the silver nitrate reacting to the heat.
Free Design Instructions,DIY,Calcedonia Earrings

Make these Earrings! Free Instructions

We must enjoy each batch of beads for what they are: unique little jewels!

A place for everything, and everything in its place?

Murano Glass Beads,Venetian Glass Beads

Murano Glass Bead Trays – Barcoded & Priced in Color Waves

‘A place for everything, and everything in its place.’ is the famous quote by Isabella Mary Beeton in her book of Household Management written in 1861. It’s a great philosophy, but with some 20,000 SKUs, it’s easier said than done.

When we began importing Murano Glass Beads, we named them after the bead maker, their children, vaporetto boat stops, favorite cafes. Our bead makers named the designs after artists, famous names in Venice which encouraged our lack of organization. We had only a few drawers of beads. But over time we grew! Tanya took on our beads as a project in her senior year in Business Management at the University. So began our ‘semi-intelligent’ SKU assignment.

Venetian Beads - Picking Orders

Venetian Beads – Melanie Picking Orders

But the physical location of beads in an orderly fashion took a few more years. We all remembered where items were stored by sheer memory. And I confess to loving how the beads looked in drawers so I could see all the colors of a style when I opened the drawer. And seeing bunches of beads together made it easy to design jewelry. But it became apparent that it made for inefficient storage. Then we began the Location/SKU assignment and bar coding. This was key when we went to lots of bead shows, as we couldn’t remember prices for 800 pounds of beads we took to shows and sometimes exhibiting at 2 shows at the same time. Our bar coding let us check customers out quickly, accurately, giving them an itemized list of what they bought, along with SKUs for reordering online…certainly a novelty in a bead shows.

Alpha-Numerical Picking Orders is Easier

Locations and Alpha-Numerical Makes Picking Orders is Easier

Picking Orders - For All of You!

Picking Orders – For All of You!

Picking is made easy with our rolling carts with all the supplies you need to pack an order. We all have our favorite cart!

Venetian Glass Beads, Murano Glass Beads,Wholesale Beads,Jewelry Supplies

Venetian Glass Beads, Organized

These little white cubicle boxes are where orders with problems go. This is not where you want your orders to linger. We send emails through our online store system to you or call to let you know.

This is not where you want your order to go! The problem boxes.

This is not where you want your order to go! The problem boxes.

There’s more, we’re just trying to organize it. There are always the “orphans” the beads that have no mates, the I thought I ordered Red, how did these green beads arrive? And many other projects just waiting to be put on the web. And an abundance of design projects in various stages of completion.

So maybe we’d better read Mrs. Beeton’s book, again! ;>)

Visit our website where you can buy all these wonderful beads! http://www.venetianbeadshop.com


Why buy Venetian – Murano Glass Beads

Authentic Murano Glass Bead,Venetian Glass Beads

Authentic Murano Glass Beads – Made in the Fire!

Why buy authentic Murano Glass Beads? Or rather, why buy anything else?

Many of our customers are designers who sell their Venetian Jewelry in the fairs and shows around the world. Sometimes they fall in love with Swarovski, but it is everywhere and hard to make a name for yourself with such a ubiquitous commodity; and in the words of Brenda “an accent” bead! Yes they are “perfetto” but they are machine made and in the words of one of our glass blowers in Murano ‘Non ha un cuore’ (It does not have a heart!).

The love of Murano glass is all about heart. Why else would our blowers and bead makers work in hot furnaces, in front of hot torches creating our little jewels?

  • Certainly there are easier ways to make a living?
  • Certainly there are occupations where everyone isn’t a critic of your labor of love?
  • Each piece is a small work of art, never to be repeated again exactly, like snowflakes.
Murano Glass Beads,Handmade Beads, Lampwork Beads,Venetian Beads

Murano Glass Beads – Irresistible Colors

When you make jewelry with our genuine Murano Glass Beads, you aren’t just making jewelry, you are carrying on a tradition of centuries. When you sell this jewelry, you aren’t just selling pieces of jewelry, you are selling the Romance that is Venice, the history of centuries, the legends, the state secrets of making glass that could get you killed in the middle ages.

To our glass workers, the glass is alive, it reacts differently each day, and never tamed, some days it just allows you a little more control.

And let’s face it no one ever proudly advertised that they have “Chinese Beads” and even Czech while again available everywhere, simply doesn’t carry the allure or Romance of Venetian Beads. Venice has such a history, and though they were not the first in the world to make beads, they certainly influenced the design and production of beads since about the 10th Century.
Murano Glass Furnace,Murano Glass,Venetian Glass Beads

Our Blown Beads are Made in the Furnace!

Remind them that Marco Polo traveled to China taking beads! Remember that Manhattan was purchased with beads! Venetian Beads were the currency in Africa, known as Trade Beads. And we still make them pretty much the same way as then. Now that’s something to talk about with your customers.
Having Venetian Beads in your design gives you a story to tell. When you are at that hot and dusty Craft Fair, the sparkle under the sunlight will bring your customers in and your ability to weave the history of Venice will help you sell your jewelry. And when you wear our Venetian Beads, you have a story to tell, the story of the artisans of Murano who have been making glass since 1293.
We hope our behind the scenes of the history and how our beads and sterling silver along with the trials and tribulations of daily life in Venice will help our designers and customers. Use the resources on our website to learn more about Venice and you’ll be able to talk to your customers, or just tell your friends why you chose Venetian Beads.
Here are some resources on our website which will be helpful:
Here are some of our Videos on Bead Making

Making a Zanfirico Bead


Making a Boro Tube Necklace

Murano Glass,Murano,Lampwork,Lamp Work,Venice,Venetian Glass

Blowing Boro Tubes

These are very popular in Venice, and combining both traditional Murano Glass beads for the center piece and Borosilicate Glass, commonly called “boro” for the curved tubes. The tubes are curved working in the flame.

Here are some suggestions for center beads. You will need a bead that is at least 20mm to command the center, or you could add a pendant which is suspended between the two symmetrical tubes. Click here or on the picture for the Free Design page and list of components needed.

Boro Necklace,Murano Lampwork Necklace

Choose the Focal Bead You Like – at least 20mm

Make no mistake, each and every piece is slightly different. Our blowers are the best in the business, but like all artists, they create each piece one by one. In fact, I had to beg to get the blower to make the symmetrical. He said “mi non piassi” – Venetian dialect for I do not LIKE them!

With these necklaces it is best to begin with the center beads and work out. The wire will follow the curvature of the boro tube and will easily come out the hole, but you may need to give it a couple of tries. Larger wire is better because you want to be sure you can secure the necklace.

We use inverted bead caps to fit like a socket into the holes of the tubes which gives it flexibility. Again, each hole will be slightly different, but the inverted beadcap will its seat against the hole, whatever the size or shape of the hole. (The holes are made while the glass is glowing red hot by inserting a metal mandrel into the hot glass, so the holes will never be perfectly round. This is not a defect, just how it’s made.)

Our organic shapes like pebbles and nocce are naturals for the enter pieces and matting the beads is a great contrast. We’d love to see what you do with these exquisite boro tubes.

About Boro:

Boro is a type of glass with silica and boron trioxide as the main glass-forming constituents. Borosilicate glass is known for having very low coefficients of thermal expansion (~3 × 106 /°C at 20 °C), making them resistant to thermal shock, more so than any other common glass. Boro was invented by the German Otto Schott, and is similar in composition to the US was patented by Corning under the name of Pyrex, yes like the Pyrex you use in the oven (only it is much thicker than our jewelry beads).

Lampworkers enjoy working with boro as it is more forgiving, easier to work more complicated pieces, like ornate wine glasses or sculptural designs and can be reheated so you have a chance to “re do” any mistakes, something we can not do with Murano Glass.

Let’s Make a Round Venetian Bead

Bead Making,Venetian Bead,Round Venetian Beads,Bead Makers

Making a Round Venetian Bead

The round bead is the first one you learn how to make. And most of our other shapes take off from the humble round bead. So it is the building block and our most popular bead shape. We buy and sell many thousands of round Gold Foil beads each year.

Venetian Glass Beads,Torch,Lampwork Beads,Lampwork,Murano Bead Making

Murano Glass Torch for Making Beads – the Cannello

First you’ll need a torch, the kind we use in Murano is known as a cannello, it burns without oxygen and at a lower temperature (about 200 degrees) which allows our bead makers to add millefiori, exterior gold foil and to work the bead for a longer time than can be done in American torches. On the other hand, the American torches allow the bead maker to work in a pinpoint flame, which is useful in small decorations but require oxygen.

Moretti Glass,Venetian Glass Beads,Making Beads,Lampwork Beads

Effetre Glass Canes – Let’s Make Some Beads

It All Begins With the Canes

It all begins with the selection of the glass canes and there plenty from which to choose. We use Effetre, known generally in the industry as Moretti. It is a soft glass with a COE of 104, Soda Ash Glass which contains no lead and is worked at temperatures of about 945 C which is about 1733 F. Our bead makers work with larger diameter canes and we buy the canes 20 kilo at the time. They know to the gram how much glass it takes to make a bead!  So, if we are working on a large order, we want all the beads to be from the same glass batch in the factory in Murano. Because, like carpet and fabric, each batch of glass is slightly different.

Venetian Glass Beads,Murano Glass Beads,Round Glass Beads,Silver Foil Beads

Decorations on a Round


Venetian Glass Beads,Murano Glass Beads,Tools for Beads,

Tools of Bronze for Round Venetian Bead

Bead Makers – Can you Rub Your Tummy & Pat Your Head?
While we say that the round is the easiest shape to make, it’s still difficult work sitting in front of the heat, attempting to roll the mandrel in one hand while making sure that the cane is in the heat and wrapping around your mandrel. Well it takes some practice, rather like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time.
Venetian Glass Bead,Round Murano Glass Beads,Murano Beads,Lampwork

Shaping the Round

 After you master the round bead you can advance to making many other shapes, it is about learning how much glass you need on the mandrel to make squares, bicones, hearts which we make with tools especially made for forming the shapes.
Venetian Bead Shop,Venetian Glass Bead,Murano Glass Bead

All these shapes begin as a round

 The bead must be thoroughly heated so the temperature is the same throughout the bead which is part of learning how to recognize this when the entire bead is red hot. In Murano, the maestro speak about “knowing” the glass. It is a feel and knowing the exact shade of red you need to be sure the bead is thoroughly heated. Once you are happy with the shape and any decoration, it still must be flash annealed (again to be sure the temperature is consistent).
Red Venetian Glass Beads,Round Murano Glass Beads,Making Beads,Lampwork Beads,Murano Glass

Rounds Ready to Cool – Vermiculite

Many of our beads are annealed in an electric “furnace” which lets the beads stay at a consistent temperature and then slowly bring the temperature down to prevent shock and breaking. Some of the smaller beads are annealed in vermiculite as in the picture above (the traditional method, though in early days it was just sand from the lagoon).
And they are made one at the time, and as we like to say “No two ever exactly alike!” the beauty of lampwork.
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