Glass jewellery has been around for many years, but it has only recently become a popular fashion accessory. Glass products were first produced in the Middle East around 3000 BC, where they soon became luxury items for the rich. During the Roman Empire, however, glass production grew and eventually spread to Venice, in Italy, and later to Murano. Glass products (including jewellery) continued to be produced in Murano, which eventually became famous for producing good quality glass products. The glass jewellery business is now booming, and Murano’s glassmakers are still producing a wide variety of handcrafted designs and colours using century-old traditions. Many pieces of jewellery are also lined with 24ct gold and sterling silver foil.
As glass jewellery has grown in popularity, more and more companies have begun to produce it. A wide range of stylish and colourful designs are now available to suit any occasion, taste or age. Designers love the fact that glass jewellery can compliment any outfit well, and feel that it offers every individual their own sense of style. As well as many ranges being made for women, there are now a number of designs being made specifically for men too.
Glass jewellery is often made from fused glass, cast glass pieces and glass beads. Fused glass jewellery involves cutting and gluing different coloured pieces of glass together and firing it in a kiln. The pieces then melt and fuse together to make one piece of glass, which can then be used to make a range of different coloured and shaped jewellery. The glass beads used in glass jewellery making are made in a variety of ways to produce different effects:
Molded beads – these are made by using heated glass rods. Once molten, the rods are fed into a machine which then stamps them and pierces a hole in the middle. Finally, the beads are rolled in hot sand to make them smooth.
Drawn glass beads – these are made by inserting a hollow metal tube into a ball of hot glass. The glass strand is then pulled out to form a tube, which can then be cut up to make a number of small beads.
Wound glass beads – these beads are formed by wrapping heated ductile glass around a solid core. The glass is then shaped with tools, or pressed/rolled onto a hard surface. Once the beads are formed, they are then decorated.
Dichronic glass beads – these beads have a thin metallic film fused onto them. This gives the beads a metallic sheen that appears to change colour when they are viewed from different angles.
Lampworked beads – these beads are formed from pieces of glass that have been melted and shaped with a torch or lamp. The glass is then cooled at a monitored rate, which helps reduce stress and prevent shattering – this process is known as annealing.
As well as traditional glass jewellery, there is also beautiful sea glass jewellery. Sea glass jewellery is made from pieces of glass that have been thrown on the shore, broken down, and then smoothed over by currents and waves – the greater the current and wave action, the smoother the sea glass will be. These pieces of glass are usually many years old and come in various shapes and colours. Sea glass can be found all over the world and has a variety of different names, such as beach glass, mermaid tears, ocean glass, and trash glass.
Even though some gold and silver are often used in glass jewellery making, glass jewellery is still relatively inexpensive to buy compared to gold jewellery and items made from precious stones. There are many unique pieces of glass jewellery available too, and these often come with certificates of authenticity. Glittering diamonds may have adorned models on the catwalk for many years, but glass jewellery is now beginning to break that mould and could soon become the new “diamond” of the fashion industry.