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I’ll admit it. I was a tomboy growing up. I loved horses, gardening, building things, helping Daddy in the garage, sawing logs at camp with Mother. Of course I also liked baking and sewing. I even wanted to take shop in junior high, but that was a different time and the school wasn’t so keen on that idea. Driver's ed was actually a class in high school and I scored the highest on the test about the mechanics of the vehicle!  I didn’t even wear make-up every day until I was a senior in high school and certainly wasn’t much interested in jewelry.

Times have changed. Well, at least as far as jewelry is concerned. I’m still ‘into’ all of the above. I’ve just come to appreciate the fun of how jewelry enhances both the way others see me and the way I see myself. I’ve met very few folks who don’t take a second look at ‘bling!’

So I thought I’d give you a VERY brief run-down on how I add bling to my creations and why I’ve chosen the materials I use.

True crystals are nature made - i.e. gemstones and the highly cut and polished ones are generally quite expensive.

After that are man-made beads and stones we ‘call’ crystals. In order of superiority and the accompanying price are cubic zirconia, Swarovski, Czech, and Chinese. Below is a very ‘Cliff Note’ version of the differences.

Cubic zirconia crystals are made by melting powdered zirconium and zirconium dioxide together and heating them up to 4,982ºF. A cubic zirconia is a perfectly man-made, flawless stone that is free of inclusions.

In Wattens, Austria, Swarovski glass is produced by melting a mixture of quartz sand, soda, potash and other ingredients at high temperatures. Lead, usually used in the form of lead tetroxide, is not used anymore and all Swarovski Crystal glass produced since 2012 has been lead-free. Swarovski glass and Austrian glass are one in the same. The company has perfected (well, nearly since perfection isn’t actually attainable) the art of cutting and polishing their crystals. Oh, and Swarovski also manufactures man-made pearls, which I also use!

Based in Northern Bohemia, Preciosa is the premier manufacturer of Czech crystal. Their crystal beads contain about 30 percent lead. Preciosa has also entered the lead-free space with their “Maxima” line, which thus far is limited to specific products. The Preciosa bicone has fewer facets and reflective surfaces than that of Swarovski and I’ve read that their colors are not as consistent from lot to lot.

Chinese Crystal have considerably less lead and are the most cost-effective choice available, but you’ll notice a difference in the consistency of the bead size and facets within the same strand or package.

Miyuki Seed Beads and Delica are made by mixing the raw materials SiO2, NaCO3, and CaCO3 with any base-coloring ingredients and place them in a 1400C furnace to make the melted glass. Miyuki Delica are the highest quality seed beads in production today.

Now to what I do and don’t use and why. I never use Czech or Chinese. They just aren’t as clear and brilliant. I use some CZ, especially when I want to fire it in fused glass as Swarovski would melt (I know ‘cause I tried, lol).  Swarovski comes in a myriad of shapes, colors, and coatings and is consistent with them. I often use Miyuki between beads because they are high quality and add a wee bit of color and sparkle and don’t tarnish like the tiny sterling silver beads that can’t be reached to polish.

So there’s your crystal primer in a nutshell. I hope it helps you understand that I want to create quality pieces for you. I could definitely make them cheaper, but then they’d look, well, cheap. A lot of the inexpensive jewelry you find does use Czech and Chinese crystal. I want my designs to have a quality look to them and so I choose to work with the highest quality bling (short of diamonds) available.

This is already a bit long, but I’m still gonna add a personal ‘rant.’ One word: Purslane. I hate the stuff. I don’t know where it came from, but it has invaded! And while we can consume it, it’s toxic for horses. I’ve sprayed the stuff 3X with round-up and it’s still there. Thwarted a bit, but not gone. I want it DEAD and GONE. So I’m sitting out there every morning cutting it by the roots and tossing it in a bucket that I can seal and trash, being careful not to let any of the leaves fall since they’ll very efficiently re-root. Ugh, Ugh, Ugh!

Stay well & check out some ‘bling’ in my primarily Crystal and Crystal Pearl Collection.


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