Monday, December 8, 2008

Beading Component Review - Sterling Silver Beadframe with Swarovski Crystals

I always get excited when a new package from a beading supplier arrives, but I was especially excited about today's parcel from

First, because I'd signed up for a beta testing phase of a new buying program and the price, order response time and shipping time was excellent. But second, a month ago I received an email from Artbeads' VP of Search Marketing and Customer Service asking if I'd be interested in doing reviews of their products on my blog.

I have already listed them in my blogroll, and I've mentioned them when I blogged about various items I'd made using their products, etc., so it isn't much of a stretch to add some review content as well. I said I was interested and would like to know more.

The next email provided additional details, like "How you decide to blog about these products is completely up to you. Feature an item in your next jewelry design, use as a component or simply write a review. We don’t want to place any limits on your creativity and always expect you to voice your honest opinion - good or bad."

This was very important to me, as they were also going to provide the review product to me for free. While I love free stuff as much as the next person, I also didn't want to be under any pressure to have to be positive if I didn't like the item and I wouldn't be comfortable turning my blog into a paid promotional site, either.

The only other thing they asked me to do, which, again was not problem, was to include a link to the product and another link to either the home page or another category page. So I gladly accepted the opportunity. Just a few days ago I received my list of products and one of them really caught my eye, as well as inspired a design idea for an eyeglass lanyard. This is the product:

It's a Sterling Silver Spring Spiral Bead Frame with Swarovski Crystals (there are also lovely and Victorian Trellis bead frames - it was hard to choose). The catalog copy says"These sterling silver bead frames have a beautifully ornate floral or Victorian trellis patterns with granulations and spirals. Two Swarovski crystals add color and texture to this antique style. Bead frames make great pendants, earrings and links in bracelets." They also would make great end-piece focals for an eyeglass lanyard, I thought.

I ordered most of the rest of the supplies for my design from Artbeads: garnet colored Swarovski Crystal 8mm bicone beads to make the beaded chain and put in the bead frame (26 are needed - I got some extras), some sterling silver floral links (4 needed - again, I got extras and am planning a bracelet) to embellish the beaded chain, and sterling silver 20 gauge 1" eye pins (24) for the beaded links. I also had a supply of sterling silver rondels (48) that I'd purchased from Artbeads a while back, that I thought would enhance the overall design. I needed two longer sterling eye pins to finish the bead frames, but I had some longer ones already, so I didn't order more.

So, even though I got a discount price (from the beta program) on all my items, and the bead frames were free, this is not an inexpensive project. (I feel should also mention that I used 20 sterling oval open jump rings as links that I got from another supplier, for whom I'll give an "honorable mention" to in another post as this one is specifically about the Artbeads products).

Ok, enough about the materials. What about the featured product, the Sterling Silver Spring Spiral Bead Frame with Swarovski Crystals?

The bead frame is nicely detailed - with tiny veining in the leaves and just the right amount of embelishment. I did find two very small pits on one side of one of the frames - one pit is very slight and really only noticeable with a magnifier, but the other is a bit deeper, although still very small, and has some antiquing in it making it a dark spot that's just noticeable with the naked eye, especially as it's close on the frame to the bead. It doesn't really, for me at least, detract from the product overall - I was looking for something with an antique or vintage appearance anyway.

There are also two round, garnet colored Swarovski crystals set into the piece on each side of the frame. The crystals are free of scratches and set fairly level and flush to the bezels. Each bead frame costs $16.49 for 1 - 2 frames, $14.99 for 3 - 5 and $13.49 for 6 or more at today's online price. The product is made in Thailand.

So, that's the featured bit of my design, here's how I constructed my vintage style eyeglass lanyard with sterling silver bead frames and handcrafted sterling and Swarovski crystal links.

To construct my eyeglass lanyard I used a 3" eyepin through a 4mm sterling bead, the beadframe, an 8mm bicone and another 4mm sterling bead and created a second loop. I had to snip a bit off of the eyepin as 3" was a bit long - a 2" pin would have worked fine with less waste, but I don't have any around at present. Then I created beaded links using a 1" eyepin, 3mm sterling rondel, 8mm bicone, and a final sterling rondel before closing a link at the end. I had to snip about a quarter inch or less from the end of the 1" eyepin to get the proper sized loop. Four of these are joined using the oval sterling jumprings. The last one is connected to the floral link without a jump ring.

A note about the floral link, it is only finished on one side, so the eyeglass lanyard will definitely have a 'right side up' to it. The finished side has some nice antiqued detail, the unfinished side is slightly textured and antiqued. The links in my package came with a slight curve to them - great for use in bracelets, and fortunately easily flattened for the lanyard. It was made in Israel and 1 - 4 of them cost $3.89 each, 5 - 9 are $3.59 each, 10+ are $3.29 each. The pattern (which I really like) detail is fairly sharp and precise and I felt it would compliment the bead frame design while fulfilling it's role as a way to add embellishment to what would be a fairly simple looking chain of beads. Since I'm going for a nostalgic/vintage look, it seemed appropriate.

Now this design has a bead frame at each end, to which I have attached clear rubber, adjustable eyeglass holder components. Another design approach could be to link the two bead frames to a larger garnet colored focal piece, sterling silver pendant, or even something made from layered silver filigree stampings and affixed garnet glass gems, put a clasp nor toggle at the other center-point for a necklace.

I usually make my lanyards "convertable" although I decided not to do that with this particuar design, I am definitely thinking about getting 3 (or maybe more) of the smaller sized bead frames and creating a strung design that I can wear as a convertable badge, eyeglass or necklace piece - and if I use garnets or garnet crystals I'll have a matching set.

There's just one more thing I think this design needs, and that's to solder the sterling jump ring links closed. They really give the design the right look, but I'm afraid one good accidental tug will separate one or more jump rings from their beaded links. Then, if the crystals fall and hit a hard surface they'll chip or break.

I've never tried soldering, but I've read up specifically on soldering sterling silver jump rings. While I do have some concerns about the process, and would definitely need to buy some additional equipment and supplies, I think I could do it.

Well, this post has turned out a lot longer than most, but I've enjoyed it. If you thought it provided useful information or gave you any ideas about something you'd like to make, please leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you!

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Blogger Dave Robertson said...

Wow, Dawno, great stuff! Unbiased product reviews are so valuable. It's great to get so much insight into how you would use a specific item. Thanks for this!

at Rings & Things

December 10, 2008 at 9:06 AM  
Blogger Dawno said...

I hope to do more, not just for Artbeads, but when I use a particular supplier's materials for the majority of my construction, to discuss and link to them too.

December 10, 2008 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Steve Groenier said...

Dawno, what an fantastic idea for using the bead frame. We just love the eyeglass lanyard design you created and how you used the other components as well. It's gorgeous and sure to inspire the many beaders here at Artbeads.


December 12, 2008 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger Dawno said...

Thank you, Steve! It was a lot of fun to make - it looks lovely in person, my photography skills don't do it justice at all.

December 12, 2008 at 1:47 PM  

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