Thursday, November 29, 2007

Swarovski Beads in Opaque Colors: A Rare Find

Written by Heather DeSimone
Lucille Ball's Opaque White BeadsSwarovski Beads in Opaque Colors:
A Rare Find

For years and years, while we’d comb for beads, we’d come across loads, and I mean LOADS of opaque colored glass beads. It was kind of like a treasure hunt when someone had beaten you to the treasure. Or like on the Charlie Brown “Great Pumpkin” Halloween special: all the kids are lined up to get tricks and treats dropped into their bag and as the candies are doled out down the line you see yummy treats. But when you get to Charlie Brown they plop in what looks like a piece of coal and he says “I got a rock.” Anyway, it was same sort of let down. Opaque beads, especially opaque white, were passe’. Just non-desirable. We’d leave them behind. Our vendors at the joblot warehouses would send us offers “1940’s Opaque white glass beads for $5 a LB!!!!” and we’d say “no thanks.”

Lucille Ball's Opaque White BeadsIt’s funny how everything, even in the bead world, goes in very cyclic trends. Those opaque white beads that for so many years we passed over were really a hot ticket in the era of Lucille Ball. Remember her crisp strand of opaque white beads that were as essential to her as her apron? She’d wear her fire-engine red lipstick and her understated beady elegance in each and every crazy situation that she & Ethel got themselves involved in. In fact as an aside, Miriam Haskell adorned Ms. Lucy episode by episode and she used many an opaque bead to do so. During my 15 years in the business we’ve been waiting and waiting for these opaque beads to come back in vogue. And guess what… they have!

Actually this article is a couple of years too late. These beads really came back in style a year or two back, but they’re still going strong. They’ve become just an every-day part of our bead palette. Where before, we’d only be drawn to a transparent sapphire with loads of sparkle, we now swoon for a true navy blue. That brings us to the mac-Daddy of the opaque bead keepers: the Swarovski opaque crystal. With their 30% lead Swarovski 5110 Opaque Rosecontent and highly glistening facets, Swarovski did these opaque beads better than anyone else. Dense, rich, non-transparent tones take on a whole different light when they’re machine cut. They reflect and refract the light all around them. They don’t change the color of the bead as you’ll find in many transparent beads or chatoant colors. But they make that one true color just gleam to its fullest potential.

And speaking of these Swarovski opaque colors: have you ever seen them? You’re probably thinking to yourself… “Ok, what is she talking aboutSwarovski 5110 Opaque Turquoise?” Because they are rare! Even though I turned my nose up at them for years, some others evidently did not, because I don’t find them very often anymore. We were fortunate to buy out a job lot (ie job lot = designer’s overstock or closeout) several years back and at a really good price. The lot included many Article 5110’s and 5105’s (the vintage flower bead and emerald cut crystals) in loads of opaque colors. In fact, I can remember thinking to myself at the time (it was probably 1998), “These are SO UGLY, but the price is right…” It’s so funny how that works. Now I think they’re some of the rarest treasures we possess at & I happen to have in my own private jewelry stash a necklace I made with the darling little green flower beads.

Let’s spotlight the colors which is much easier to do here than in my never ended glass bead finish glossary (see the last blog). There is Opaque Green which is a yummy Swarovski 5110 Opaque Ivorymilky almost Kelly green with a marbleized opacity. This is not to be confused with Swarovski’s Apple Green, a much darker and denser opaque green. Unfortunately we don’t have any stock in this color right now. But keep looking wherever you can and when you find it, or any of these colors, hoard it. It’s worth it. And you never know what we’ll come across. And then we have the Opaque Rose which is a delicate and almost ‘antique’ pink. Mixed with Opaque Green, you would make a real preppy statement or if you’re in “Old Florida” you’ll fit right in mixing these two colors on a simple bracelet. We also have Ivory which is the most elegant color for bridal jewelry you’ll find. It seems Swarovski has tried to come up with that hot bridal tone in recent years with the introduction of White Opal, White Opal Sky Blue, and White Alabaster. But they forgot about one of their old classics and should seriously consider bringing it back. These beads evoke rich tones of a royal wedding, a color for the most elegant brides (OK, I wore regular old white at my wedding too).

Swarovski 5110 Opaque GreenThere are other colors that I once had and still yearn for. There was Opaque Red (Dara: do you still have that package of 14mm 199’s you found in our back room a couple of years ago? I want them back!) And there is Navy Blue. I’ve only ever had these in 8mm 5000’s which seems so unexciting. But these were SO beautiful in a nautical sort of way. I want some.

So if you have a stash of opaque beads and you’re still not into them: hold onto them. They’re truly beautiful and their time will come in your mind if they have not yet. Trends come and go, but color sings no matter what year it is.

Last Updated ( Monday, 12 November 2007 )

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