We have put together a short guide to help buyers understand what they should be looking for in good lampwork.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive source of information but a collection of informative pointers illustrated with some lovely examples from our team. We hope buyers find it helpful.
General structure, look and integrity – beads should be well-balanced to hang properly,with no sharp edges and no cracks. The bead should look properly shaped – for example, round beads should look well-rounded.
Pandora by Sarah Bedwell
Donuts/tyres should be nicely shaped with puckered, not sharp, holes.
Gin Fizz by Trudi Doherty
Bicones/diamonds/ovals should be reasonably symmetrical, again without sharp holes.
Cadeau by Diane Cook
Bead ends/holes - should be smooth and clean. Hole edges should feel smooth and flat or slightly indented/puckered. Edges should not be sharp, cracked, rough or pointed. Sharp holes can cause thread/wire to fray, damage or break.
Luck,Happiness by Sabine Little
The inner hole should be clean. Bead release (a clay-like substance that dries to a hard powder and stops beads sticking to mandrels) should be cleaned out. Many mass-produced beads have a thick layer of bead release still left in the hole. Good quality handmade beads should not. The inner bead hole may still be slightly rough where it has been in contact with the bead release, leaving the hole visible in transparent glass – this is normal.
Silver Waters by Sarah Downton
Surface marks – chill marks are concentric circles or ripples on the surface of the glass caused during pressing or shaping with tools. These don't affect the strength of the bead but a good flameworker will generally smooth them out, unless there are good aesthetic reasons not to.
Hot Rocks by Kate Sullivan
These are not to be confused with spiral lines which are added as part of the design.
Powder Beads by Jolene Wolfe
Some glass can burn or cause 'pitting' on the surface of the bead. This should not be evident - the bead surface should be smooth and unpitted, unless clearly part of the design of the bead
Surface decoration – stringer, fine silver wire, dots, where used should be properly attached and not in danger of breaking or popping off easily.
Fields of Bubble Flowers by Becky Fairclough
Sunbaked Beads by Julie Fountain
Bumpy Bead for George by Karen Baildon
Short Horned Dragon by Emma Mackintosh
Bubbles – some are unavoidable and part of the handmade nature of the product. Bubbles are also used as a decorative accent for many pieces. However, if bubbles are very large or very close to the surface, they can cause stress and should be avoided.
Victoriana by Manda Muddimer
Pleated and Bubble Bead by Diane Turton
Encasing – generally, encasing should be tidy at the ends, without excessive smudging of the design being encased (unless this is part of the intended design of the piece).
Floral Focals by Kathryn Greer
Mermaids Garden by Julie Haveland Beer
Annealing – beads should be kiln-annealed to eliminate internal stresses that may be introduced during making and to ensure longevity of the product.