Paula Radke > Beads > How are dichroic beads made?
September 4th, 2015

How are dichroic beads made?

These beads are made by a process called lampworking. Lampworking is a term from the 5th102mmb century BC. More commomly called torchworking or flameworking since we no longer use oil fueled lamps to melt the glass.

Using a centuries old technique with very high tech and modern materials, each of these beads are laboriously made one at a time by human hands. The glass is melted in the flame and wrapped around a mandral or metal rod. It is then shaped, mostly with gravity and by rotation but sometimes small handtools are used to add shape.

The glass is handmade in Oregon and the color or dichroic coating is an additional step and completed in Southern California. The dichroic coating is accomplished by suspending the glass in a vaccuum chamber. A small crucible of quartz and metal oxides are shot with an electron beam gun which vaporizes the metals and sends the vapors up to the suspended glass where it grows as metal cyrstals. The number of layers or the number of times the metal is shot with the electron beams, determine the color. There could be up to 30 layers, each a 35 milionth of an inch thick. Each color done on a transparent glass has a transmitted color (the color you see when looking through it) and a reflected color. This gives the material a life of it’s own by reflecting and absorbing colors as the light hits it’s surface.

I made my first bead at Camp Colton in Oregon in the 1980’s. I found a partner, Marixza Rodriguez, shortly after that and together we have continued to make dichroic beads to this date. Marixza has to hold the record for the most beads made in 30 years! It is amazing to watch her to work.

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