The difficulty in finding beads to match vintage beads is astounding!
Clients and those creating new works are unaware that every day our commerce is trying to save cash by only stocking what is popular.
It is nearly impossible to find beads locally, and in the end all my beads
for this project came from small vendors scattered throughout the world,
from England to the Czech Republic to the USA.
I give thanks to the puter daily because it was even harder 30 years ago.
I started with color and size.
Color, mostly glass: just off white (somewhat matte or semi-gloss,
and probably were once very bright), black (gloss),
clear with a silver interior (not rainbow or gold lined clear),
4 shades of grey (hematite-ish, silvery-grey, light clear, and a milky grey), gold, and a metallic bead which melted (more about that later) and morphed into several colors.
My goal is to match they way they look unless I can find the actual bead —
and assuming the actual bead will look correct on a piece that has heat damage.
Size: Here is our first hurdle.
Seed beads today are usually sold in 8/0 or 11/0.
Unfortunately, most vintage items take a 9/0 or 10/0 bead.
First I bought several bags of beads in the 8/0 and 11/0 sizes which matched our vintage beads, success in color. (I can always use these beads in my own beading project.)
For my purposes, it allows me a description if I need to discuss beads with vendors
around the world: “Is this color similar to ‘insert common bead name here’?”
I actually tried many of the 8/0 or 11/0 beads in the project, to see if I could use them.
So began the hunt began for the right color in size 9/0 or 10/0.
I have more success with Etsy looking for vintage beads, but it still takes several searches over a couple months, because new lots come in and are posted, and then sell out.
Example, the white beads stand out on this piece. Modern white seed beads
are typically rounder, not irregular, and bright, many appearing almost plastic.
These white beads MUST be the right size, and
if possible I want to find beads that do not all have the uniform machined look and rounding, but appear to be handmade, as were the original beads.
(See more on white beads at the bottom.)
Matching appearance: There is a metal bead that was heat damaged
and this damaged bead looks gold, red-brown, and hematite.
Substituting this bead will be tricky, because I can’t remove the melty
vintage beads in many cases — they are fused in place.
My strategy will be to find 2-3 beads that I can use together to create the
appearance of the field of metal beads, so the new don’t stand out.
I had success with a mix of vintage and new beads which will be good substitutions, above,
even though they are not the exact vintage bead. The color and shape and size
are close or even correct, however, they are new, not old.
One more check on Etsy — and the hope of success!
I found VINTAGE white beads from a dealer in Seattle, House of Twinkle!
Arrived today, and while they are not perfect, they are the closest I’ve found.
They are vintage beads from the Victorian era, and if I choose the largest beads
from the package such as they sixth and seventh bead from the left, above,
I think they will work. it is time to have the project move forward with these beads!
Update addition: Some beads arrived from Europe in 9/0 and 10/0 sizes
and many are wonderful beads for this project!