I’ve only been making beads regularly since March, when I got my torch and oxygen concentrator, and I’ve gotten pretty good at certain types of beads, but no matter how well they turn out I frequently hear “why don’t you make Pandora ™ beads, those things go for 40 dollars each!”
Like most men, I’m not up on the latest fashions, but you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Pandora™, the modern version of the charm bracelet. Pandora™ was launched in 1982, but they’ve really exploded in popularity in the last 5-10 years. Their product line has broadened, but was originally based on an array of bracelets and necklaces based on snake chain in fine metals (14k gold or sterling silver) about 3.5mm in diameter. You start with a chain and a bead or two, and then add beads that appeal to you, or remind you of important events. The beads (there are glass, but also many other forms) are commonly lined with cores of the gold or silver.
Setting aside the issue of intellectual property, (I can’t make Pandora™ beads, just imitations) for torchwork it involves making beads on larger than normal mandrels (3/16″ or 1/4″) and lining them in silver or gold. Since I’m just experimenting I decided to line them with glue in grommets instead of full metal lining. The results looks pretty good.
I was surprised by the differences working with large mandrels. I started out making beads on 3/32″ mandrels (I bought a pound of 3/32 stainless welding rods and cut them to length), and then moved to 1/16″, since the beads made on 3/32″ mandrels flopped around on the headpins commonly used to make jewelry. The beads made on 1/16″ mandrels worked much better in jewelry, and I got used to the fragility of the thinner rods (I actually melted one while distracted).
Working with the thicker mandrels required adjustment–the glass seemed to melt more slowly, and I had more trouble rounding up the base beads. It’s definitely easier to roll the bead on a bench marver, because you don’t have to worry about bending the mandrels the way you can with 1/16″ steel. I’ll keep working on it.
Update: After making about a dozen large mandrel beads I listed four of the best on my Etsy site. Within a week I got a convo from Etsy administration saying that I had violated the terms of their EULA, and they had removed two offending items. Ironic, considering the title of this post! I was upset for a few minutes, until I realized that the two beads they had not removed also used the Pandora ™ name. I hadn’t said they were Pandora ™ beads, just that they were compatible with their jewelry. At any rate, I edited the item descriptions to remove every instance of the brand name, and soon after both beads were purchased. “The power of market share” indeed….won’t make that mistake again.