Czech Glass Beads: The Charm of the Small Factory

Design Idea 013B Earrings
by Jake Woolley, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®

I recently received my order of Preciosa® Czech glass beads and I'm ready to have some fun! I realize that although I've been using this product for years I never really thought about where the beads actually come from. Are they really made in the Czech Republic or is that just part of the brand name? How and where are they produced?

Since many jewelry artists have these types of questions in the back of their minds, let's "Czech out" the answers as we discover the process behind Preciosa Czech fire-polished beads.

Are they really from the Czech Republic?

It's not just a name. Czech glass has been famous for over 150 years. Preciosa Czech glass beads are produced entirely in the Czech Republic from various small factories. A landlocked Eastern European country surrounded by Poland, Germany, Austria and Slovakia, the Czech Republic is well-known in the jewelry-making industry for producing top-quality glass beads. The style of Czech glass beads is also sought after because of the uniform smooth holes that help with stringing.

What are the small factories?

Many beaders prefer to work with Czech fire-polished beads because they know the manufacturing process involves and supports individual families. The small factories and villages are a domestic style of subcontracting work. It supports small groups that are working out of factories, community centers and villages.

One of the biggest benefits to the workers of small factories is that they are able to gain additional income and work very close to home in non-metropolitan villages. This is very helpful to many of the single women who can't find work elsewhere, yet still need to provide for their children and household. This causes the manufacturing process to be distinctive in that the entire line of products isn't produced within the walls of a single factory. For this reason there may be a natural variance in colors, shapes or sizes.

Since Czech fire-polished beads are manufactured and delivered from multiple locations, the overall process takes longer to produce than a traditional large factory setting. This adds to the timeline for the beads to be created, received by Preciosa and shipped to Fire Mountain Gems for customer distribution.

How are Czech fire-polished beads produced?

Preciosa corporation sends glass rods to separate small factories for production. Each bead is individually pressed. The beads are then placed into an oven enhancing the color and melting away most scratches while smoothing out the edges giving the famous "fire-polish." Once the beads are finished they are hand strung by workers of the surrounding villages and returned for distribution.

Why do the strands sometimes vary in color?

One of the reasons Czech beads often vary from strand to strand is that they are fired twice at separate locations. Each location may have a different style oven, producing slightly different temperatures and they aren't all heated for the exact same amount of time. These variances are what can cause the beads and strands to differ.

This is the beauty of Czech glass bead products, they can have a slight variations and an individual quality. It may sound like a cut and dry process, but it takes great dedication with a good eye and skilled hand to produce such fascinating beads. Offering a dynamic color change, a softer look with an alluring fire-polish, these beads are highly requested by customers and gratefully provided from our friends in the small factories of the Czech Republic.

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Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article "Czech Glass Beads: The Charm of the Small Factory," as featured in an email newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

"Thank you for this article. I had the pleasure of visiting the Jablonec, Czech area several years ago and I highly recommend it to every bead lover. The museum is fabulous, the history fascinating, the beads my favorite."
- Diana

"Very informative article ... My favorite beads are from the Czech Republic."
- Kathleen

"What an amazing story on the Czech fire-polished beads! This is information I have always wondered about! Thank you, as usual, for your informative stories on bead making and workings!"
- Midge

"These kinds of resources are really GREAT! It helps us answer questions from customers and friends. THANKS!!"
- Anna

"This is a great article! A picture of a factory and/or workers would be helpful. Take Care,"
- Mary Rose

"Loved the article about the Czech fire-polished beads. I had no idea they were produced in small villages. Reminds me of the way the Peruvian beads were done, and also of the fair trade concept. This is delightful!

Thanks so much for the enlightening article, and many thanks, Czech ladies, for the beautiful beads; I really love using them.

I live in a rural area of Pennsylvania, and my delightful neighbors across the road are from the Czech Republic. How about that! Happy New Year! Cordially,"
- Hedy

"I am so glad to finally see where my beads come from. Czech beads are my favorite to work with. I always wonder about the life of the items I purchase before they get to me. Each purchase can support great things, like small families having access to fair wages, or bad, like sweatshops. With Fire Mountain Gems, I sometimes worried that the low prices were related to sweatshops and such. Learning about these families gives me faith that Fire Mountain is choosing ethical and responsible suppliers. Thank you!"
- Amanda

"I use Preciosa beads and appreciate knowing about the small producers of this product. Thank you. With loving aloha,"
- Ina

"I loved this article! I've always enjoyed the feel and colors of the Czech beads, now that I know that I'm supporting a bunch of small businesses, as it were, I will enjoy them even more! Thanks,"
- Kathy

"It was very informative to learn about Czech beads and how they are made and that they help the small cottage industry."
- Mary Ann

"I found this article to be very interesting! Would you ever consider organizing a trip to some of the countries where your beads are made? It would be fascinating to tour the countries, stay in small local hotels, eat local food and see the actual factories where the beads are produced! I'd be the first to sign up for such a trip! 10 - 14 days would be lovely! Love your products!"
- Terrie Lee

"Thanks for the great article ... I try to buy fair trade beads as often as possible, so this was good to know."
- Priscilla

"I just read your article about Czech Preciosa fire-polished beads and have to say it was a wonderful article. I also wondered if the beads actually were made in the Czech Republic, or if that was part of the "hype." But had no idea that it was made in so many locations, and helped to support so many families. What a fantastic way for Preciosa to get their product manufactured, and strung, and into so many grateful hands of the beading family!"
- Linda

"I appreciated this information. I, of course, love Preciosa beads. Thank you."
- Maxine

"Dear FMG, Happy New Year to everyone there! I want to say that I appreciated the article on Czech beadmaking--it would have been nice to have some pictures of the beads being made, to reinforce the fact that it takes work to produce them--getting a clear, strong bead with good colour, is for me, everything and takes science and experience behind it. I hope you will carry some of the other Preciosa items (especially the wooden beads (which are sweet and high quality). I would also enjoy some of the high-end beads that are made in the Czech Republic, I understand they cost more ... but I would love some high end assortments. Peace in the next year."
- Francesca

"Very intresting and informative. But would have enjoyed clear pictures with labels of some style of Czech beads or how they are made. Yours in beads."
- Norma

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