Opaque vs. Transparent Glass

Posted on August 11, 2010


 In the glassy world, there are really only two kinds of glass. Put aside all the manufacturers, the COE’s and the other variables, and you have just two: opaque glass and transparent glass.    They both work pretty much the same and melt the same- with the exception that, as a rule, opaque glass is softer and flows easier than its transparent counterpart.  Visually however, they can be used to give your beads a completely different look. 
Now, I totally love transparents. They were what I got into glass for in the first place. There’s nothing more beautiful that the depths of a bead reflecting back the light, or an encased bubble- now there's a thing of beauty!  Besides, I'm a girl, I love that sparkle!  While I use transparent glass in almost every set I make, I couldn’t do it without the opaques. These are your canvas, the part that gives your bead structure. A solid base that the clear encasing accentuates and shows every little detail.   So it would be fair to say they need each other, in the kind if the way a painting needs a canvas. 
Almost all of my sets have a combination of solid colored "opaque" glass and transparent glass, but what if you use them exclusively? The solid glasses don’t allow light through, which makes them ideal for graphic beads that have distinct edges, or crisp patterns.   The  solid glass allows for good definition of colors, especially between reactive colors, forming a thin black line (for example, the turqoise and orange in the set below).
In these lentils I used layers of solid colors that have been divided into sections, each patterened differently, and divided by a border.  Visual tension is created between each section:
This focal bead was created using shards of solid colored glass wrapped around a black base, the shards create definitive edges, dividing the beads visually into sections:
Opaque glass can also be used for sculpture, the solidity giving the piece structure and form so they can be easily recognized:
Now using transparents exclusively lends the beads a sense of airiness you can't get from the opaques, your structure comes from color and patterns derived from the play of light within the beads:
These are simply a clear lentils that has been decorated with transparent scrollwork, the color moves through the clear, creating that light airy feel in these beads.  I didn't encase a pastel center on these, although you certainly could.  The transparent colors have a great consistency when pulled out into stringer, allowing for better control.
Here, the scrollwork gives each bead a wonderful texture creating visual interest:
These beads are layered in different  transparents, giving the set a watecolor look:
A combination of both- Each of these rounds has an opaque base that has been encased with clear, the structure and patterns of each core is magnified by the clear, the best of both worlds! 
Don't be afraid to set some time aside to experiment- use your solids as a canvas, accentuate them with your transparents, and create depth and interest in your beads!  Happy torching- Laura 

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