Gemstones Vs. Crystals.

Q: Dear fellow beaders, I am a complete and total beginner beader. I am drawn to the beauty of antique/vintage beads and gemstones. My question is: can you, as an artist, tell the difference between a good quality glass crystal bead and a gemstone bead (assuming roughly the same color, size and cut of the beads)? Should I be saving up for real ruby beads (for example) or be looking for red, better quality, crystal beads?

A: Yes, you certainly can tell the difference. While it is POSSIBLE to purchase ruby beads which are eye clean, you would pay such an incredible fortune for them, that I doubt most of us would ever even consider it. I've seen ruby beads in the $100 - $200 range, but they're still pretty murky, and certainly don't compare to the clarity you will get with a crystal. If you're looking for clarity, go with the 'Swarovski's'. To start with, I want to let you know that you are in the right place! The people here have wonderful expertise that they are very willing to share! I came here just a month or so ago as the exact same type of beader you are... and I have learned a lifetime full of things in just a couple of months from the wonderful people here! So enjoy and remember, the people here CAN and DO help you! As for me, I would prefer the crystal myself because I have found (in my "vast" time the past couple of months! ROFL!) that crystals sometimes look more "real" than some gemstones, cost much less, and are VERY beautiful! Now this "still-new-to-beading" person will shut up. Yes, you can tell the difference between crystal beads and gemstones - although with quartz crystal it is sometimes hard to distinguish from good glass crystals. Quartz is colder and heavier. REAL gemstone faceted beads, even the less expensive such as garnet and amethyst, are usually more pricey than glass. Why does it have to be either/or? I use both glass and gemstone, using the glass to accent the more expensive gemstone... As for ruby beads, except for one strand I've bought of opaque cylindrical beads, all I've seen are teensy ones that are still very pricy. Ruby glass is beautiful. What the others have said is correct - if it is nicely faceted, beads larger than 3 or 4 mm, in a "gemstone" color (ruby, sapphire, emerald, etc.), and you can afford it - it's not stone! I lust after a strand of graduated ruby beads myself - 'FM' has them (largest button is about 4-5mm) for around $50, but these are murky and "stone-looking", not clear. On the other side of this question, "crystal vs. regular glass" - if you look at the hole end of a faceted bead, real crystal will show an absolute flat profile - beads will even "stand" on the hole end if your hands are steady. Glass (especially Czech fire polish) will have rounded ends - softer edges. Unless your eyes are good for small stuff, you will probably need a magnifier to see this - I take off the glasses and hold the suspect beads about 2 inches from my nose!