A few weeks ago, I received an Etsy convo asking if the stones in a particular listing were actual stones and not glass. Initially, I was slightly perturbed by the inquiry, confused by the question since I am fully forthright in listing descriptions. But then I carefully reread the convo, and realized that the question was something more along the lines of a collective inquiry about the dishonesty and inconsistencies that even I myself have seen in some listing descriptions and photographs, rather than a direct questioning of my shop materials (I assume!). This blog post further elucidates the structural and material differences between glass and stone; it also discusses my decision to sell predominantly stone--and not glass--jewelry creations.
Glass beads, especially those that resemble crystal glass, may contain lead. This is the main reason why I tend to steer away from glass in my creations. Sometimes suppliers do not know the country of origin of their glass beads, which is unfortunate because certain countries use lead more than others in a wide array of applications. Rings & Things has a good article about lead content in glass beads, which can be read here.
To the naked eye, it can be difficult to differentiate between stone and glass. Unfortunately, glass and glass-like materials can resemble stone and vice versa (ie: cubic zirconia and diamonds). Stones can be eye clean or included, and so can glass. However, glass beads can contain tiny bubbles, perfect swirls (if made to mimic certain stones) and crisp drill holes (like how a glass bottle looks like when broken). Some stones--such as agate and rainbow moonstone--can be more readily distinguishable from glass because of their earthy surface textures and inclusions. Hold the piece up to the light and see if any dirt remnants, inclusions, and internal fractures are visible. If not, then the bead may be glass, or even resin or porcelain. Remember though that stone quality (color, clarity, cut) differs widely per stone type, but the innate characteristics remain. For example, the stone peridot is glass-like and typically has some inclusions:
|Earthy, highly included peridot|
Stone tends to be more expensive than glass. So if you find something pretty and very affordable that appears to be a genuine stone, there is a good chance that it is not a stone at all, or that it is a lower-quality stone. If an earthy piece is your style, this may be fine, but if it isn't, ask the seller questions about it. The price reflects the materials used if the seller is reputable and honest.
More examples of jewelry stones:
For the reasons mentioned above, I use stones instead of glass beads. Currently, all of my shop's handmade (by me) jewelry only contain stones--no glass, resin/porcelain components. Additionally, many of the stones that I select for jewelry creations have visible inclusions and other "imperfections," so the buyer (and I) knows that the stones are, in fact, genuine stone.
However, if I do use non-stone beads, it is clearly marked in the listing. If I am unsure of the composition of a piece, I refrain from using it, no matter how pretty or unique the piece may be.
I hope that this post clarifies some noticeable differences between stones and glass beads--and explains why I choose to use stones in my work.