Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tutorial: How to Seal Vintage Glass Pearls

We carry many vintage glass pearls at Bumbershoot Supplies and I love to use vintage glass pearls in my designs for Bumbershoot Designs. Our glass pearls encompass a large age range, from 1930's to 1940's all the way up to the 1970's.  Some of the older glass pearls are in remarkable condition for their age.

Others are beginning to show signs of wear in their pearly coating.  However for many designs, this natural aging may be exactly the look and feel that is desired. 

Vintage glass pearls can be expected to continue to age with time, and will continue to wear as they rub against the skin and fabric, jangle against other beads, and so on.

To protect vintage glass pearls, and to slow the aging process, I recommend sealing them. This is a simple process involving spraying the glass pearls with an acrylic sealant and allowing them to dry. 

Here's how I do it: 

I ensure my glass pearls are clean and dry. (I'll be posting soon on tips for cleaning vintage glass pearls and beads...)

Then, I go outside with my spray sealer, and some parchment paper. Waxed paper would work just as well. You definitely want a paper with a non stick surface.  Lay the glass pearls on the paper and give them a spray with your sealer until they are covered.  Let them dry completely.

Which sealant you use depends on what is available to you and the look you are interested in. I have tried 2 types: matte and glossy.  The glossy gives a glass-like finish, and is a thicker and stickier product. I've cut some squares from the parchment paper the pearls were on when I sprayed them, and you can see the resin-like effect of the glossy sealant on the parchment paper. 

I prefer to use matte sealant.  Matte does not dull the finish of the glass pearls, it dries more quickly than the glossy, and to my eyes and fingers, the sealed pearl is just a touch closer in appearance to the original finish compared to the glossy. But it's just personal preference, I have used both effectively.

This photo shows, from left to right, unsealed, matte sealed, glossy sealed. 
There's not an obvious difference, as you can see.

A Few Tips:
  • I always do this outside. Always. Even here in the often rainy and damp Pacific Northwest, I wait for a dry day, not too windy.  I stand downwind. I don't wear a respirator, but you certainly could. When I used to live in an apartment, I'd do this sort of work in the parking lot away from any vehicles, and then carefully carry my items back into my apartment, letting them dry near an open window so the fumes could disperse.  I have some old cookie sheets I use for these kinds of purposes: parchment or waxed paper fits well on them and sheets with a rim are great for carrying round items that can roll.
  • If it is a bit windy, use some rocks or stones to hold down the edges of your parchment paper so it doesn't blow into your pearls.
  • Use a nonstick paper, like waxed paper or parchment paper. If you put your pearls onto regular paper or newspaper, your pearls might end up sticking to the paper.
  • I wait for the pearls to dry completely then turn them over for a spray on the other side. The matte sealer does not take long to dry. The glossy sealer takes longer.
  • Once dry, I let my pearls sit overnight or at least for several hours to allow the last whiffs of the sealant to completely disappear.
  • Finally, use your sealed pearls to make something beautiful!
  • Caveat: I only use this process with loose vintage glass pearls that I intend to use in my designs. I would never use this process with a strand of vintage glass pearls, or with real pearls, or with jewelry of any kind or age.  

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to let me know how it works for you.
If you have any questions, just ask.

1 comment:

  1. Great tips! I have used matte (its what I had on hand) and I was extremely happy with the results. You are right, it doesn't change the pearl at all.