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Natural Beads: Wood, Bone, Horn, Pearls, Shell and More PDF Print E-mail

 Weekly Beadditudes with Dara 

Natural BeadsNatural Beads: Wood, Bone, Horn, Pearls, Shell and More

Feeling nutty?? Good for you! Let’s go green and gather some natural beads into our baskets. Beads from nature have an appeal all their own. They give off a different vibe than machine made processed beads of glass or crystal. And since natural beads are so light in weight you can really pile them on. Summer is the perfect time to don some of these beauties.

Wooden BeadsWooden Beads

Rosewood, bayong, palmwood, robles, bamboo, sandalwood...there are so many. And the variations in the patterns are so diverse. And you can get pretty much whatever you can dream up. The shapes are endless. And what’s cool about wood is that you can alter it to be what you want. Dye it, color it, draw on it… it takes really good to color in its natural form. Then spray it with sealant to make it permanent. You can burn a pattern into wood, or etch into also. Then you can paint it and rub the surface clean for the image to stand out. Or do the opposite and paint the relief. Wood is really beautiful and under-rated. It screams nature and pairs well with any other natural bead.  

Shell Beads

Shells have such color! Mother of pearl and abalone are bursting with the spectrum. Every shape, size and color is available to swim right into your design pool. If you’re the DIY type then you can comb the beaches in search of the perfect shell. Its can be wrapped or drilled with care: read a previous blog called How to Drill Holes in Cabochons and More to be safe while drilling at home.

Freshwater PearlsFreshwater Pearls

These pearls come from freshwater mussels and are mostly cultivated in China, although there are pearls being made in our homeland today, in Tennessee. True. Pearls today can resemble anything from a rice krispie to a perfect round and everything between. And one thing I really love about these stunners is that they’re affordable. If you find a shape you like that’s out of your price range, you may be able to search for one in a bit of a lesser quality and be able to acquire it. Pearls can be beads or pendants or cabs and have so much design potential.  

Nuts and Seeds

These beads are not your perfect glass seed beads manufactured in Japan or Czech-land. They’re the real thing! Nuts, seeds and pods from foliage growing in the rain forest and other tropical areas make spectacular beads. Even apple seeds can be beautiful. Talk about color. Get right up close to a buri nut or a palm seed and you’ll be surprised at how much variation there is in there. Really pretty. Its easy to see them as filler beads, but I think they deserve the spotlight!

Bone BeadsBone

Shudder! Real bone??? Yes, its true. Beads made from bone today are typically made from cow or camel bone and are made in India. These beads are easily manipulated. If you want it to be darker with a nice brown or blackened brown color, then soak it in tea, coffee or dark soda for a few hours. It will continue to darken if you leave it in longer. If you want it to be brighter, soak it in 1 part bleach to 7 parts water. Or if you want color, use Rit dye. See? You can have what you want!

Toot Your Own Horn

Beep! Beep! Horn is GORGEOUS! Have you ever held it up to the light? It resembles carnelian in all it’s lusciousness. There are many shapes to be had, and the tones can range from ivory to amber to carnelian. This just seems like a luxurious bead to me. It especially looks good against bare skin and if you’ve got a tan...whoooo nelly!

Lucite FlowerA Chalmeleon of Colors

You can change the color of your beads if you wish. Most natural beads take to dyes pretty readily and its something you can do right at home in an afternoon. Buy a selection of dyes that are over the counter. Rit works great and is available at the grocery store. Before you do a large quantity of beads, do a color test first. You never know what you’re getting in the end with natural beads. Some surfaces are very porous like bone, and others are smoother like shells. You can soak the beads longer if you wish for a more potent shade. You can dye them while they’re loose or strung. Note that there will be more pigment where the holes are if you’re dying them as strands. Just remember to read the directions and follow them. Wear protective gear to be safe, also.

Potato Beads... A Project for Home

Yes, I said it. Potato beads. These are fun, natural beads you can make yourself at home and they’re very cool to use in your jewelry. Here’s how: Peel a potato and cut it into cubes, rectangles or whatever shape you want. Make sure to make each piece bigger than what you want the end result to be. Now, Slide them onto skewers and stab the skewer into a piece of styrofoam to allow the potatoes to dry. This process will take about a week, and I recommend that you turn the potatoes once a day to make sure they don’t stick to the skewer. After a week they’ll be dried funky little shaped beads. You can paint them with acrylic paints and then seal them with Krylon spray or another sealant. Gloss works great. String away!! FYI...these make radical beaded curtains if you put colorful beads in between them.

Silk CordsStringing with Nature

Hemp is a cool stringing material. You can weave it, braid it, tie it and knot it. And it comes in a lot of colors. Silk cords are fantastic for stringing and don’t really need much on them! Just a lovely centerpiece and you’ve got instant gorgeousness. Silk cording comes in a variety of colors and can be dyed again if you wish do tackle it at home.

So go basic. Get green. Be in touch with your inner Adam or Eve. And enjoy the beauty of nature in beading.


“Beads are hiding everywhere! In trees, the water, the ground, the sand and all we have to do is carve them out, fish them out, dig them out, sift them out and oh, make a hole in them if there isn’t one already. Then string, string, string away.”
~ Griffin Meadhalle, beader, age 8


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