Seed beads are predominantly made in Japan and the Czech Republic. The process used has remained virtually unchanged since the 15th century. Doesn't that lend an even greater 'value' to these tiny pieces of glass which pass through our hands each day?
Seed bead production begins with the creation of a very long, thin glass rods. A furnace melts a mass of glass all at once. As the stream of glass leaves the furnace, compressed air is blown into it, creating a hole in the cane. The glass cane is cut into yard-long lengths right after it passes through a wheel. After being tied into bunches by hand, the canes are taken to the cutting machine. A worker lays the canes out on a vibrating platform which slides the rods down onto a metal stop which is set to determine the chopping size. In order to achieve the classic, rounded shape, the chopped beads are mixed with a clay-like compound to coat their sufaces and plug their holes. It is then heated in a kiln, which rotates to keep the shape of each bead uniform and to keep the beads from sticking to each other. After this process the beads are placed in an acid bath to remove the chalky compound from the holes and to make the surface shiny again. The seed beads are then washed and dried in massive centrifugal machines. Finally the beads are sorted by size and either strung onto hanks or bagged loose.
From now on when I walk into a bead shop and see rows of seed beads - all lined up, ready to be used - my respect for these beauties will be even greater. [Thank you to "Beadopedia" for the above information]
"Measure not the work until the day's out and the labor done." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning