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Bali Beads....What Are They?

By Charles Hopkins Published 09/20/2007 | Shopping
What? You have never heard of Bali Beads before? Well, after you have read this article, you will be a Bali Bead expert.

Let's start with where these beads are made.

You get two guesses and the first one doesn't count.

Obviously, Bali Beads are made in Bali, which lies between the islands of Java and Lombok and is one of the 17 thousand islands that make up the Indonesian Archipelago.

Bali Beads are a large part of the Bali people's beliefs, traditions and history. As the island has over recent years become a popular tourist resort, the demand and market for Bali Beads has increased and has therefore become much more worldwide than previously.

The metal smiths of Bali have been making beads for many hundreds of years and some readers may be surprised to know that the market in silver beads started as recently as the 1970's geared to the growing tourist market. Traditionally the Balinese people would wear similar style beads but in high-grade gold.

For centuries, Balinese artists have perfected their skills. Communities specialize in specific artistic traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. As a result, Bali silversmiths display superb technique and immense patience. Each bead is carefully made with exquisite detail. Every silver dot is individually placed, every surface patterned by hand. Each bead is a work of art. No two is exactly alike.

Bali beads can be used to create beautifully crafted beaded jewelry. The beads are often used to make bracelets, necklaces, earrings or piercing decorations.

The beads range in size and shape from small round beads to large cones and other shaped beads. A very effective pair of earrings can simply be made from a couple of silver Bali Beads matched with a lovely gemstone bead.

A true Bali Bead will be made of silver but fine silver is too soft for general use, so for jewelry making purposes about 7.5% of copper is mixed with 92.5% pure silver. This is called sterling silver.

The purpose of mixing the metal is to get the hardness necessary yet still soft enough to create items into the shapes and sizes wanted.

Then there is Cast Bali Beads. A much quicker process, less labor intensive than the hand crafted beads. The use of hi-tech casting equipment produces a high quality product with quick production times.

There are also imitations. These are called Bali "style" beads, which may be a base metal or even plastic that has been plated. These are fine since you are aware of what you are buying and they are priced accordingly.

So the old axiom is still in affect let the buyer beware. Unless you are making a quick trip to Bali, you will be typically buying these beads by mail order or over the Internet. It would be in your best interest to know the supplier and if they have a good reputation. If you are buying via Ebay, does the sellers have good feedback or are there any suggestions or concerns about the quality of their goods?

These are all concerns we must have in buying anything over the Internet but you now know all the right questions to ask and you should be adorning your body with beautiful Bali Beads in the very near future.