This weekend I worked on 23K gold leaf-wrapped transparent beads in pairs for earrings which I'll deliver to the gallery this week. I thought you might like to see the process. Sorry the pics are a little blurry- just had to try to snap them quickly and get the beads back in the heat before they got too cold.
The first picture shows I've already made the first bead of the pair and have wrapped the teal transparent core of the second bead onto the mandrel. The glass goes on a little blobby and you have to spin it around evenly so centrifugal force will let it pull into a ball shape.
The second photo shows a wonky saturn ring of colorless transparent glass I've wrapped around the teal core. I could make the whole bead out of the teal, but the light wouldn't travel through it as efficiently, and the bead wouldn't look so pretty, imho.
The third photo shows the clear glass melted in and back into a ball shape around the teal core. At the left of the photo you can see the stainless steel of the mandrel extending beyond the gray bead-release coating. Bead release is a liquid ceramic coating you must put on the mandrel prior to adding the hot glass. The mandrel has to be a similar temp to the glass, or the molten glass will not stick. Also, the mandrel must be coated in bead release or the glass will permanently wed the stainless steel and instead of a bead, you will have a swizzle stick. I use a little routing tool to clean the bead release from the shaft of the bead. I do this underwater, as the bead release in powder form is a carcinogen which hangs around your lungs for-evah.
The final image is of the gold leaf wrapped onto the bead, having been slightly burnished with a graphite marver (a little paddle thingie). The metal on the bead must be gold of a high karat or the metal will just turn black and schmutzy with the heat, or will disappear altogether. You can kind of see at the top of the bead that the colored core is still molten and that deep red lava color. This is a lot more fun to watch than may be conveyed in photographs.
When these beads are out of the kiln tomorrow after annealing, I'll go over the foil-wrapped beads with a little scrubby thing so they won't have any little foil edges sticking out. Will try to remember to show you the finished pair of earrings for which I made these beads.