The complete book of beads by Janet Coles

This stunning volume utilizes glorious colour photos to catalogue all types of beads (glass, wood, metal, ceramic, natural, semiprecious, plastic, novelty and collectable), offer design guidelines on planning jewellery (considerations of bead shape, texture, size, weight and colour), and document various practical considerations (findings, equipment, basic techniques for creating earrings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches). The section on themes and special occasions, complete with directions for each project, features designs for evening wear, summer styles, holiday looks, weddings, children’s items, and African- and Indian-inspired pieces. Even the purely informational and visual spreads (those without complete instructions) offer endless inspiration and ideas for beaded creations.

The book first of all gives an introduction to beads. How they are made, where they come from and how they were used through the ages. Then it shows the various kinds of beads: glass, wood, metal, ceramic, natural beads (seeds and beans, ivory, bone, horn stone, shells), pearls and corals, precious stones, amber and jet, rocailles and synthetic beads.

Then it gives you tips how to plan a necklace, what to consider in terms of color combinations, structure, size and weight, specific themes (e.g. for evening attire, summer, festive, wedding, kids) and various looks (African, Native American, Indian).

It shows you examples of how to turn old, broken necklaces into something new and explains techniques in short.

From the first look the book gives a slightly outdated feel. However, it gives a lot of valuable information which is underlined with detailed pictures. The various beads and forms are all shown very clearly and the necklaces all are very tasteful (even if the style is not always what I would like to wear).

I especially liked the introduction of the history of beads. I never knew that the word “bead” came from the old English words for “to pray” and “prayer”. I checked the etymology of the German word “Perle” (the Germans don’t differentiate between beads and pearls as far as the word is concerned) to find out whether it had a similar background. The Brothers Grimm tell us, however, that the word probably derives from the Latin “pirula”, which means “little pear”.

I also found the section about the various looks helpful where Janet Coles explains what beads to choose to achieve a certain feel.

The book is not aimed at beginners who want to learn about techniques or specific projects. As a thorough introduction to the topic it is extremely informative and beautiful to look at.

Available on amazon

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