I am currently working on the new CiM test batch, and should have a blog post or two done this week. In the meantime, I want to talk a bit about something that has bugged me for years. This year will be my 15th year of lampwork beadmaking. Not to be cliche or anything, but time sure has flown by!
Over the course of the last 10 years or so, I have noticed a steady decline in the quality of some of the 104 coe glass I have worked with, particularly with Effetre. I'm not putting Effetre down - I still love their glass. They easily have the most variety in color and, for the most part, the best prices. That's changing, though.
One thing I have been experiencing over the last decade or so is the increase in the air bubbles that run lengthwise through an Effetre glass rod - especially in the handmade opaque colors like Dark Pink, Opal Yellow, Copper Green, Sage and Avocado. Air holes like this cause shocking (and the eventual shattering), but they also make the glass impossible to use for making encased stringer. This might not be such a major deal if the prices for these glass colors wasn't so high. When I pay a higher price for handmade glass, I don't expect it to be practically unusable. Especially since the quality of the handmade rods used to be really nice, around a decade ago. Granted, Effetre does have machine made glass that is somewhat less expensive, but the machine made versions of those colors just are not the same shades. Machine made Sage is a lot less rich and brown than the handmade version.
Speaking of Sage, the last time I bought the handmade version of it, all of the beads I made with it cracked - something I have never dealt with before with that color.
This brings me to the issue of different batches of the same color name. Effetre is not the only glass company that has issues with this - all of them do. And they aren't all that consistent with labeling when it comes to a difference in a color batch. For instance, I use CiM Adamantium and CiM Lapis regularly. They both used to be darker in color. CiM is usually really good about changing the name of a color if it comes out different, but once in awhile they don't. Effetre almost never lets us know when the batch is off on some colors like Rubino Oro or Silver Pink. But they have so many different shades of Coral and Dark Pink that it borders on ridiculous. And we have not seen the original shades of either color in years and years.
Shocking was never a problem for me a decade ago - now I am careful with every opaque rod I put in the flame, no matter what brand it is, because easily 50% of them shock a little, and I have way more problems with a total shattering rod than I ever used to have. Shattering rods are a complete waste of my time and money - and when it's an expensive color, I want to scream when it happens. 10 years ago, I barely knew what shocking was. Now it seems like everyone talks about it as a common occurrence.
The one company that seems to almost never have quality issues is Double Helix. Since they have decided to make their version of Rubino (called Rhea) a regular color, I am switching to it, no matter how much more expensive (and it really is expensive), because it is just so much better. Hopefully they will eventually make a version close to the Vetrofond version that I miss so very much. I'd pay really good money for that. DH glass is such good quality that I pay easily 4-5 times more for their clear glass - I will never go back to the scummy, bubbly, crappy monstrosity that is Effetre clear, no matter how much people try to convince me that it is an okay clear. It's not. Not for what I like anyway - which is optical clarity and neutrality.
Speaking of scumming and bubbling - I've noticed that has increased as well over the years in lighter transparent colors - especially blues and pinks. CiM's colors that bubble will respond to more heat and the bubbles will evaporate away most of the time - especially with their aquas and even their newer clear (which is the only one I would ever consider using in place of DH Zephyr if I ever can't get any). Effetre's transparents however will not respond that way - the more you heat them, the more they bubble. I have to be ultra -gentle with their pinks for sure.
For these reasons, I have more and more been replacing my Effetre colors with CiM colors when I find an equivalent. CiM's glass almost never has air bubbles running the length of the glass, and their rods tend to have more consistency in color than Effetre - with a few exceptions. CiM can be somewhat more expensive, unless it's on sale (which at Frantz it often is), but the quality is worth it. I do use Effetre still - some colors are just not found anywhere else (Dark Pink, Ink Blue Violet, Grass Green). It just irks me when a color I love (Opal Yellow!!!) has declined so much in quality but still costs a lot.
I guess, such are the trials and tribulations of being a perfectionist when it comes to glass. I don't think the Italian glassmakers really pay much attention to beadmakers, and never have (from what I've been told). They have much bigger markets to pay attention to. So the quality of the glass they send to Frantz is not high on their priority list. We get what they give us, period.
I am happy that companies like CiM and Double Helix do pay attention to us and are concerned with giving us the highest quality glass they can. So, silver linings. :) Rant over - thanks for reading if you got this far! Comments and discussion are encouraged. :)
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