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How to tell the difference between glass beads & plastic beads

Updated February 21, 2017

Beads have been a popular item in arts and crafts for centuries. Among many other possibilities, you can use them to make jewellery, adorn furniture and spice up clothing. Traditionally, coloured glass has been the material used to make beads but, since the advent of advanced plastic manufacturing, more and more beads have been mass-produced from coloured plastic. Some of the plastic beads are made so well you need to know a few tricks to tell the difference between them and their glass counterparts.

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  1. Pick up the bead in your bare hand. Glass beads initially feel cool to the touch, because they are more dense than acrylic (the most commonly used substance for plastic beads that mimic the look of glass), but they also warm up fairly quickly in your hand, whereas acrylic beads take longer to change temperature.

  2. Measure the weight of a bead you know to be glass against one that you're not sure about. Acrylic beads are much lighter than glass beads.

  3. Test one of the beads by lightly tapping it with a hammer (if you have a large batch and can spare one). Put on your safety glasses, place the bead on a hard surface and tap it with the hammer. A glass bead will crack quite easily, while the hammer will bounce off of a plastic bead under a light blow.

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Things You'll Need

  • Small scale
  • Hammer
  • Safety glasses

About the Author

After working as an editorial assistant for the University of Chicago Press, Dario Saandvik began writing in 2009. He specializes in gardening, home maintenance and computer software. Saandvik has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Chicago and is in the graduate program for English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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