Well, as you know, there is a lot of magic in beads, but in this case – we are talking about bead “finishes” – which is a treatment to “modify” the existing colour. It is a light coating that is applied to the bead as part of the manufacturing process, and is very durable. The coating application is pretty high-tech, usually involving high temperatures and evaporating salts, and not really a reproducible home process.
By the way, when we refer to a bead being “coated” – these are NOT what we are referring to – coated beads implied a coating that may come off with wear – we note these so that you are aware of this and can plan accordingly when you use them, usually avoiding high friction applications. (I.e. bracelets, which get a lot of abuse.)
We think of these finishes as modifiers, and some of them can be combined, and some not.
Probably the first, most familiar and oldest of these is the AB finish – AB is short for Aurora Borealis. Daniel Swarovski developed this coating for Christian Dior in 1955 – and Swarovski hasn’t looked back since! This delightful coating effect is similar to the iridescence you would see on a soap bubble, and is most dramatic on large, clear beads – reflecting so much colour that you often can’t tell that the original bead has no colour at all! Sometimes, this makes for confusing pictures online – video would show it better, but I don’t think the world is quite ready for an online streaming video catalogue of 10,000 bead and jewellery items!
The colours that reflect tend to change depending on the angle you are viewing the bead from, the background colour (i.e. on skin, black clothing, white shirt, etc.), and the surrounding colours in the jewellery. For instance, I find that Crystal AB picks up the colours of other beads better than does the Crystal (clear) colour by itself. It also added more “fire” – which is flashes of reflected colour, so items made with Crystal AB included tend to be more dramatic.
AB is not restricted to Crystal AB (which is the AB finish on clear bead) but can be applied to any colour of glass, including opaque colours, such as black, for a very different look.
AB can be combined with a Matte Finish – which is a soft, non-glossy finish. Matte beads have a wonderfully tactile effect – they just beg to be touched. Because they are not glossy, they add a depth to a creation that is hard to get any other way as well! The transparent colours, when matted, have a soft glow that is also just delightful!