Let’s Be Clear – or Not: Transparent vs Opaque

There are some beady terms that we tend to take the definition of for granted, but I’d like to just pause for a moment to “make clear” what is meant when we rattle off terms like “transparent,” “crystal,” etc. These definitions are pretty standard – but can be confusing if you are just getting started.

When someone refers to a bead being transparent, it means you can see through it – but it is not necessarily colourless. In some cases, it’s darn hard to see through, because the glass is a very dark colour, but transparent glass beads can be coloured, not necessarily clear.

27800407-00 Glass - Large Wavy Pancake - Crystal (1)When the transparent glass is clear and has no colour – it is referred to as “Crystal” – crystal being the colour. Or lack thereof.

To make this more confusing, “Crystal” is also a material that beads are made out of – like vases and wine glasses. Crystal is a type of glass that has some lead oxide added – which makes it sparklier and more refractive. Generally, beads made with “Crystal” glass are faceted – either by machine or by hand. We have an extensive line of crystal glass beads made by Swarovski in Austria and Preciosa in Czech.

96847370040001 Swarovski Fancy Stone - 20 mm Open Triangle (4737) - Crystal (1)So, if it is entirely possible to have a Crystal Crystal bead, which would be clear and a faceted sparkly bead. 😉

27001756-02 Firepolish - 8 mm Faceted Round - Opaque Turquoise Blue (25)The opposite of clear is opaque, and you can’t see through them, any more than through concrete.

s16314 Glass Drops - 6 x 9 mm Pear Drops - White Opal (30)There are glass beads that are between these two, however. 65002344 Czech Seedbeads - 10/0 Seedbead - Alabaster (hank)There are the “Opal” glasses – which have a milkiness to them – light is transmitted, but you can’t really see through them. “Alabaster,” “Greasy” or “Oily” beads have similar properties. You can’t really see through them, but they do transmit some light, giving them a richness and depth.

mib2661465014 Glass - 14 mm Lentil - Aqua Givre (strand 25) - Clearance - End of Line! 30% off!mifp1065014s Firepolish - 10 mm Faceted Round - Blueberry Swirl (25) - Clearance - End of Line! 30% off!Givre – is an opaque, often white, glass layered under a coloured transparent. The opaque glass is looks like a cloud, floating inside the bead.

27898000-520 Glass - 11 mm Sliding Pillows - Cobalt Streaky Matte (10)s16761 Glass Daggers - 3 x 11 mm Dagger Beads - The Jealous Mermaid (25)Streaky beads are often streaks of transparent and opaque, for a particularly complex and interesting look.

That’s the inside view on transparent vs opaque. I hope this was helpful to “clear things up.” 😉

27802352-01 Glass -  Matte Pillow Tabs - Black Cherry Swirl  (1)BONUS FACTOID: Here’s something you probably don’t need to know but I’ll tell you anyway. Black glass is usually actually very dark transparent purple (sometimes blue). Making glass completely black and opaque is quite a bit more expensive – so very dark purple is the usual stand-in. Most of the times, you can’t tell, but sometimes you get a streaky bead that is made with black and white and it looks more like blackberry juice – like this one!

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