Z is for Zirconia (AtoZ 2016)

One of my 2016 resolutions is to add a stone to a bead. So far I have two ideas for beads but haven’t narrowed down which idea I want to try. Because of that, I also haven’t narrowed down what kind of stone I want to add.

Part of the decision hinges on whether I really want to add the stone before or after I fire the bead. I feel like adding it before firing would be more of a challenge, but also limits the stones that I can use. Amber would have to be added after. Labradorite, while ok if fired at a low temperature in a kiln, isn’t recommended for torch firing. Other stones are iffy no matter how they are heated – sometimes ok, sometimes not. Flip a coin and trust your luck. While I’m not planning on using expensive stones, I still don’t want to risk ruining the stone and bead if I can’t predict what will happen or how they’ll come out after firing.

Enter zirconia. Zirconia seems to be universally accepted as torchable. And it comes in many different colours!

But, it’s not amber. Or labradorite. Or really any of the stones that I want to use! So I’m back to my original dilemma: while adding the stone after firing gives me more options, it is less challenging. And there’s not much point in setting a resolution if there’s no challenge to it!

Do you like to challenge yourself? How do you challenge yourself?


  1. Firstly congratulations on finishing the A to Z, I’ve really enjoyed your series immensely!

    Hmmm the A to Z has challenged me a lot more this year, both in time to be able to write and also in getting myself to talk about my own beads, let alone for 26 posts!

    I do like to set myself challenges, I have a similar one with CZs and glass, I’ve managed a couple of beads but I’ve had far more failures than successes so far- the stones are fine in the torch btw, it’s the glass afterwards that has suffered. I think it may be one bead that needs to go flame to kiln and not be batch annealed.

    I’ve left that experiment for now and have a few more challenges lined up, but maybe some more Zzzzzs first!

    Mars xx
    @TrollbeadBlog from
    Curling Stones for Lego People

    1. Thanks Mars! It was fun to share a few of the details of how I make the beads. And, it even prompted me to finally make another one! :D

      The stones are a bit of a challenge. I tried adding two to my most recent bead and … not happy. I love the bead outside of the stones, though, so I’m going to have to figure out how to dig the one out (the second didn’t go in) and try something new. :\ I’m giving it a day to see if I change my mind about the stone.

      I’ve really enjoyed following your beadmaking posts so I’m happy that you accepted the challenge this year!

      1. Yeah I’ve wasted more than a few stones but it’s the bead I mourn not the stones too!

        Now I have some time back I really need to organise my glass so I can get on with making, my bench is still piled up which is shocking! But with college starting in April too and that all going on my time is just disappearing rapidly lol!

        I’m away for a long weekend this month too so the craziness doens’t stop with the challenge, but so looking forward to just posting once or twice a month again :)

        Mars xx

    1. Thank you Tasha :) It’s been an interesting challenge.

      I wish you lots of luck with your writing! I know how words don’t always come when you want or need them to :D

  2. Gosh – you couldn’t fire amber of course because it would go soft, I would think, or crack at least, it being fossilised tree sap, not crystalline in structure. Many stones change colour in heat, how frustrating for you! Many congratulations on reaching the end of the a-Z! ~Liz http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com

    1. Yes, I think the amber would melt entirely. I had an amber bead that had a small crack in it, so I sanded and polished it and you could feel the amber heating up just from that. The flame would not work! The changing colour was also another issue that I had heard :(

      The problem is that all of the ideas I’ve had so far for beads with stones are for beads that I really want to work out properly :) So I almost need to come up with an idea that I’m not in love with, so if firing doesn’t work, it’s not a huge loss :D

    1. Although I do like challenges, this was more of a challenge than I expected it to be :D But, overall it was interesting and I found so many amazing blogs through it. And I know that that list of participants was sooo much longer than the list that I was able to visit! The time requirements were a bit more than I anticipated.

    1. Although it was fun to participate in the challenge, I think it was more fun to find new blogs to follow. Although I had a bit of trouble keeping up some days!

      Still, it has been an amazing month and I intend to continue checking in now that the challenge is over, and hopefully I can leave slightly longer comments without the time pressures of the challenge. :)

  3. Okay, I think what I’d do would be to try it out with zirconia first, to get a hang for firing beads with the stone already in, and then move on to the more desirable stones… Would that work? I agree that, even if the stones aren’t expensive, it would be a shame to ruin them by experimenting… But I know you’ll ace it—and I look forward to reading all about it :)

    Congratulations on finishing the Challenge! This was an excellent series all around. And thank you so much for all the love you shared over at Life In Dogs—much, much appreciated!

  4. Yes, I think that the first stone I fire will have to be zirconia so that I can practice a bit. To be honest, I’m almost more worried about ruining the bead than ruining the stone! Although the shrinkage rate for metal clay is small, there is still shrinkage to consider; I’m worried about the stone causing the clay to crack as it shrinks around the stone. :\

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