[Enamel Beads] Vermiculite vs Perlite

I make enamel beads with a torch and I anneal them in a crockpot
full of vermiculite.

Recently I read a letter in Glassline claiming vermiculite is a
sort of natural asbestos (yikes!) and perlite is a better
alternative. I do care about my lungs so I decided to give the
perlite a try.

So far I’ve found that the stuff crackles, pops, and smokes a
bit when I drop hot beads into it, but so far this hasn’t hurt my
beads any. They seem to be coming out just fine. The worst
problem I’m facing is the perlite is SO dusty. When I sift it
out or pour it into the crockpot I’m getting a cloud of white
dust. I can’t imagine that this is any better for my lungs than
the vermiculite.

Does anyone know a method for removing some of the dust from the
perlite? A way to wash it perhaps? Any thoughts on the merits of
vermiculite vs perlite in general?

Pam East <@Pam_East>

Tattoos - While you wait!

I have never tried to anneal enamel beads in vermiculite (maybe
that’s why they tend to crack if I build up too much enamel on
the tube- I was assuming it was the lack of counter enamel on the
inside of the tube!) but I am familiar with vermiculite and
perlite as soil additives for potted plants. I think the best way
to deal with these dusty substances, including dry-sifted enamel,
is to wear a dust mask and to “wet-clean” your work area with
damp sponges and a mop. Never try to sweep your enamel area with
a broom, you’ll just kick loads of dust back up into the air.
Keep the containers of your enamels and perlite covered even
while you’re working, the only things you should have exposed are
wet enamels for packing, and it’s good to make sure that they
stay wet and the piece you’re working on. I think the best way
to deal with the dust is to be cautious and to clean after every
work session. Juliet Gamarci @julietg1


I am currently designing a new line of cloisonne enameled beads
(new to me). When I saw this thread on the use of vermiculite
vs perlite and annealing the bead it sparked my interest. I
have been having trouble with the beads I have made getting
tension cracks in them. I am not able to counter enamel the
beads since I fuse fine silver together and the hole is too
small to counter enamel the beads. Would someone be kind enough
to share with me the process of enameling beads?

Thanks for your time.

Linda Crawford
Linda Crawford Designs
Willits, CA, USA

I’ve been making glass beads for about 12 years, and was taught
to anneal in vermiculite. Since the method works for me, I’ve
resisted the urge to buy an expensive “annealing kiln”. The dust
can be a problem, however. I’ve solved this by buying large bags
of vermiculite from a commercial gardening/orchard supply place
rather than at a regular nursery. It is available in particle
sizes if you buy it through a commercial supplier. I use the
"coarse". The coarse lumps are much larger than the fine stuff
you’d get at a nursery (coarse is about the size of lentils), and
there’s virtually no dust. With use over time, as it is exposed
to the heat of your enameled or glass pieces, the vermiculite
will break down and gradually become dusty. Throw it in the
garden and start over with new stuff. A bag of commercial
vermiculite is about as big as a 50 lb bag of dog food - a lot of
stuff. But it’s very cheap, and if you garden or know gardeners,
it’s very useable.

The other thing I do to help eliminate dust is to use a deep
coffee can full of vermiculite, rather than a shallow pan. There
is less exposed vermiculite surface area, therefore less dust in
the air.

Hope this helps.
Rene Roberts