Jewelry Design: Making Palettes For Focal Beads with Margie Deeb

Let's start with a dilemma. What do we do with our favorite new multi-colored focal bead? Do we frame it with clear glass beads? Do we use choose a color from that focal bead and string with that one color in mind? Or - do we go all -colors-in and incorporate the whole spectrum of that focal bead? What do you think? How much is too much and are clear glass beads a reasonable solution? Read on to find out what Margie Deeb suggests!

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We love Margie Deeb's intimate knowledge of colors and we wanted to re-share some of our archive articles she has written for us. Margie is an incredibly talented artist, designer, and author. Follow along on her color journey. Let's all become students of color!

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Below, Margie tells us how to create a lovely piece of jewelry around a multi-colored focal bead. Do you want to play it safe or do you want to create a masterpiece? She has some tips on the latter. Learn how you can plot out a cohesive design using the colors of the focal bead to your advantage.

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How to create a necklace color scheme from an existing bead (or fabric) is one of the questions I've been asked the most over the years.

Rachel D. wrote:

"I have a question about working with beads that are multi-colored. I have purchased lampwork glass beads that are made up of at least 3 colors. I would like to know if I should choose 1 color out of the multi-color bead and use as an accent bead or just use plain clear glass beads as accents? I hear different opinions.

I told Rachel "Its difficult for me to give you my most informed answer without seeing the beads."

My preference is color, not clear glass beads. So I would try to choose 1 color within the beads to use as a unifying color. That is not a rule, that is where I would start experimenting.

To give my best answer to Rachel and you, dear reader, I devote this August 2010 column. I've also created a fully illustrated, bullet-pointed, picture-says-it-all PDF guide titled " 7 Strategies for Extracting Palettes" available on my website,

Let's discuss this question with one of the strategies outlined in " 7 Strategies for Extracting Palettes."

Strategy #1 is the simplest approach, yet often the most difficult to pull-off successfully. I call it "All Colors Present." In this approach you employ all the colors of the existing source (the focal bead) in the necklace itself.

The reason this approach is often difficult to pull-off successfully is because it risks becoming too busy and chaotic. There is already so much visual activity in that focal bead: you don't want to make a necklace that competes with it for attention. Your job is to shape the colorful chaos into a pleasing degree of form and order. To do this use unifying elements, such as similar sizes, shapes, textures in the necklace strands. You can also use solid colors to "frame focal bead".

For example, here is a colorful lampworked focal bead by my friend, jewelry designer,  Kristy Nijenkamp. Lots of colors are swirling around this little masterpiece. So Kristy focused on the main three: green, amber, and purple. She framed the focal bead in the most dominant color, green (see the 2 fluorite beads on either side of the focal). Her necklace is strong and colorful, and compliments the focal without competing with or overwhelming it. The overall effect is unified, because the colors within the focal bead are carried through the entire necklace.

"Purple Goddess Necklace" by Kristy Nijenkamp
 Designed with glass focal bead, amethyst, fluorite, green agate and sterling silver.
Featured in  The Beader’s Color Palette by Margie Deeb.

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Margie Deeb

Artist and color expert Margie Deeb is the author of The Beader's Color Palette, The Beader's Guide to Color, The Beader's Guide to Jewelry Design and numerous beading and color publications. She teaches color and beading across the country and her free monthly color column, Margie's Muse, is available on her website. She writes regularly for Beadwork, Bead & Button, and Step-by-Step Beads magazines.

Visit Margie's website for her books, kits, patterns, jewelry, inspiration, and more: