I see sterling silver beads sell for under $100 and others for more than $300, but I’m not sure how to tell which are good ones. I know that the weight matters, but what is a “good” weight for an average (16 or 18 inch) set? Most don’t seem to be hallmarked. How can I tell if they are handmade or machine made? Are the stamped ones more valuable? Does the bead shape affect the value? I’d appreciate any help learning more about them.
I would put a good weight for an 18" close to 64 grams. Weight does play a very important role, and it does seem that graduated stamped beads and fluted are the more expensive designs. You will find machine beads seamless and usually with a very prominent seam. This page has a handmade bead and machine bead and a good place to see what can be purchased, Sterling Silver Beads - Thunderbird Supply Company - Jewelry Making Supplies
Thank you Jason. I am a little confused by one sentence:
Is there a word missing? Maybe machine beads are seamless while handmade ones have a prominent seam?
Great idea about looking at what artists can buy so I can familiarize myself with the look of the beads.
I interpreted this as machine made beads are usually either seamless or have a prominent seam. If there is a more subtle seam than it is more likely to be handmade, if I understand correctly.
Yes, OrbitOrange has made sense of my sentence. Handmade beads are made using two discs and always show a seam. Also, handmade beads the artist will smooth out the seam so it isn’t so noticeable like it is with a machine bead. Some artists will try and trick with machine beads that they have smoothed out the seam.
That makes sense. Thank you both!