Making beads from rose petals

DIY Rose Beads: Learn How To Make Rose Beads From The Garden

In a more romantic time, ladies of the court made their own beads for rosaries out of rose petals. These beads were not only headily scented but served to provide them with objects of faith. You, too, can make DIY rose beads. The project is not only fun but has a historical significance and religious background. Making rose beads is an activity in which even the smallest members of the family can join and produce heirlooms that will last for years, endowed with memories of your fragrant garden.

What are Rose Beads?

Preserving rose petals is a common sentimental process. You may also want to try making rose beads from these lovely flowers. They are easy to make, take few tools and very little skill but can make an interesting way to save a treasured memory. Rose beads may become part of a necklace or bracelet, something that will stand the test of time and can be passed down to your children.

Many of us have received a bouquet of roses and pressed a few between the pages of a favorite book. But in times long gone by, observant young ladies would create their own rosaries to use while at prayer from roses. The original process likely involved a mortar and pestle, which can also be used today.

The rose beads served as objects of reverence but also contained the scent of the rose garden and

were an inexpensive way to make these sacred necklaces. Rosary actually comes from the Latin rosarium, meaning “garland of roses.” The fragrance released as the beads were fingered in prayer were thought to please God and encourage Him to listen to those heartfelt prayers.

Rose Bead Instructions

The first step in how to make rose beads is to gather the petals. These may be from a bouquet or simply harvested from your garden. Remove the petals from the ovary and stem so that all remains is the velvety, aromatic material. The color doesn’t matter much, as the beads will dry to reddish brown or even black.

Next, get out the electric blender or a mortar and pestle. You are now going to make a fragrant pulp. For every 2 cups (473 grams) of petals, you will need 1/4 cup (59 grams) of water. The type of water is up to you. Some tap waters may contain minerals and chemicals that can affect the scent of the beads, so diluted or rainwater are better choices.

After you have processed the petals into a gel-like pulp, it needs to be heated at medium in a saucepan. For black beads, use a cast iron pan which oxidizes and darkens the petal mash. Stir consistently with a wooden spoon to prevent burning until the mash is the consistency of clay. Remove the pan and let the mixture cool to a comfortable temperature with which to work.

You are going to get your hands in the stuff and mold it. If it is still a bit too moist, squeeze it in a paper towel or cheesecloth to get extra water out and tighten it up enough to hold a shape. This is your chance to enhance the scent if some of the rose aroma has faded by using a rose oil prior to forming the beads.

The last part of your DIY rose beads is to shape them. You will need a firm skewer or knitting needle or whatever works to make holes in the beads. Roll small pieces of the firmed rose mash in your hands or on a counter to make round or oval beads. Shape them around the skewer and carefully pull them off with a nice central pierce. This part can be tricky and may take a few attempts to master.

Lay each bead out on a cookie sheet or rack for several days to dry. Roll them each day to expose each side for faster drying. Once dry, you can create jewelry from them that will last for years and possibly even generations. It would make a thoughtful gift for a loved one or a “something borrowed” for a blushing bride.

How To Make Rose Petal Beads

I have seen rose petal beads only once. The beads were on display in a museum, and the idea that such a lovely necklace could be made solely from rose petals has always intrigued me. I took the free copy of the instructions they had available… like most of the old crafts, the process of turning rose petals into beads takes time. It also requires access to a lot of strongly scented rose petals, which has always been a stopping point for me… I have the strongly scented wild roses, but only a few. Just in case someone has more, here are the instructions for making rose petal beads.

  • Start making the rose petal paste by gathering the petals in the morning on a dry day.
  • Crush the petals in the traditional way using a mortar and pestle, or puree them with a blender.
  • Add just enough water to cover the petals and simmer them in a cast iron skillet for about an hour. Let them cool completely, then simmer them for another hour. During this simmering time, the rose petals react with the iron and turn black, giving the beads their characteristic dark color and matte finish. This will not happen in another type of pan.
  • Every day after that for about fourteen more days, grind the petal mixture again. You will know it is ready when the petals have become a thick paste that is the consistency of clay.

  • The next step is to form the beads. The beads will shrink as they dry so make each bead about twice as large as you want the finished bead to be.
  • Make a hole with a large wire through the center of each bead. String the beads on another wire and hang them to dry. It is important to turn each bead on the wire at least once a day so the stringing hole stays open and the bead does not stick to the wire.
  • Let the beads dry for another two weeks before polishing and stringing them.

The beads were in a glass cabinet so it was impossible to know if they still retained their rose scent, but the sign said that they did, and that when rose beads are worn, body warmth makes them release their scent.

Written by Shirley Filed Under: How To’s & General Information

Making Rose Beads

The money that we raise from this and other projects is turned toward a variety of worthy causes. The main one is the National Herb Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., which the group has supported since its beginning in the 1970s (see “A National Treasure”, October/November 1993).

The National Herb Garden includes a 50-by-80-foot rose garden filled with antique varieties, and some of the petals that go into the rose beads are gathered by Potomac Unit volunteers during the course of their weekly chores here. The garden’s curator, Janet Walker, is a member of the Potomac Unit, as is Holly Shimizu, the former curator and now chief horticulturist at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington. Most Potomac Unit members grow roses of their own, and for some members such as Holly, roses are a specialty (See Holly Shimizu’s “Apothecary Roses,” which starts on page 54).

Potomac Unit members gather all colors and varieties of rose petals whenever the plants are in bloom. Our largest source of petals is the Bon Air Rose Garden in Arlington, Virginia. This public garden contains more than 2000 rosebushes, and every Monday during the season, Potomac Unit member and Bon Air volunteer Mildred Gordon deadheads the roses. She puts a tarp in the back of her car and fills it with basketfuls of spent rose blossoms. When she gets home, she has an all-day job removing the petals from their stems.

Another member, Jackie Dunlavy, works for a florist. She collects and dries many leftover rose petals, usually red ones. These are some of the prettiest petals that we gather, and if we don’t mix them in with other petals to make mash, we save them for potpourris to sell at our spring herb sale.

A Beading Bee

A rose-bead workshop may draw as few as eight or as many as fifteen volunteer workers. It’s much like an old-fashioned quilting bee. The members work steadily, enjoying each other’s company and accomplishing much. In just a few hours, large amounts of mash are kneaded, measured, rolled, and placed on wires to dry. The fun that we’re having, the camaraderie, and the shared belief in the value of our purpose keep us turning out beads by the hundreds.

We all have our roles. Some are mash makers or bead rollers, others design or package the jewelry, everyone tries her hand at stringing the beads, and some dabble in all aspects of production.

Ruth Smith has her hand in just about every stage of rose-bead making—from growing pink rugosas and drying the petals to making the mash and shaping the beads. She even rolls them in her truck as she and her husband drive out to their farm. Ruth, ­Mildred, and Cassie Yates design most of the necklaces ­produced by the group.

Cassie has written down the instructions that our unit uses and frequently gives lectures about this ancient craft. She and Ruth are the ones who make sure that there’s plenty of mash on hand whenever a workshop is scheduled. Cassie frequently has a pot of petals on her stovetop cooking down all day while she works around the house. At Bernice Pivarnik’s house, the mash bakes in the oven.

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At a workshop, we all work carefully. Any bead that dries imperfectly is rejected—placed back in the mash pot and cooked down again—and any string with a bead out of place is disassembled and restrung. We mean business: we’re creating works of art. From mail-order businesses, gem shows, and local bead shops, members buy and collect other beads to string along with the rose beads for a greater variety in design and colors in the finished necklaces.

The rose-bead project has become a way of life for many members of our group. Some women roll the mash or string the beads as they watch television or listen to music in the evenings. Our families put up with freezers and attics full of rose petals, pots bubbling on the stove for days on end, mothers and wives with blackened hands, not to mention the sometimes overwhelming fragrance. We still laugh to think of Mary Jane Miller’s poor husband, who took a big taste out of a steaming pot, thinking it was dinner.

With this project, the Potomac Unit reclaims a lost art. The beads let us combine a passion for flowers with an appreciation of beautiful jewelry. A bonus is that the fragrance of roses is always with us.

How Do You Do It?

Working with the beaders, I soon realized that there is no single correct method of making rose beads. Each woman has her own way of handling the mash, measuring, rolling, and finishing the beads. The instructions that follow were culled from many experienced rose-bead makers, but you may vary them as you like.

Any type or color of rose can be used to make the beads—they all turn black in the end. It takes clean petals to make a clean, smooth mash, so pick out any leaves, thorns, insects, or other debris. “The petals won’t dry well if they’ve been rained on the day before,” Mildred Gordon cautions, but a little dew won’t hurt them.

You can prepare mash from fresh, dried, or frozen petals, or any combination of the three. Potomac Unit members use all three. One member dries petals by spreading them on sheets in the attic, then packs them into paper bags, which she then places in the freezer to kill any insects that may have been clinging to the petals.

Our recipe makes about seventy-five smooth black beads, or about enough for one necklace (more if other kinds of beads are added for accent). The batch is easily doubled or even tripled. The materials that you need are easily obtained; you may have many of them on hand already.

Susan Belsinger is an herb gardener, an author of cookbooks, a chef, a longtime contributor to The Herb Companion, and an enthusiastic bead roller.

For more information about the Potomac Unit or to purchase one of its rose-bead necklaces, contact the Herb Society of America-Potomac Unit, PO Box 1055, Springfield, VA 22151. The HSA currently has thirty-six units; to find out about a group near you, contact the national headquarters: Herb Society of America, 9019 Kirtland-Chardon Rd., Kirtland, OH 44094.

Valentine’s Day is generally associated with gift-giving to one’s sweetheart, and after chocolate, roses are the most popular choice of present to show one’s affection. Nothing quite compares to a rose in terms of beauty, grace, scent, and the expression of romantic love, and it’s always sad when these lovely blooms wilt and lose their petals after a few days. There is, however, a gorgeous way to preserve and reuse those petals, and that’s by transforming them into beads, which can then be used in jewelry, keepsakes, sachets, or even just as decorative accents.

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What You’ll Need:

  • Several large handfuls of red or pink rose petals (to create a beaded necklace, you’ll need at least half a shopping bags’ worth)
  • Water
  • A food processor
  • A large saucepan or cooking pot (enamel, steel, or cast iron)
  • A strong darning or embroidery needle
  • Thick thread or fishing line
  • Rose essential oil (optional)
  • Time and patience

If the petals are still attached to flower heads or steps, remove them and clean them thoroughly to eliminate any grit, pollen, or random insect bits. You can place the petals in a colander one handful at a time and rinse them with cool running water, and then place them in your pot.

Add just enough water to cover the petals, and then turn on one of your burners to medium heat. Just before the water begins to boil, turn the heat down low so you can simmer the petals just until they’re wilted (about 8 minutes). Simmering helps to weaken the cellulose in the petals, which will allow them to be processed to a nice, smooth paste for forming into beads. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Once cooled to about room temperature, pour the petals and water into your food processor or blender and puree on the highest setting until you end up with a very soft, finely textured paste. The finer this paste is, the smoother your beads will be. They’ll also bind together more thoroughly, rendering them more durable and less likely to break.

Image © PaintCutPaste

Simmering and Cooling

Pour the pulp into an enamel, stainless steel, or cast iron pot. Don’t use aluminum, as the petals are acidic and react strangely with the aluminum. If you’re using dark red or pink rose petals and you simmer them in a cast iron pot, you’ll end up with very dark red, nearly black beads. Don’t allow this mixture to boil, as that will destroy the petals’ natural scent.

You’re going to simmer this mixture for about 30 minutes, twice a day, for 3 days. In between simmerings, you’ll set the mixture aside to cool and dry out a little bit. Both the simmering process and the natural evaporation will allow the pulp to condense into a thick paste that’s ideal for working into beads. The ideal consistency is that of modelling clay, so if you find that the pulp is still too wet on day 3, feel free to continue the simmering and drying process until it attains that magical clay-like texture.

*Note: if you find that the scent has dissipated during the simmering process, you can add some rose essential oil to this cooled, clay mixture to enhance it.

Image © PaintCutPaste

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

Once the clay texture has been attained, it’s time to roll your beads. It’s important to note that these will shrink as they dry (sometimes even by about 40%), so feel free to make them a little bit bigger than you’d like the end product to be. Scoop up bits of paste with either your fingers or a dessert spoon, and roll the paste into a ball between the palms of your hands. Use enough pressure to compact the paste, but not enough to warp the beads from uniform roundness.

Set these beads on a paper-lined baking tray, and allow them to dry away from direct sunlight. In order to create the holes you’ll use to string your beads, you’ll have to poke a needle through the drying petal clay. There’s a trick to this, though: if you try to poke holes while the clay is too wet, the bead will just fall apart, so it’s important to let them dry enough that they’ll hold together during the piercing process. For beads that are 3mm to 5mm in diameter, allow them to dry for a full day before piercing–any longer than that and they’ll be too hard to bore through. Beads that are 5mm to 8mm in diameter should be pierced after 2 days, and those that are 10mm to 12mm can be pierced after 3 days.

After creating these holes, let the beads dry for 24 hours before threading them onto thick sewing thread or fishing line. I prefer fishing line because it’s slippery and firm, and can be threaded through the balls more easily. Let these strung beads dry for about a week to cure completely, but make sure that you move them along the thread a couple of times a day to keep the holes open. If you find that the beads’ surface is a bit more textured than you’d like, you can use the finest grade sandpaper to gently, slowly smooth the surface of each bead.

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The Final Product

Once the beads have cured, they can be used in craft projects, turned into jewelry, made into rosaries, or even just tucked into dresser drawers to scent your clothes. If you didn’t add extra rose oil to the paste before forming it, you can dab a little bit onto your fingertips and massage it into the beads gently.

These beads will dissolve if they’re exposed to water for more than a couple of minutes, so be sure that you don’t wear any petal bead jewelry in the shower. They’re fine when worn against skin, as a little bit of sweat (or tears) won’t harm them; you just don’t want to immerse them in any liquid. Should they happen to get wet accidentally, pat them dry immediately and let them rest in a dry place for a few days. When you’re not using or wearing the beads, store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. These lovely keepsakes will be beautiful reminders of sweetness over the years, so be sure to give them plenty of love!

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An avid permaculture gardener, locavore, and novice (but enthusiastic!) canner, Lana Winter-Hébert joins Inhabitat after spending the last decade working as a writer and event guru for non-profit/eco organizations. She has contributed to both print and web-based media for clients across North America and Europe, and is slowly plodding her way through her first novel-writing attempt. Born and raised in Toronto, she has given up city life and moved to the wilds of rural Quebec with her husband, where they collaborate on graphic design projects for their company, Winter-Hébert. Their new, rustic lifestyle is chronicled in her two personal blogs: 33 Leagues from Mount Royal, and The Green Pigeon, where she touches upon the ins and outs of homesteading and self sufficiency in the Great White North. When she isn’t writing or delving into artstuffs, Lana can be found reading, wrestling with various knitting projects, or tending her garden.

How to Make Real Rose Petal Beads

Somebody emailed to ask if I knew where to buy rose petal beads. I researched and found you can buy them from The Rosary Shop. But you could make your own! Especially if you have a garden or are going to be designing jewelry for a bride and help make her a keepsake from her bouquet. June is a time when many roses come into bloom so this post will help you take advantage of this wonderful resource!

Elynn MacInnis’ bracelet made with white rose beads

Making rose petal beads is an old craft. The beads were traditionally used in rosaries – the scent was welcome especially in the days when diseases were thought to be caused by bad air.
However, be aware that if you follow an old recipe using cast iron cookware, the beads will be very dark or even black.
Read the instructions carefully by the following experienced real rose petal bead makers. They have many, many tips. Some experimentation will be necessary!
Astars Place’s tutorial shows her deliberately adding a rusty nail into her cooking pot full of simmering rose petals on the way to becoming rose petal dough. This New Zealander wanted to ensure the beads were going to be dark. Note that she freezes petals taken from roses due for deadheading until she has enough. You can also use dried roses.

Elyn MacInnis’ How to Make Rose Beads From Your Wedding Flowers goes over what color roses to use. She doesn’t say what she added to make her white rose beads (see her bracelet above) look pink but I think she must have used a little dye otherwise they would have been a dull biege.
I like her suggestion of trying out other flowers such as sunflowers.
Like Astar, she uses rose oil to add scent to the beads if they do not have any. Mary Ann Kuta mentions in her article Make Scentsational Rose Beads, mentions that most modern rose hybrids are not very scentworthy.
You will also notice Elyn’s rose petal beads are a lot smoother than Astar’s because the former uses a blender. Sure beats the traditional mortar and pestle!
Making real rose petal beads is a time consuming process. Drying time (the actual roses as well as the beads after forming) takes a long time So I am wondering if crystal cat litter can speed up the drying time? I use it to make real flower resin jewelry. I also use the microwave to press and dry fresh flowers. See links below.
All the rose petal beads described above are still organic and scented. But care must be taken because they must not get wet. If you do not care about the scent, then by all means use a sealer such as a water based polyurethane one (see this post for what I use).
There are other ways to make the beads more durable. One way mentioned by The Rosary Shop is to mix dried powdered rose petals with ceramic clay. The beads will then be fired in a kiln.
An easier way for most of you who do not own a kiln is to mix crushed dried rose petals with polymer clay. Check out Kimberly Bowman’s tutorial on how she created her beads made with the flowers from her mother’s memorial service. As you can see the dark rose petals contrast well with the light colored polymer clay she used.

Cindy Lietz, a Canadian polymer clay instructor, covers some useful tips about using translucent clay and grinding up dried petals in the coffee grinder!!

Before You Go:

  • How to Dry Dandelion Clocks and Flowers Using Crystal Cat Litter
  • How to Press Flowers Using a Microwave
  • How to Make Real Flower Resin Jewelry


Disclosure
This blog contains affiliate links. I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links. This goes towards the support of this blog and to provide resource information to readers. The opinions expressed are solely my own. They would be the same whether or not I receive any compensation.
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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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Make Scentsational Rose Beads

Centuries ago, when knighthood was in flower, noblewomen made fragrant beads of petals plucked from castle rose gardens. Strung together into rosaries (from the Latin rosarium, meaning “garland of roses” or “rose garden”), the beads assisted the devout in saying their prayers. Indeed, many believed that the lovely perfume, released into the air as the beads were handled and worn, wafted to heaven and disposed God to listen kindly to all entreaties.
Today, religious rosaries are commonly composed of different materials. Yet necklaces made of rose beads still deserve attention, because they make charming, unusual personal gifts and unique craft items. What’s more, the scented chains are quite easy to fashion if the basic material—a goodly quantity of rose petals—is available.

Supplies to Make Rose Beads

To make these naturally aromatic necklaces, you’ll need a few simple tools: an electric blender or a ceramic mortar and pestle, a saucepan (preferably glass, enameled, or—to make black beads—cast iron), a wooden spoon, and a No. 1 or 2 knitting needle or a similar sharp, pointed object with which to make a hole through each bead. For materials, you’ll need nylon monofilament line and several quarts of rose petals. You may also choose to use some rose oil to strengthen the scent, and a clasp to finish off your necklace.

Making the Rose Bead Pulp

The first step is the pleasant task of gathering rose petals. Try to get the strongest-smelling, “rosiest” blossoms you can obtain. Don’t worry too much about color: As a rule, darker roses have a more powerful scent than lighter ones, but there are many deeply fragrant pink, white, and yellow varieties as well, and the beads will dry to a dark red, brown, or black, no matter what color the petals are. Once you’ve gathered the blossoms, pluck off the petals (about two quarts’ worth) and put some into the electric blender. Add water—1/4 cup for every 2 cups of petals—and chop the mixture fine. (The nonelectric alternative to this procedure is to mash the petals in a ceramic mortar, and then to add water. This is the traditional way to do it, but a blender will save time.)

Now, heat the rose pulp in a saucepan over medium heat. The old recipes say to use a cast iron pot if you want your beads to turn black. (The iron oxidizes, and thereby darkens, the pulp.) However, my beads made from both red and yellow petals turned dark, dark red (almost black) without any special help. Whichever container you choose, do not boil the mixture, or its scent will be destroyed. Just stir it with a wooden spoon until it’s the consistency of clay and doesn’t stick to the side of the pan. At this point, remove the pot from the stove.

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Shaping Rose Beads

When the fragrant concoction is cool enough to handle, work and knead it with your fingers as if it were clay. If it seems too watery to shape, remove the excess moisture by pressing a paper towel to the pulp’s surface.
If you’re working with petals that are unscented or only lightly perfumed, you should put some rose oil on your fingertips just as you begin to form the beads so that the fragrance can seep into the little globes. Rose oil can be purchased at many health food stores.

Now, roll around bits of the pulp to form balls about the size of marbles, or slightly larger, keeping in mind that the beads will shrink to half their original size during the drying process. It’s possible to graduate the sizes from small to large and back again so that you’ll wind up with the rose equivalent of a perfectly matched string of pearls.
After the globes are shaped, poke a hole through the center of each one with a fine knitting needle or similar bodkin . . . but be careful! The newly made bead may break apart when pierced. If this happens, reshape it firmly around the shaft of the needle, then gently pull the needle out.
Allow the beads to dry for at least two or three days, during which time they’ll shrink and darken. Roll them over daily to insure that they dry evenly. Sometimes the hole in a bead shrinks and closes up entirely. To prevent this from happening, people often string the rounds—very carefully—onto clear nylon fishing line before setting them out to dry, and then slide them gently along the strand every day to keep the holes open.
When the rosy globes are thoroughly dry, they’ll be (surprise!) rock hard. Polish them gently with a clean, soft cloth, and, if you haven’t already done so, string them. If you’ve been able to form a large number of rose beads, you can make a long necklace that has beads all the way around and just slips over your head. Otherwise, you might use a necklace clasp (available from most craft stores). To preserve their fragrance, wrap the beads in a soft cloth saturated with rose oil, and always store them in a closed container.

Rose Bead Necklaces: A Long-Lasting Heirloom

It would seem that anything made from so fragile a substance as scented flower petals would disintegrate quickly, or at least lose its perfume. Such is not the case: One of MOTHER’s editors spoke with a person who owns a rose bead necklace that’s 50 years old and still fragrant! Since they’re so durable, why not use petals from special sources, rather than just from the garden or a local nursery? Consider roses from a bride’s bouquet, from a triumphant theatrical debut, or from a friend or lover. Who knows what happy occasion will provide the material for a memento or heirloom that will evoke the feeling of love and warmth for which the queen of flowers is justly famous?

Choosing a Rose Variety

Trying to pick which scented rose to raise can give one pause, because the genus Rosa contains some 200 species, with mutations, hybrids, and cultivars numbering in the thousands. However, most modern roses—hybrids that have been developed primarily to be disease-resistant while also producing superb blooms—are not especially aromatic. Consequently, the finest oils and perfumes are still derived from the exquisitely scented types of yesteryear. Chief among the latter are the Damask and Gallica roses, beloved for centuries and still the prime sources of true rose oil and its quintessence, attar of roses—which, at the current price of $720 per ounce, is more costly than gold.
Among the Damask roses are Celsiana, Madame Hardy, Rose de Rescht,and the common Rosa damascena bifera. The Gallicas boast the Apothecary Rose (Rosa Galicia officials), Belle de Crecy, Camaieux, Cardinal de Richelieu, and Tuscany Superb, as well as others. In addition to these two species, there are deeply fragrant Centifolias, Bourbons, Hybrid Perpetuals, Albas, and Rugosas, many of which can be purchased from Roses of Yesterday and Today, a company that specializes in old, rare, and unusual varieties.

Of the modern roses, the following are noted for their fragrance: American Pride, Angel Face, Chrysler Imperial, Crimson Glory, The Doctor, Fragrant Cloud, Granada, Perfume Delight, Sutter’s Gold, Sweet Surrender, and Tiffany. Two major sources of such roses are the Jackson & Perkins Company.

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