How to Make Rose Petal Beads

This recipe makes lovely beads from genuine rose petals. Beads like these have been used for hundreds of years for rosaries and personal jewelry. This method is one that works for me. Please experiment with and improve upon this method, according to your experience. My first few efforts were rather, um, "interesting", but with time, and some experimentation, my final product improved. May you create beautiful beads!

Harvest and Simmer:

Harvest your rose petals on a dry day. Roses are best just after their full bloom. To make enough beads for a necklace or a full rosary, you'll need a lot of rose petals--at least half a shopping bag full.

Remove all leaves, stems, hips, bugs and everything else. You only want the rose petal. Anything else will contaminate your petals and create a lumpy texture.

Fresh petals are best, as they will have the highest levels of rose oil. You can use dried petals and even frozen petals, but may need to supplement the scent. Frozen petals work extremely well, texture-wise, as the freezing process helps to break down the cell walls.

After you've cleaned all the foreign material from you rose petals, it's time to simmer them up.

My old recipe said "chop then simmer" but upon further experimentation, I've found that simmering the rose petals first, then blending them in a blender yielded a smoother texture. This also eliminated the dry-grounding of the old recipe. (yay, timesaver!)

science time: simmering petals whole helped to weaken the cellulose, thus enabling the actual cells to be broken upon blending. The previous method didn't physically break down the cells enough for my liking.

Place your whole rose petals in a pot (enamel, steel or cast iron), cover with water and bring to a simmer until the rose petals are completely wilted. Allow to cool somewhat, as blenders don't always like boiling hot stuff.

Blending

When your pulp is cool enough to handle, pour into a blender and blend away on the highest power. This will pulverise the softened rose petals

You can simmer and blend, simmer and blend as much as you want until you get a fine-textured pulp. The finer the texture, the smoother your beads will be. The smoother the beads, the more durable they will be, and less likely to crumble.

This is an earlier texture. You can see here that the puree is still slightly chunky.This puree is smoother and coats the back of a spoon better.

Simmering

Simmering will help break down the cellulose of the cell walls, thus making the roses a soft, pulpy mass, ideal for shaping into beads. The method used here is one of the "Wet pot pourri" methods, only we eliminate the fermentation by bacteria and use heat instead of salt to extract liquid. Also, this method only takes a few days instead of a few weeks.

Method 1--The Pot:

Place your rose pulp in a pot. Use enamel, steel or cast iron. Cast iron is best if you wish a dark, almost black colour to your beads. Do NOT use aluminium, as the acid from the roses will react with the aluminium.

Add enough water to cover the pulp and simmer slowly on the stove. Do not boil or you will evaporate the rose oils too much and reduce the lovely scent. Traditional recipes say simmer straight for three days, but this may be impractical. I've simmered my roses for half an hour twice a day for the three days and have had success.

If you choose the occasional simmer method, be sure to simmer your roses at least twice a day. Not only will it help age the roses, but prevent mold from growing.

Add water whenever the water evaporates too much. You don't want your rose pulp to dry out at this point.

In this picture I've used a cast-iron frying pan. As you can see, the colour of the petals changes.
First Day
The petals are a lovely soft pink colour. This is just after the initial simmer and blend.
Second Day
The petals have darkened to a wine colour. This darkening is due to a chemical reaction with the iron of the pan. This reaction does not affect the scent of the roses at all.
Third Day
Practically black, and ready to be made into beads.

Method 2--Microwave:

Place your rose pulp in small containers. Do your pulp in small batches, or it will heat unevenly. Cover with water and nuke for a two minutes (adjust time according to your microwave strength). Nuke three times a day for a week.

If you forget to nuke on schedule, nuke the first time you remember. If you let a day go buy without nuking, you risk growing mold. (The radiation from the microwave kills any spores that happen to land on your rose pulp.

If you find your rose petals growing mold, it won't ruin the batch. Scoop out the mold spot and nuke.

You can cook and age your rose petals up to three weeks.

If you're not ready to make beads, this rose pulp can be frozen for use later. Make sure you seal it in plastic bags, with the air squeezed out or it will dry out in the freezer.

Scenting:

If you made a mistake and boiled your roses too much or originally chose roses with little scent, you can supplement the scent with rose oil. Rose oil can be added to the pulp now for a longer lasting effect, or can be applied to the dried beads for a finishing touch.

Make Beads:

On your final simmer, let mass simmer down until it becomes thick and gloopy. Turn off the heat and let this mass sit and cool down, preferrably overnight. Further drying will occur. Dry as long as you need until you can get a clay-like texture.

Once you've achieved a clay-like texture, it's time to roll your beads. Pinch off a bit of the rose mass and roll into round, even-sized beads.

Keep in mind that the beads will shrink as they dry, sometimes as much as half their size. How much they shrink depends, partly, on how small the rose particles are. If you've blended it enough, they'll be super-fine and not only will shrinkage be minimal, but the surface of the bead will be smoother.

Set your beads in a cool, dry place out of the sun and let them dry slowly. If they dry too fast, they won't shrink and compact, and will be more susceptible to crumbling. Slow drying yields a harder bead.

note the upper right beads. They are smaller because they're yesterday's beads and have dried enough to be placed on pins. The larger beads are today's beads and have a bit of drying to go. Note the upper right beads in this illustration. They are smaller because they're yesterday's beads and have dried enough to be placed on pins. The larger beads are today's beads and have a bit of drying to go.

Holes:

If you have a jeweler's drill you can drill holes after the beads are dry. If you don't, you'll have to poke holes through before the bead finishes drying.

Beads accept holes after the surface has had a chance to dry and harden somewhat. If you try to poke holes through while the bead is still wet, you'll find your bead will fall apart. If you wait until the bead is completely dry, it may be too hard. I find that between one and three days' drying, depending on size of bead (3-5mm, one day. 10+, day 2,3) is ideal for poking holes.

A large needle with quadruple-thick thread works well. After the beads have had a day or so to dry, string the beads on the thread, giving each bead room for drying. Allow beads to finish drying on the thread, sliding them up and down the thread to keep them from drying to the thread.

If your beads are large enough, you can thread them onto bamboo skewers or large hat pins. If your beads are tiny, you may want to thread them onto dressmakers pins and let them dry there. Roll your beads regularly to keep them from sticking to the skewers. If you wish to use your beads with jeweler's pins, you can thread them on the jeweler's pins to dry.

String your beads:

Your beads are ready to be made into jewelry. You are only limited by your imagination!

Care of beads:

Your lovely rose petal beads are water soluble. When not being worn, store in a cool, dry place--in a container with a packet of silica gel is ideal. Do not let your beads come into contact with liquid. Don't wear them in the shower or swimming. While they can tolerate a bit of sweat, blood and tears, they will dissolve if left in contact with liquid too long. Fortunately, they won't dissolve immediately. But if you find that you hopped into the shower while wearing your beads, panic for five seconds, then remove your beads, pat them dry, if they're not too goopy and set them in a dry place to harden again.

Completely dissolved beads can be reformed back into beads and dried again if necessary. My personal experience shows that beads will absorb water and be soft enough to dissolve after about fifteen-twenty minutes submersed.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

Regards,

Heidi Kneale

Copyright © 2004 by Heidi Kneale Last edited: 07 June 2010