So, I'm embarrassed. Really and truly and horrifically embarrassed.
Turns out I've been completely bamboozled by an ebay bead seller known as "Austin Hamilton" that I thought was legitimate. I've had friends who've bought from this seller previously, the seller has good feedback, I've been happy with all the beads I've received which were reasonably priced and arrived on time. They also looked good and exactly as pictured.
The only problem is...they're not original lampwork. They're mass produced FAKES. Not only that, they are NOT kiln annealed even though it states in each of the auctions that they ARE. So that's a direct lie.
This all means that I now have about 8 sets of completely useless lampwork. I can't use these beads in my designs because I have no way of knowing when they'll break. Notice I say "when" and not "if" because glass beads that are not properly annealed WILL eventually break due to internal stress in the glass. It's only a matter of time. Could be 5 minutes. Could be 10 years (though I doubt it). The point is, I cannot in good conscience use these beads in anything that I will resell.
I'm beyond embarrassed. I'm pissed. PISSED!
The worst part is, I consider myself to be a knowledgeable lampwork buyer. I've seen the typical fake Chinese stuff and it's easy to separate it from the genuine American artist level beads. That's the problem - THESE beads do NOT exhibit the visual characteristics of "bad" beads. They are quite even in shape and size, the details are perfect (good scrollwork, flowers even height and matching, etc) and there are no obvious bubbles, cracks or other flaws. My sets don't even have bead release still in the holes.
Frankly, if I hadn't read the truth on this blog, I would never have known the difference until the beads started breaking and I had unhappy customers.
It's too late to get refunds, but I will never buy from this seller again and I'm taking down all of his pictures that I featured in my blog.
So, there you go. I will now do the official walk of shame. In fact, the only way I'm making it through the day is to use my fabulous Aveda Blue Oil
At least SOME things are worth the money!