Rose Petal Beads

by Daisy on 07/06/2009

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I’ve been intending to do this for years since I first heard of rose petal beads. The thought of smooth,
mysterious black beads emitting a subtle rose fragrance from the warmth of the skin was an enchanting one. I had some doubts, though. Would they really smell of roses? Would the fragrance last? How durable could a bead made from rose petals be? Would they be ugly?
And how could I make them? I found many different recipes and methods. Which was the “right” way?

In the end, I combined one method with a bit of variation–I cooked chopped petals in water in a cast iron pot in the traditional way, but then I dried the black glop in the oven and ground the result into powder with a coffee grinder. For extra fineness I sifted the powder through a sieve and reconstituted it into a clay with water.

Here it is in pictures:

Potful of fresh petals

Potful of fresh petals

Chopped and water added

Chopped and water added

Beginning the cook

Beginning the cook–less water next time

After a long, slow cook the petals are reduced to a thick mash

After a long, slow cook the petals are reduced to a thick mash

Rolled out under waxed paper for drying
Rolled out under waxed paper for drying
Dry sheet of petal mash
Sheet of petal mash
Scraped up dried petal mash
Scraped up dried petal mash
Being sieved after grinding
Being sieved after grinding
Ball of rose clay after adding water
Ball of rose clay after adding water
Size of beads before drying
Beads formed and strung on wire-Size of beads before drying
Size after drying
Size after drying

The leftmost bead I sanded a little bit and burnished it by rubbing it on a smooth, hard surface. You can see it is a little shinier than the others. I may shine the rest of them, or not–maybe alternating matte and shiny.

They seem durable–the best way to describe them would be to compare them to a vitamin pill. You can toss them around gently but you know if you bit into it or crushed it that would be the end of it.

They do smell like roses and it is a very pleasant, subtle scent.

I got 14 half-inch beads. With some more practice I think I could get them more uniform (using a scale to get the beads the same size perhaps?)

I also recommend drying them gradually, out of direct sun. It takes several days. Some of mine cracked while drying in a hot, sunny window.

I really want to try this again. The next flush of blooms I will be out there gathering. You can also use dried petals. I want to cook them again in the iron pot to get that black color that I like.

I haven’t decided how I’ll string them yet. I think I will wait until I have enough for a full strand.

TL



{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

rowena___. July 6, 2009 at 7:36 am

my mother has a rose petal bead rosary that she got when i was just a baby and it STILL smells beautiful nearly 50 years later! her beads are reddish, so they must have been treated in some way to either prevent them from going black or to put red color back in. this rosary was made by a nun, the sales of these rosaries was one way in which that particular convent made money.

Lindsay July 6, 2009 at 2:38 pm

what is the purpose of the iron pot? I don’t have one of those lying around, so I was wondering how a normal metal pot would differ.

Tomato Lady July 6, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Hi Lindsay– The iron promotes the formation of the black color. In a non-iron pot it would probably be more of a brown. Do you have an iron trivet or something you could stick in the pot with the petals? That would probably accomplish much the same thing.

Tomato Lady July 6, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Rowena–Wow, I’ve heard they last indefinitely but it is nice to hear someone with firsthand knowledge. What a treasure your mother has!

Kenneth Moore July 6, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Wow, that’s amazing! I’m not a big fan of roses–like Star Wars, I never understood what all the hooplah was all about. But those beads make me think again.

When I have a, y’know, outdoors in which to grow things, I might have to seriously consider a rose bush or two, now.

Lindsay July 6, 2009 at 10:49 pm

I think I’ll try it with a cast iron fajita skillet and also without. If it’s an ugly brown, I’ll stick with the black. Will send pics. Thanks for the info!

Tomato Lady July 6, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Kenneth–It is pretty cool. I wish I had thunk it up myself, but apparently it’s a really old idea.
You could save the roses from a floral arrangement or bum some spent ones from a florist. And people particularly like the idea of using roses from a special occasion like an anniversary or a wedding.
The only thing I really liked from Star Wars was the Ewoks.

re July 7, 2009 at 3:54 am

Fascinating I’d never heard of them before, now of course I want to have a go at making some.

Robin July 7, 2009 at 7:17 am

My mother makes these every year for as long as I can remember. Her beads are reddish in color due to the fact that she using red roses and cooks them in an enemelled pot. They smell and look beautiful for years! Maybe it is time I try my hand at them…

Tomato Lady July 7, 2009 at 7:36 am

Robin–What a nice tradition. Is it something passed down to her or did she learn it elsewhere?

Tomato Lady July 7, 2009 at 7:38 am

re–I’d love to see them if you try it.

Tomato Lady July 7, 2009 at 7:41 am

Lindsay–I’m learning from comments that if you can find all red petals they will be reddish if you don’t use the cast iron. With a combo of colors like mine I used iron to get everything black and avoid the brown.
I’d love to see pics.

Robin July 7, 2009 at 8:05 am

Tomato Lady – She learned from her mother. I have always just taken it for granted. I think it is about time to have her pass it down to me. Now if the rain would stop and give the flowers a chance I might be able to do it this year!

Jillann July 7, 2009 at 8:07 am

How many roses did you start with to get 14 beads?

Also, do you think this would work for any other flower – like lavender?

Like I need another craft idea! But I do have a bag of dried roses from my
50th bday…..

Tomato Lady July 8, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Jillann–I wish I had weighed them, but it was basically a good potful, a standard mixing bowl full.
I have seen flower beads for sale that aren’t roses–they have you send in the flower petals or rose petals you want made into beads and they do it for you. So, I would say the answer is yes.
That would be a nice way to remember your birthday!

Tomato Lady July 8, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Robin–Hope you post about it on your blog. She probably has a really good method.

Cathy Champion July 8, 2009 at 7:15 pm

I studied at a monastery where the nuns made rosaries from rose petals. This is what I learned:

If you use flower petals from a florist they won’t smell as nice (if at all) as they are grown for looks and and not the aroma, so add some good quality rose oil to your mixture when you form the beads.

You can add red food coloring (the paste kind, not the liquid) to the mixture, or dry tempera paint (powder) to alter the color also, but do a little at a time or they will look artificial.

The larger the bead, the longer it takes to dry but it’s more durable. Small beads are very fragile.

Silk cord is nice to string them on; knot the cord after each bead like they do fine pearl necklaces so they don’t rub against each other. Also, the knots keep the beads from sliding off if your strand should break.

I hope this helps!

Tomato Lady July 8, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Cathy–I’m very glad to have information from someone who has seen this done by the experts. Thank you for the inside scoop!

Shay July 10, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I have a couple of vintage magazines (pre-WWI) that have articles on how to make rose petal beads. It’s so nice to see that someone has actually re-created these.

Tomato Lady July 10, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Shay–I guess this is one of those ideas that has and will keep going. I want to make more soon.

Alice July 16, 2009 at 3:37 pm

I have made rose beads but used a different method. I ground the rose petals up using a hand grinder. I added water to get a clay consistancy. I then put them in a cast iron pan and allowed them to sit, stirring occasionaly. When they turned black I molded the beads. I sat them outside but out of the sun to dry. You have to turn them once in a while to dry evenly.
Make the holes large for stringing, they shrink as they dry.
To get them the same size just use some measuring device. A teaspoon or some thing that makes them the size you want.

Tomato Lady July 16, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Oh, very nice method, Alice. I wonder if my mother knows where her old grinder is . . .

CB August 27, 2009 at 8:45 pm

A few rusty nails will do the job too (of turning the rose mash black).

Rose from FineCraftGuild dot com September 12, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Now THIS is very interesting.

I went to Fragonard, the French perfume maker, in the South of France, and it was mind boggling how many rose pedals were needed for an ounce of perfume… It seems you’re getting more yield out of yours.

I want to research this some more, and then try this also, as… well, I love roses.

Tomato Lady September 13, 2009 at 12:21 am

Rose–I bet that was the best-smelling factory possible. Hope you like your beads!

Laura Love October 24, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Hi;
I’ve been making rose petal beads for 3 years now. I am still finding new things to add to the technique. I like that you dry the paste and rehydrate it later. If you want, please go to my website and have a look. It’s a wetpaint website so you can join and add content if you like.

Thanks

Laura

Lesly Batcheler June 27, 2010 at 4:38 am

I made my sring about 20n years ago .I do not remeber boiling and I do remember a powder to preserve but do not k ow what. I keep mine in a box with a drop of rose oil. They are threaded witn small gold beads alternately. Always a talking point I love them. Lesly in England

Jenn October 21, 2010 at 5:02 am

When I was in Spain, I bought a rose petal rosary from a monastery (amazing natural setting) not far from Madrid. Over ten years later, it still smells amazing. They do recommend rubbing it with oil (not sure which) after 10 years to keep it fresh. It has held up well no matter how I used it (purely decorative as I am not Catholic).
http://www.monasterygreetings.com/product/St_Therese_Rose_Petal_Rosary/Carmelite_Gifts

M Parlee January 20, 2011 at 12:14 am

How old are rose pettal beads i have a string of them, how mush are they are they worth I know mine are over 90 or 100 years old and they have a glass bead and a metal bead inbetwin them

Tomato Lady January 23, 2011 at 5:22 pm

M Parlee– I’m afraid I don’t know how to value them. You might see if there are any comparables on eBay or elsewhere and see if you can get an idea. They sound quite lovely.

CH October 23, 2011 at 10:19 pm

I have a few questions:
1) how much water do you add?
2) how long do you simmer the roses for?
3)while simmering, do you continually add just enough water to immerse the
petals or do you let the water evaporate?
4) I have read several instructions, and they all say to simmer for a certain amount of time for a couple times a day for a certain amount of days. My question is though, what do you do in the time in between the simmering?

Thank you!

Tomato Lady October 24, 2011 at 7:21 am

CH–I’ll answer your questions as best as I can, although it has been two years since I did this. I believe I added water just to cover the petals, but would add a little less if I were to do it again. I don’t remember how long it took, but the answer is partially found in my response to your third question–I didn’t add more water, but let it evaporate as it cooked. I can’t say for question 4. Perhaps they just let it cool and stirred it a bit. I hope your beads turn out well!

mary December 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm

I am in the process of making some beads for Christmas presents and have found the above thread very interesting. Once the beads are dry (pierced with a hat pin greased with vaseline) I soak them in a cupful of olive oil that has some oil of roses mixed into it. You can make your own attar of roses but that’s another thread…..
Use only the best oil of rose.
Leave beads in above mix for a day. Drain in sieve, empty into a cotton bag (muslin or hanky etc) and rub hard with the hands.
2 or 3 relays of silk cotton may be necessary to remove all the oil from the holes. They are then ready to wear.

Barbara February 29, 2012 at 7:55 am

I am trying to find someone to make the rose beads for me. What would the cost be for you to do this, the roses are dried already from Mothers funeral

Tomato Lady February 29, 2012 at 8:58 am

Barbara–My condolences. What a sweet way to remember her. I wish I could help, but I’ve never done this for pay. Perhaps you could find a crafty friend and ask her to help you. Alternately, this is a place that will do this for you: http://www.rosariesfromflowers.com/

Tim June 18, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I have heard about this and would like to try it. However I have had a really hard time keeping roses healthy and growing on our property. What I do have is an abundance of honeysuckle vines. Has anyone tried flowers other than roses or think that honeysuckle blossoms might work?

Janet November 9, 2012 at 4:45 am

Wow ladies I am really thrilled to read all this research and am busy collecting and drying some old fashioned hertage roses for beads. I also have a friend with a lavender bussiness, would this no also work – there was no reply about other flowers working.

Daisy November 9, 2012 at 7:03 am

Hi Janet–I wish I could speak personally to the issue of other flowers for this, but I’ve never tried it myself. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to experiment and see what you think. It would smell fabulous, I know!

daisy January 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm

in Brasil iv seen them made with other flowers as well. like honeysuckle. and the pulpy/clay pressed into molds (iv used molds for fondant flowers) to get different shapes and impressions.. they also used rose oil or other scented oils.

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