Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rose Beads

First let me say you may have seen this article on the web before. I wrote it some time ago and have published it in a few places . But I felt it was important to post now with the garden planning going on as I plan to revamp my rose garden a bit. It needs it if I am to get good, healthy, chemical free, fragrant petals for crafting and munching. This is also great physical therapy, especially rolling the beads for finger dexterity and stringing for eye hand coordination.
Hope you enjoy the article.

Ma Fey

Making Rose Beds

First off let me say.. this sounds like a lot of work, and yes the article is fairly long, It’s really not as much work as it seams… (Because of the length of this article and the available recourses out there, I have decided not to go in to the history of these beads here; this is only the process by which I make these beads.)

Cooking time : 1 hour daily for 31 days

Harvest the rose petals: variable on method

Time for rolling beads: 1 to 3 hours depending on the amount you made.

Drying time: aprox. 2 to 5 weeks depending on humidity and warmth ( you will spend about 5 min a day moving beads on the stringer or whole making implement to keep the beads from sticking or shrinking closed )

Making the rosary or other jewelry piece: that too depends on you .

Please read the article all the way through in order to get all the hints, tips and tricks I use before starting to even collect the first rose petal. And research other methods of making them .., as there may be something out there that doesn’t work for me which might work quite well for you. No mater what.. Have fun and never work on the roase petals or with the beads when you are feeling negative or when there is a lot of negative energy in the home

What will you need to get started?

1/2 gallon of prepared water

Enough rose petals to heap over the top of a # 10 cast iron stock pot (petals only! And be sure to use roses that are NOT grown with systemic pesticides and chemical dustings! General rule is if you wouldn’t be comfortable eating the petal don’t use it to make beads with) (will yield 50 to 60 beads)

A method of grinding (a food processor or mortar and pestle, for example.)

Old , rusty, uncured, # 10 cast iron stock pot with tight fitting lid ( you’ll never want to use if for food after this)

1 Rusty iron nail (optional, but helps produce the best black beads)

Wooden spoon (which you will not use for food prep after this)

Large trivet to cool the pot of rose mush on each day

Electric blender (Blender should be one you won’t use for food ever again)

1 fresh lemon

Essential rose oil (not synthetic or diluted with carrier oil! And be sure it is safe for human consumption, I don’t recommend one formulated for perfume making or for use in oil burners as these can contain alcohol and other things that can be harmful to the skin.)

Filter your water (if not using distilled or store bought Rose water)

Regardless where you live it pays to filter your tap water, especially in areas with high mineral content. How ever you choose to filter it is up to you, but I recommend that you at least boil your water and filter it through a coffee filter to remove any heavy sediment that could ruin your beads in some way. And yes I can feel the cringes out there at the site of my aluminum water kettle … All I can say is, “ some times you just have to use what you have. And, I am making beads not foods here.” ;). Store your boiled, filtered water in a clean1 gallon container, covered loosely in the refrigerator.

Many times in recipes, the author suggest the use of rose water… well you have a couple options here too... you can buy rose water at the health food store (which can get a bit expensive for the amount you will need) or you can “distill” your own rose water. When I am short on roses and don’t have enough to make my own rose water, I use the lid to my cast iron pot, lid turned over so the handle is in the pot and allow the condensation of the simmering rose petals to collect on the inside of the pot lid and drip from the handle into the petals, and I am always careful when lifting the lid to be sure the condensation runs off back into the pot of rose petal mush. This keeps any escaping fragrance from fully getting away... and helps to intensify the rose scent. It also reduces the need for me to add more liquid, or rose water as frequently as other methods may require, which gives me less of a chance of diluting the mixture, and reduces the amount of essential rose oil I will add through out the process.

Rose petals

It will take about 6 to 8 dozen roses to get enough petals to make 1 necklace (50 to 60 beads). In the old days roses where grown in multitude and it would not be uncommon to have as many as 6 dozen or more roses at a time; but that can be hard to come buy all at once today. Have no fear though, as petals can be all fresh, all dried or a mixture containing some that are fresh, some that are dry ,while others barely wilted. The more vivid the color of the petals and more fragrant the blooms, the better and do try to chose the darkest, most fragrant you can find, but in some years, well… again, you have to use what you have. But when you are blackening them in a rusty cast iron skillet, (with an iron nail in the mush for extra boost = the rose petals react with the iron in the pan and turn black) it just means you may have to cook them a day or 2 longer to get them dark enough to achieve the much desired black color. , that’s all.

Gather the roses on dry days but in the early morning when the scent is the strongest ( with in the first hour or 2 after sunrise generally .. best if watered 24 hours before harvest)! Separate the petals from the rose. If you are going to have to store the rose petals, place them in a paper bag that you can roll the top of to seal.. give the petals a hearty shake to keep them well aerated so they dry with out molding or other wise spoiling ( or place them flat in a zip top bag and place in the freezer). You only want the petals (no leaves, stems, stamens or other parts)... ESPECIALY No green parts as the chloroform of even the driest green leaf can turn slimy and no one wants to hold a slimy bead or where a slimy necklace.. some even go so far as to separate any white parts that may be present at the base of the petals. That’s a personal choice. Just remember your end results will equal your beginning efforts.

Today roses that are NOT grown with systemic pesticides and chemical dustings can be hard to come by. Roses grown with systemic pesticides should never be used as even a long heating process will not remove chemicals that can be absorbed by and are quite harmful to the human body. The roses don’t have to be pretty.. No one will know if part of the petal was eaten and abandoned buy some random bug as it passed through the garden , or accidentally nipped with the shears while picking flowers or was spent and ready to be cut from the bush any way.

Don’t have access to a rose bush or two of your own? Ask the neighbors… most any gardener is willing to share the spent blooms. (And may appreciate the offer of help in the pruning/harvesting. ) in exchange for some of the finished beads!

( there are probably petals from about 8 to 10 dozen various roses used to achieve the quantity shown in this photo)

Chop the roses Fine

You can slice them, dice them, and pound them, any way you like. I have used scissors, a coffee grinder, mortar and pestle, 2 heavy pans (one could sit flat inside the other), a blender, and yes a food processor to powder my rose petals. The point is the finer the grind the smoother the beads and the nicer appearance they will have in the end.

OH... I should mention however, that the blender you use for grinding the pulp)rose mush) in the processing of your beads, should be one you won’t be using for food . As EVERYTHING blended in it will for ever taste like roses no mater what you clean it with and it seams no mater how well you clean it , the black liquid comes from places unseen to discolor what ever you are blending.

Cooking and further grinding.

In Victorian times the petals would be simmered for days or even weeks at a time over hot coals.. Some instructions say the petal mush should never be allowed to cool in the process while other instructions say they should be heated, cooled and heated again through out the process time. . Older instructions advice pureeing or grinding the cooked rose pulp/mush every day for about two weeks, or until the paste becomes the consistency of clay and can be easily rolled into beads. Since most of us do not use wood stoves or cook over wood burning fire places these days and the cost of fuel today can certainly be a budget buster, to say the least.

There are options … many of us have put in wood burning fire pits in our back yard.. Those low enough to accommodate a tripod to hold a pot above them are great to have, and those which have cooking grates to set a pan on to simmer over a low fire are perfect. But even if you don’t have those, you can improvise. Use an out door patio grill with charcoal upon which a pot can be safely set (those little “hibachi” type out door grills work well). ALWAYS follow fire safety rules, never leave the fire or the pot unattended, and unless you have friends helping you by taking shift... don’t leave this mixture out on an open fire all night either. Have a fire extinguisher with in reach as well as a bucket, or 5, of water... just in case. But if you don’t have access to a wood fire that you can safely cook these on, and you can afford to cook these on your stove, by all means do so they are worth the effort and expense. I do know some one who uses an electrical cooking plate! She seams to get a pretty nice bead, but she suggest using a thermometer ( like a candy or meat thermometer) as eclectic skillets can have a harder time maintaining a constant temperature. If you are choosing to do this stove top, the simmering time is 1 hour per day for most days, if using an eclectic skillet it will take 1 and 1/2 hours per day to cook.

Four further notes I would like to add at this point:

1. The moisture content in the petals and the grind texture of the petals when you start can, and often do, make the difference in the length of processing

2. The mush will remove the patina from an iron pot so you will want to use an old one and reserve it for bead making.

3. WHAT EVER YOU DO DON’T LET THEM BOIL! Just use a low simmer to heat them thoroughly.

4. When not cooking your rose petal mush, keep it covered to prevent it from forming a film on the top which can affect the over all quality of the finished product, and to prevent any extra rose essence loss through evaporation.Be sure to put any condensation on the lid back into the pot as well.

On day One : Place the ground petals in a rusty cast iron pot (with the rusty iron nail if you are using one) that has a tight fitting lid. Add just enough water to barely cover them.. Add a little bit of water at a time to the pot of rose petals and use a wooden spoon ( that you won’t be using for any thing else in the future) to press them down into the water .. if you find you can not moisten them adequately , add a bit more water. Over medium low heat, watching them closely bring them up JUST to a simmer; then reduce the heat to low, very low, just enough to keep the slow simmer going.. Remember, you don’t want them to boil , but you don’t want them to not get hot enough to break down and release their essences . Stir them well about every 15 min, but leave the lid on between stirrings. Simmer for 1 full hour. Then stir once more. Flatten them out so the mixture is level in the pan, replace the lid, remove from heat to let them cool, and let set over night. Today they may appear reddish black or burgundy.

(the rose mush in the below photo has been processed a few times already)

On the second day: Place the rose petals, cold and the nail removed from the mush , in a blender and add a bit of the prepared water you maid to it so they will blend smoothly. Blend till you have a mush. You can add more of the prepared water a teaspoon at a time if you need to help them blend/grind/liquefy more smoothly. Next, place the mush back in the cast iron skillet and add three drops of juice from a fresh lemon.. JUST THREE DROPS no more, you only want to aid the oxidization that turns the mix black .. nothing more. Now, as you did the day before, heat them just to a simmer and simmer them for 1 hour . But leave the lid off the last 15 min of the simmering . remove from heat, add 3 drops good essential rose oil , stir the mix well with the wooden spoon and cover with the lid, till tomorrow. Check on the mix frequently giving it a good stir so it will oxidize as evenly as possible. You are well on your way to forming your rose past. Today they may aprea a burnt red /brown

On the Third day : Leave the rose petals in the pot. Simmer them for 30 min with the lid on . then alow them to cool to the touch and put them in your blender and grind them for 2 to 3 min on varying speeds. Place them back in the pot and use the water you made to rinse any residue from the sides of the blender. Use this liquid to add any needed moister to the petal mush you may need to simmer them another 45 min. any remaining liquid left in the blender should be added to the gallon jug of good water you have made. This prevents waist of any essences and any water remaining from the rose petal process can be used later in milk bath treatments and hair rinse treatments. After the additional 45 min of simmering, remove the pot from the heat and add 2 to 5 drops of essential rose oil and stir this together well. Allow them to cool to the touch and with gloved hands, work the mush over well to blend and check for hard bits or lumps and to infuse with loving , nurturing, prosperous and protective intentions if yo so choose.. in other words think only happy thoughts while you are blending them with your hands. Replace the lid and let them sit covered over night again. Today they should start to look black , it may still have some under tones of brown .

On the Forth day: Place the pulp in the blender and blend for 5 min on variable speeds to really get a good smooth grind. Add some of the rose water from the gallon jug if needed to get as smooth a grind as possible. Place this into the pot again and cook with the lid off for 1 hour... adding more of the rose water if needed. Remember to use the rose water from the gallon jug to rinse the blender and to put the rinsings back in the gallon jug (referred to from here on as “rosed-water”). After 1 hour remove the petal mush from the heat and replace the lid. Let it stand over night again. Today the black should be even richer.

On the Fifth day : Again place the pulp in the blender adding some of the rose water from the gallon jug so that you can get as smooth a mash as possible . Blend for 5 min on variable speeds. Once blended place it back in the cast iron pos and heat to simmer, simmer with the lid on for 15 min . drain the condensation from the lid into the pot and stir. Then simmer with the lid off for 15 min. add some of the “rosed-water” from the gallon jug again if needed and simmer with the lid on for 15 min . Carefully remove the lid so the liquid condensation accumulated on the lid will drain back in to the pot. Simmer for the last 15 min with the lid off. Remove from heat , immediately replace the lid and let sit over night , stirring once or twice till the next cooking time.

On the Sixth day Repeat as for the fifth day, but skip putting the mush/pulp in the blender

On the Seventh day Repeat as for the fifth day , but skip putting the mush/pulp in the blender

On the Eighth Day: Repeat as for the fifth day , and this time DON’T SKIP the blender part

On the Ninth day: Repeat the process as for the fifth day but skip the blender part

On the tenth through the 30th day repeat the processes above, blending the mush is the blender every 3rd &/or 5th day as needed till it is as smooth a mush as possible.

On the 31st day you will heat the rose mush one last time but you will skip the blender part, and it won’t need to sit over night. As soon as you remove the mush/pulp from the heat add aprox. 5 to 7 drops of rose essential oil and mix it in well. Cover the pot and let it sit till cool enough to handle. Once the mixture has cooled you can begin to make your beads. (If for some reason you find that you won’t have time to roll them, don’t add the oil yet. Let them set again over night, and heat them again tomorrow for 1 hour as you have for the past 31 days. Adding water if need be from your “rosed water jug”. Each day that you must wait to roll them they need to be heated for 1 hour. Hold off adding the oil till you are ready to roll them

Making and drying the beads

Something to keep in mind, the liquid from the beads will turn what ever it touches BLACK (or at the least it will turn it gray) so caution is recommended! And be cautious of the drying place and the storage of these beads, they are notorious for absorbing what ever odors are in the room they are in ..

First you will want to gather what you need. Here is what I use:

Heavy wreath pins ( or you can use a heavy fishing line knotting it between each bead – at least 1 and 1/2 inches between knots)

Cardboard thick enough to hold the pins and drying beads stably

Muslin, pre-washed and cut into 9 to 13, 4 x 4 inch squares (these make interesting patch quilt pieces later)

Canning jar with a tight seal (I usually only need a 1 pint jar)

Rubber gloves … unless you want your fingers, nails and nail beds stained black!

1 paper plate

A warm, dry , safe place to set the beads till dry.

The wooden spoon I used to stir the rose mush with

You will want to make the beads at least twice as large as you will want the finished bead to be. The beads will shrink up

quite a bit as they dry. It should be safe enough on the 15 day of cooking to make an experimental bead.

At this point there are recipes/methods out there that recommend powdered orris root or powdered gum Arabic to be added to the mush to, help the beads last longer. I have no personal experience with these additions to my knowledge and so only mention them only as examples of what may be found in different methods.

Place a square of the muslin in the palm of your gloved hand then with the wooden spoon place a heaped teaspoon sized dollop into the middle of the square of cloth. Bring up all four corners as if to make a sachet Don’t apply pressure till you have it placed over the canning jar then squeeze , allowing the black liquid to run into the jar. Twist the top of the sachet till most all the liquid can be squeezed from the mush. Open the fabric square and lay flat on a paper plate and remove your rose bead clay. Knead this in the palm of you hand, using your thumb and finger to do so. Turning it in upon itself and working it till it is smooth. Roll this in your hand and fingers to make a ball... just like working with clay. If you find you have squeezed it to dry to stay together, add a small pinch of the moist mush from the pot to the clay in your hand or a scant drop of the black liquid you squeezed out to the ball of mush in your hand. You should continue to do this till a smooth ball is achieved. Divide this in half or thirds and roll again .. adding and kneading in small pinched of the moist mush as needed till a smooth firm ball is achieved. Gently push through one prong of the wreath pin and stand this up on the card board to dry. Be sure to leave enough room between the beads for good air circulation so the beads will dry properly and evenly. Once you have all your beads formed. Place the cardboard of pined beads in a warm dry place... Check on them daily and move the beads gently up and down the pin so the whole does not dry to small and the bead does not stick firmly to the pin or it will be lost.

Once the beads are dry, store them in an air tight container with a cotton ball that has a few drops of rose oil on them .

Once dried properly and strung, these beautiful beads should last for many, many, many years.

Body warmth from wearing or the warmth in you hands from holding them, and “working” them gently like during prayers will causes the beads to release the rose fragrance. But incase I have not yet said it, DON’T GET THEM WET.. they can and will disintegrate.

This method can be applied to almost any type of flower with petals. For amore interesting color, skip the cast-iron pot part and use an enameled pot instead.

Violets make lovely blue/lavender hued beads

Lilacs can make lavender to brown beads

Use white rose petals dried in layers of salt , and an enamel pot instead of a iron pot to make a “creamy white” bead

Lavender blossoms make a pretty purple bead

Marigolds and calendulas make nice yellows

Pink rose petals or other pink flower petals that cure properly are a beautiful vintage looking pink , though some times you get swirls of brown , or they turn a light brown.

Rose bead Byproducts

Reserve the black liquid squeezed from the mush-clay to help darken your next batch of bead. The water can be frozen up to one year for the purpose of helping to blacken the rose petal mush . Use old ice cube trays and make ice cubes from the black rose petal water. The next time you make rose beads, add one ice cube a day at the beginning of cooking time, to help enhance the black mush. Conserve the liquid and use this process each time you make rose beads .. . This liquid is also an awesome fabric die. 1/4 teaspoon of the liquid added to a pint of chamomile tea is said to be a nice hair rinse for those with auburn hair to black hair


  1. I made some rose beads YEARS ago by now - it was an INTERESTING process, to say the least!!! I think I still have some of the rose oil, too.

  2. I still have the set you gave me so many moons ago. They smell terrific still! It was you and those beautiful bead you gave me that inspired me to learn to make them and share them with others. Thank you Dear! (in case i have not said so!)
    Ma Fey