Blue Borax Jewels

Blue Borax Jewels and the Bead Test

Borax beads may be made in any color, depending on the metal salt you add.
Borax beads may be made in any color, depending on the metal salt you add. Jonathan Knowles / Getty Images

Borax beads are used to identify certain metals using the bead test. Make blue borax beads that resemble small jewels. Keep the jewels or use them to examine the characteristic blue color produced by cobalt.

Borax Bead Materials

  • borax
  • cobalt chloride
  • wire loop
  • candle, gas burner, or alcohol lamp

Procedure

  1. Gently tap the wire loop against a surface to make certain it is clean of any residue. Heat the loop in a flame to burn off any contaminants.

     

  1. Dip the hot wire loop in a small amount of borax. The heat of the loop should melt enough borax on contact to allow you to form a small borax bead. Heat the loop with borax in the flame until a white glassy bead forms. Remove the loop from the flame. Tap the loop against a surface to dislodge the borax bead. This is a white bead of pure borax, which you can now compare with the blue bead you're about to make.

     

  2. Making a blue bead, or a bead from any metal salt, follows much the same process, except you need to incorporate the metal into the bead. To make a blue bead, mix a small amount of cobalt chloride into a bit of borax. You may need to crush the cobalt chloride to grind it. You can use the back of a teaspoon to achieve this.

     

  3. Once the cobalt chloride and borax are mixed together, heat the clean wire loop and press the hot loop into the mixture. Return the coated loop to the flame to produce a blue bead.

     

  1. Tap the loop against a surface to free your bead so you can examine it. If you hold the bead up to the light, you should see a lovely translucent blue. If your bead is black, you used too much cobalt chloride. You can repeat the process using more borax/less cobalt chloride. The blue color is characteristic of the metal ion used to produce the bead, which was cobalt.

    More Colored Jewels

    Try using other metal salts to produce colored beads:

    • copper sulfate - copper - blue green
    • ferric ammonium sulfate - iron - yellow or golden brown
    • manganese salts - violet
    • nickel salts - brown
    • chromium salts - light green

    Learn More

    Bead Test To Identify Metals
    Make White Borax Beads