Learn all about beads! Keep reading to find out more.
We all love beads; in fact, most of us started making jewelry out of the beads that were given to us when we were kids. The jewelry made out of these little pebbles is the simplest yet the prettiest and the most colorful form of jewelry. They are easy to work with, available almost everywhere, and they do not put a strain on your pocket.
We all know what beads are and how they are used but what a lot of us don’t know is that beads come in many types, sizes, and shapes. There are a ton of options to choose from when it comes to beads. So, let’s explore the different types of these rocks available and what they are used for!
Glass beads makeup one of the biggest categories of beads available and encompass everything from tiny seed beads measuring just a few millimeters, to hand-blown lamp beads, at up to an inch or two. They can be transparent or opaque
First glass beads came to existence 3500 years ago in Egipt. At that time it was possible to make clear and colorful but not transparent glass beads. Nowadays a variety of glass beads is much greater. Most popular being seed beads from Japan (companies like TOHO or Miyuki), lampwork beads from Italy (Venice and Murano islands), crystal-like beads from Swarovski, glass pearl (imitation of natural pearls) from China.
Wooden beads In the modern production of beads, wooden ones are pretty common. There are a few types of wood being used for wood beads production purposes. Wooden beads, like plastic, are beautifully light and are generally sold in simple shapes such as round, oval, tubes, or rondelles. Wood is either sold in its natural state or dyed into bright colors so very different effects can be created with the same material.
Plastic beads are often easy to get hold of and sold in craft stores and supermarkets. They represent one of the most cost-effective options and are often sold in large multi-packs of 100 or 500. Plastic beads are light, bright, and perfect for children.
Metal beads are usually hollow and are made from thin metal sheets, stamped into molds. They are available plain, with a high polish or patterned, often ribbed, fluted, or with shaped relief. Enamel beads have a metal core. Materials include base metals, precious metals, and plated metals available in a variety of silver, gold, and antique finishes. Sizes range from 2mm – 16mm (approx.) and prices depend on material and size.
Crystals are crystal beads made out of leaded glass and have a high shine. They are usually faceted for additional shine. The most commonly known crystals are Swarovski Elements but there are Czech crystals too which are of good quality at a cheaper price. Often used for wedding dresses and tiaras, crystal beads are most commonly used for special pieces of jewelry. Clear crystals are often known as rhinestones and can be purchased in a setting (chitons).
Bugle beads are tubular and are cut to various lengths. The bugle beads are part of the seed bead group as they are available in very small sizes and are useful for creating delicate seed bead jewelry. There are plenty of bugle beads available in different colors, finishes, and twists. They are sized in length by using the numbers 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, and 5 with 0.5 being the shortest. The diameter of a size 2 and 3 is equivalent to a size 11 seed beads.
Stone beads are available as irregular chips, nuggets, faceted rondelles, and smooth round beads as well as a whole host of other cut shapes. They are dense and heavy compared to other materials and take on a lovely warmth when worn close to the skin. Threading holes can be extremely small so it’s vital to check this before purchasing if possible. Generally speaking, sizes of standard round and oval shapes tend to stay around 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, and 8mm. Real stone beads, particularly semi-precious varieties can command high price tags so this is a factor to consider. More irregular, one-off designs, can be very large, sometimes 3cm – 4cm across.
These beads are very short pieces of a chopped glass cane that are heated until they form smooth shapes, usually round (rocailles, see above). The most commonly available are Chinese, Czech, or Japanese. Japanese are top quality and very consistent, Czech middle quality and Chinese are cheap irregular beads. Also in the seed bead family are Delica beads, square beads, triangle beads, bugle beads, and hex beads.
Hex-Cut Beads are Japanese glass beads cut from a six-sided cane. They come in sizes 8, 11, and 12.
Lampworked beads are handmade one at a time by melting slender glass rods with a flame torch. The hot glass is carefully wrapped around a coated wire, which, when removed, forms the hole of the bead. These beads can be made with many different colors and layers of glass and may be highly decorated.
Shell beads are small discs or short tubes cut from natural shell material.
Charlottes are Czech seed beads with one or two small flat facets ground onto their surfaces.
Cloisonné beads are made of enamel fired on a background, usually metal, to produce a mosaic or stained-glass effect. These beads are highly decorative and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Crow beads are large beads shaped like seed beads. Sometimes mistakenly called pony beads, they are commonly made of glass, plastic, or wood and are larger than pony beads.
Liquid beads (silver/ gold) are very fine tubes of silver they look “liquid” when strung. Available in lengths similar to bugle beads; great for covering stranded wires.
Pony beads are shaped like seed beads but are larger and most commonly made of wood or plastic, but can be made of glass. Pressed glass beads are formed into special shapes made by passing thick molten rods of glass by hand through an automatic pressing machine.
Three-cuts are Czech beads with irregular facets all over their surface.