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About Jewelry Beads And Shapes

Updated on March 20, 2011

The Complexities Of Jewelry Beads

Jewelry making is a top hobby for many. The commercial industry is loaded with supply houses that offer beads from around the world. Take a look at any jewelry supply catalog and there are so many different beads it is enough to make your head spin. Beads for jewelry making are a considerable part of the industry. Think of beads and a vision of seed beads, pony beads or lamp work beads might pop into your head. For most the first visions will stem from some childhood memory and then escalate. There is a reason for that escalation and the reason is because jewelry beads are a complex division of the jewelry making industry. This hub is all about the different names for beads in jewelry making and what the names mean, if there is a specific reason for the calling.

Know What You Are Buying

Learn to read the jewelry beads equation on packaging, in catalogs and when shopping from the Internet.
Learn to read the jewelry beads equation on packaging, in catalogs and when shopping from the Internet.

Beyond The Round Shaped Jewelry Beads

The names attached to various beads are almost always directly related to the shape of the beads. Beads are commonly round in shape but from the average round shape there are so many other shapes to choose from when you go jewelry bead shopping. Some of the most common shapes are listed below.

  • rectangle
  • square
  • seed
  • tube
  • diamond
  • triangle
  • oval
  • nugget
  • chips
  • drops

More Complexities Of Jewelry Beads By Shape

Now that is only a beginning when considering all the different shapes of jewelry beads. Technology has brought this manufacturing industry to higher levels. Beads that were unheard of in generations past are now being produced in all kinds of other shapes. Just for fun here is a list of shapes that are generally available from most jewelry supply houses. This is not a complete list just an example of the shapes, beads are being manufactured in to.

  • hearts
  • flowers
  • shells
  • cubes
  • skulls
  • stars
  • hourglass
  • cones
  • barrels
  • fish
  • butterflies

There Is More To A Jewelry Bead Than It's Shape

Just when there seems to be some logic going on in learning all about jewelry beads a realization smacks you up side the head. The shape of any bead is only the beginning of it's description. Many other attributes spill from the shape and fallout like a dropped vile of beads on the table. Jewelry beads come in all kinds of different materials, sizes, colors and finishes. This is where the complexities really get confusing. There is however a sort of equation that is used to explain and describe individual beads.

What is In A Jewelry Bead Equation?

To spell it out here is an example of a written jewelry bead equation typically found in catalogs, on packaging and on Internet shopping locations.


6mm garnet coin [C] grade 16" strand

What does this mean to the jewelry bead shopper?

  • The first number followed by mm is going to be the size of the bead. This will almost always come first in any jewelry bead equation/description. The mm stands for millimeter and can also be described as 14x8mm or 14x8x4mm. More numbers in this group means that the jewelry bead is not round or square. It is long and wide and maybe fat if there are 3 numbers in the group. 14 would be the longest number, 8 would be the width and 4 would be the thickness or how fat it is.
  • The second thing seen in the equation is the material the bead is made of and or the color of the bead. In the example 6mm garnet coin [C] grade, the material is a Garnet which is a kind of Gemstone. It is usually a deep red color but Gemstones are natural so there is variation to color when purchasing any jewelry beads made from natural materials.
  • The word coin in this example equation is describing the shape of the bead. Here is where there could also be additional words such as, flat, puffed, hammered and so on. The additional words will further describe the styling of the coin shape. The styling might come from additional processing during manufacturing.
  • [C] grade is telling the overall quality of the gemstone itself. Gemstones are graded and this [C] denotes that the Garnet is not the highest quality but rather average.
  • Strand means the jewelry beads in this description are being sold by a particular length of the beads strung on a thread. Beads are often sold in strands and especially when the material the beads are processed from is a natural gemstone. This is because the gemstones will vary from one bead to the next simply because they are natural. Man made materials most often are uniform in size and can easily be sold in lots of 50, 100 or more. Precious metal beads are often sold by weight because that is how the metal itself is valued.

The above example shows just how complicated purchasing jewelry beads can be. There is a lot more to it than simply buying some beads. The more knowledgeable the buyer the better equipped they will be to make the best purchase.

Natural Gemstone Beads

This strand 4mm Amethyst chips shows the variance of color and shape found in natural bead material.
This strand 4mm Amethyst chips shows the variance of color and shape found in natural bead material.

Beads and Styles

Now that the basic elements of bead shopping have been touched on let's dig a little deeper in to the bead equation. Round beads are common but then there are all the different styles of round beads. Much depends on the material used to manufacture the jewelry beads as to how they are further described. The exterior finish on the bead often relates to addition words used when describing jewelry beads. These words are often seen in the jewelry bead equation found on packaging and in catalogs.

Below is a list with a sample of additional words that might be seen following the word "round" in a jewelry bead equation. They might also be found in the equation before the word round. Manufacturing companies all have their own way of writing it. That also adds to the complications. Bottom line is to become familiar with all of the terms relating to the description of shape, size, color and material the jewelry beads are made from. Put these words and measurements together and that becomes the jewelry bead equation.

Manufacturing is constantly coming up with new products in the jewelry bead industry so the list below is merely a sampling of what might be found on a package of jewelry beads within the describing equation.

  • faceted
  • corrugated
  • velvet
  • metallic
  • speckled
  • clear
  • opaque
  • pearl
  • brushed
  • natural
  • glazed
  • stripped

Jewelry beads can be purchased in all sizes, shapes, colors and materials.
Jewelry beads can be purchased in all sizes, shapes, colors and materials.

Learn The Words Used To Describe Jewery Beads

There is no way to write it all here in one hub. jewelry Beads could in fact be the oldest form of art in the history of man. Jewelry Beads have been around seemingly, forever. There are so many different kinds of beads, old and new that it is complex to say the least. What is important to someone who will be purchasing jewelry beads is to get to know the many words used to describe the jewelry beads.  This knowledge can save time and money. The more understanding one has of the complexities involved when describing jewelry beads, the better equipped they will be when making jewelry bead purchases.


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    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NW Indiana

      Honestly I do not know what tagged or not tagged means. Does anyone know the answer?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      When I'm shopping for charm bracelet beads I keep running across statements of beads new with tags or new beads without tags. What does this mean?

    • profile image

      Trinkets N Treasures 

      7 years ago

      Ha, that's exactly how I found this hub. I decided to put the paragraph I had found into copyscape. It's a shame that people wont give credit where credit is due.

    • RedElf profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      Found your article (the first paragraph, anyway) on another site and followed the link right back here. Though they didn't credit you, they didn't claim credit themselves either. Nice that the link led me here to the original article :D

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I found this very informative. I have been making jewelry for a year now and I truly love it. The more I learn the more I want to do. It can be overwhelm you if you let it. I try to complete everything I start unlike my crocheting. Too many components to leave lying around. This was a great help.

    • dealrocker profile image


      8 years ago from California

      Very informative. Good work. Liked your other hubs too. Joining your fanclub and would like to invite you to join mine. :)

    • Ann Lee profile image

      Ann Lee 

      8 years ago

      Loads of info here. Good job.

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 

      8 years ago

      Wow! I had no idea! Great info on beads! I pushed your green button!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      hi nice to meet you I like this very article. Thank you presented.

    • Craftsmith profile image


      9 years ago from India

      I totally agree...beaded jewelry looks absolutely stunning ! tho i don't understand the technical part of it..but the way they look is too nice..! The article was informative, no doubt, but wat i really liked was that u put the obvious things into words beautifully :) good work !

    • RosWebbART profile image

      Ros Webb 

      9 years ago from Ireland

      I've bookmarked this hub for my daughter ; she is very interested in making jewellery

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from NW Indiana


      Sure makes me feel good when I can be helpful. Thanks for stopping in and do come visit me again.

    • Handmade-Crafts profile image


      9 years ago

      I am a full time bead addict. I found this hub to be very helpful. Thank you for sharing.

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from NW Indiana


      I just read the packages, and like you, I look at the product and buy the beads I like. The details are what is important especially when buying from the Internet. Thanks for commenting.


      glad you stopped by, thanks!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very well done and informative...


    • SweetiePie profile image


      9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      This hub turned out to be very comprehensive, and I must confess I really do not know that much about beads, well not as much as you do. I simply buy what I think looks pretty, but that is about the extent of it.

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from NW Indiana


      I am thrilled that I have inspired you with this hub, have fun and thanks for commenting.


      This is most true with me. I start on a project and hours pass before I stop. I work with the jewelry making in spurts, sometimes I will produce as many as ten or twelve pieces and several unfinished items in one round. Sure glad you stop here to read and leave your thoughts.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      I would love to make jewelry but just haven't the time. I think if you start with that you really have to sit down and get into it. Thank you for an interesting read.

    • Patti Ann profile image

      Patti Ann 

      9 years ago from Florida

      Excellent information - I love to make jewelry - I haven't had much time lately for it. Reading this makes me want to get off this computer and make something. Thanks!


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