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Exploring the Different Types of Beads

Updated on June 15, 2013

When you first get started making jewelry there are a lot of different elements that can easily feel overwhelming. By exploring what's out there you can find the best options for you and your style. There are a lot of different types of beads available for those who want to make jewelry or work with beadwork. You can explore a lot of different styles and you can use a lot of different materials. Over time, you may find a favorite material to work with or you may want to continue to explore.

Plastic or Acrylic Beads

Plastic beads have been around a very long time. You can still get pony beads and other simple plastic beads. These are often used in jewelry for children. However, there are more and more options that speak to adults as well as children.

New plastic and acrylic beads look really good and can even look like other types of beads. Some are made to look like glass beads or even clay beads. These beads can be a great option or you can choose not to use plastic or acrylic beads and instead use some of the other options. High quality plastic and acrylic beads can be mixed with other materials as well. With careful planning you can have a really awesome creation.

Glass Beads

Glass beads are many people's favorite because they include a huge variety of different types of glass beads. You can find small ones and large ones in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and even styles. The different types of glass beads include:

  • Crackle Glass - These glass beads are made by rapidly cooling hot glass causing it to crack. The cold glass is heated up in order to reshape the beads and form them into the proper shape. Crackle glass is usually found in a fantastic variety of colors making it a very fun glass bead to work with.
  • Dichroic Glass - To make dichroic glass beads a thin layer of metal is fused onto the glass to make a reflective, metallic surface. This process makes a great metallic glass bead that is being found in more and more high end jewelry items.
  • Fire Polished Glass - Fire polished glass is very popular because it has a great shimmer and shine to it. There are different finishes that are applied to the beads to make the different looks. Czech fire polished glass beads are the most popular.
  • Glass Pearls - Glass pearls are made with an inner core of glass and an outer coating that consists of a pearlized substance. High quality glass pearls are made with multiple layers of pearlized coating for a durable, longer lasting finish.
  • Lampwork Beads - Lampwork beads are little works of art. They are made by heating up glass rods and then using the hot glass to draw patterns. They can be smooth or bumpy, but in either case they are beautiful and/or fun.
  • Crystal Beads - Crystals are very popular. These beads are made with leaded glass, come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and finishes.
  • Millefiori Glass Beads - These beads are made by patterning colored canes together and heating them up to fuse them. They are designed in such a way that they look like a bunch of little flowers (millefiori means a thousand flowers).
  • Molded Glass - Molded glass beads are made by stamping the glass. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns.
  • Seed Beads - Seed beads can be made from a few different types of materials. One of them is glass.

Glass beads have a lot to offer you and can make some amazing pieces of jewelry. They are popular because they are great to work with and they come in a wide variety of prices. There is something for everyone!


Seed Beads

Seed beads have been used for jewelry making and decorations for a very long time. They are commonly used as spacers and for bead weaving. Bead weaving can create very complicated designs. The best seed beads are made in glass, but you can also find seed beads in acrylic or plastic.

The seed bead title can include a wide variety of beads in a range of sizes. The tiniest seed beads are available on up to E beads. Other beads included in this category are different shaped seed beads such as triangular and even bugle beads and twisted bugle beads.

Wooden Beads

All natural materials are commonly used in bead work and jewelry making. These include wooden beads of a very large variety. You can find them in small sizes and large ones. You can also find them stained natural colors or painted bright fun colors. They can even be mixed with other materials for great looks.


Gemstone Beads

You can find a huge variety of gemstone beads, some of which are even really inexpensive. Some options include jaspers and agates, but semi-precious gemstones are also available. Common choices include amethyst and citrine. While not as readily available you can also find precious gemstones used as beads including sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and even diamonds. Pearls are often included in this category.

Metal Beads

Metal beads are very common. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Larger round beads can be used as focal points or part of a pattern. Small metal beads and flat disc shaped beads are often used as spacers in a pattern. Metal beads come in a wide variety of materials, colors, shapes, and sizes are are great for adding to a look.


Crystal Beads

Crystal beads are one that only sort of deserve their own category. They are very popular and while they are sort of glass beads, they are a little different. Crystal beads are glass beads that are made with leaded glass. They come in a large variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They also come in a variety of finishes similar to fire polished glass.

Crystal pearls are another option. These are made with leaded glass at their core and then covered in a pearlized coating. High quality crystal pearls will have layer upon layer of coating and will be durable. Crystal pearls do a better job at holding onto their finish than glass pearls do, but they are also more expensive.

You can get creative with crystals as well. While they are commonly used in a strand of beads or as sparkling focal points in earrings and other jewelry pieces. However, you can also use small crystals in bead weaving.

Other Beads

While there are a lot of different beads out there, this list does a great job covering most of them. However, there are still some "other" beads. You can find beads made from seeds and nuts, bones and horns, and even porcelain and ceramic. These beads can be used to make jewelry by themselves or they can be mixed with other materials to make jewelry.

Where to Find Awesome Beads

It can be difficult to find great beads, especially in certain areas. The good news is that there are a lot of different resources available.

  • Local Stores. Many local stores offer beads and jewelry making supplies. You may have a bead shop in your area that will offer a lot of cool options, but even if you don't you should check craft stores such as Hobby Lobby and Michael's. If none of these options are available in your area then you should also check out Walmart before giving up on your area. Many Walmart's have a good variety of beads and supplies. Often you will pay more for these options, but at the same time it is nice to be able to go in and touch some of your supplies and to pick out basic supplies at the last minute without waiting for shipping.
  • Bead and Jewelry Making Supply Sites. There are a number of great sites for beads and jewelry making supplies. These sites can offer you different items than you would find in stores near you and usually at a better price. Some even have great costumer service, quick shipping, and wholesale purchasing prices. It's also exciting to get a lot of amazing supplies in the mail.
  • eBay. Buying supplies on eBay can offer you the chance to buy a lot of interesting and a lot of alternative things. However, it is often a hit and miss as to whether or not you get an awesome deal. If you want to buy supplies this way then you should be careful, know what you want to spend, and be prepared to find deals rather than specific types of supplies.

Each of these options can help you to find the supplies that you want and need for your jewelry making supplies. You can get deals and great quality items to make amazing pieces of jewelry. The only thing you need to do is let your creativity flow for beautiful pieces!

What is your favorite type of beads to work with?

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Making jewelry gives you a lot of different options. You can create great designs for yourself, your family and friends, and even for sale. All of the different beads will allow you to get creative. Now all you need to do is find great beads and let yourself loose! With some basic skills you can make a large number of different types of jewelry and in turn come up with something new every time you turn around. You can also pick up a wide variety of books in order to get even more ideas. Choose your beads: plastic or acrylic beads, glass beads, seed beads, gemstone beads, metal beads, crystal beads, or something a bit more unusual.


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  • profile image

    Jacobb9205 3 years ago

    Awesome, thank you for explaining the different types of beads!

  • oceansnsunsets profile image

    Paula 3 years ago from The Midwest, USA

    I enjoyed reading about the different kinds of beads. I enjoy working with different beads, but my favorite are stone or gemstone beads. The stone beads are awesome because they are from the earth, and seem extra special to me. Thanks for sharing!

  • shabbygirls profile image

    Collette Hemmes Rock 6 years ago from Australia

    I really enjoyed reading your articule, I am only new to Hub pages and this is the first one that I have read, but I just want to let you know that I really enjoyed it