Using Seed Beads in Designing and Making Handmade Jewellery
Seed beads are small beads made by cutting long, thin glass tubes into small pieces. Seed beads come in a variety of sizes and shapes and in a huge range of colours and finishes, including silver-lined, translucent and metallic.
Seed beads can be used on their own in jewellery designs or can easily be combined with many other types of beads. They are very versatile beads so are suited to a variety of techniques including stringing, wire work, chain maille and bead weaving. Although working with these sometimes tiny beads can be a very fiddly process, the finished pieces that can be created can be beautiful and highly creative.
Seed bead sizing and quality
Seed beads are sold by their size, generally either in bags or tubes determined by weight or by the string. Seed bead sizes can seem confusing at first as the larger the size number, the smaller the bead is. These beads are commonly available in sizes from 7 up to the tiny 14 sized beads. Smaller beads are available but tend to be less common.
Different types of seed bead are shaped differently and can be less consistently shaped as well. Because of this some types of bead are considered better for some techniques and mixing bead types may result in uneven and inconsistent finished pieces. For bead weaving for example where a neat, interlocking and flat finish is needed, Delica beads are considered to be the best as they have large holes which allow for thread to be passed through them several times and are also very uniform in size and shape so weave very neatly.
Japanese seed beads have a large hole but there is more variation in size and shape with these than in Delica seed beads. Czech seed beads are available in the widest range of sizes but can be irregularly shaped and so are more suitable for projects other than bead weaving.
Coloured seed beads – These are one of the most common types available and come in a wide range of colours and sizes, though the most commonly used are between sizes 11- 6. They can be used for a range of jewellery making projects as well as other crafts such as crochet or sewing. Seed beads mix well with other bead types and for example can be used to space or ascent other beads.
Hex Seed Beads – Hex seed beads have a hexagon shaped profile which many people feels gives them more sparkle than the standard round seed beads. They are available in a range of colours, sizes and finishes and work well in many project types.
Bugle Seed Beads – Bugle beads are made using long hollow glass tubes but rather than being cut into small rounds, they are cut into tubes. These beads are available in range of lengths and colours. There is also a twisted variety.
Cube Seed Bead – These are small, square, smooth sided beads that can be bought in a range of styles. Good quality cube beads will be very uniformly cut and fit together neatly in woven pieces. They can also be used to as spacers or to design entire pieces of jewellery. The cubes can give jewellery an unusual geometric look.
Cylinder Seed Beads – These beads are short tubes that have large holes and flattened sides. Toho and Delica are well known and high quality cylinder beads. They can be more expensive than other types of seed bead but produce very neat and uniform finished creations.
Charlottes – Charlotte beads are also sometimes known as True-Cuts or One-Cuts and are Czech seed beads that have two small flat facets to their sides.
Three Cuts – Three cuts are the same as charlotte beads but have irregular cuts over their surfaces.
Magatama Beads - This type of bead was first made in Japan and Korea and was comma shaped. The beads hole is not in the centre as with most other bead types, but a little off centre producing a drop effect when they are used. They can be used in many ways and can be especially nice used in fringes.
How to make a spiral rope bracelet with seed beads
Some examples of seed bead finishes
Although seed beads are all made of glass, they are available in a range of different effects. These can add extra depth, colour or sparkle to jewellery designs.
Colour-lined Seed Beads – These beads are transparent and have had a colour coating applied on the inside surface.
Iridescent – Also known as Aurora Borealis, AB or rainbow seed beads. These are transparent, opal or opaque beads that have a durable multi-coloured shiny finished applied.
Lustre – This variety are transparent, opal or opaque beads that have a shiny finish. They are sometimes called pearl or opal lustre beads.
Matt – Beads with a flat, dull or frosted finish.
Metallic – These beads have a shiny, metal like surface coating. This type of coating can sometimes wear off over time.
Opal – Translucent beads with a milky finish.
Opaque – Solid coloured beads that you cannot see through at all.
Painted or Dyed – Bead can be painted or dyed after being made either with one solid colour or patterns. Over time and wear this type of finish may wear off.
Satin – satin beads can look like they are make from many tiny layers and the shade of the colour varies depending on what angle they are viewed at.
Silver-lined – Transparent or opal beads that have a reflective lining in their holes. Often these beads have square holes as this enhances the reflectiveness of the bead.
Translucent – You will be able to see through these beads but not clearly.
Transparent – Completely see through beads.
© 2013 Claire