When you get started making beaded jewelry, the most important thing to learn is the difference between the types of beads available for you to use. This article will cover seed beads, which are the small round beads that make up the foundation of many jewelry projects. Many of the Facet Jewelry Box projects incorporate a variety of the different seed beads we’ll reference in this article. More on that later!
Where to Start?
So how can you tell if the shiny bits you see in the store are the correct ones for your project? Before we dive into the eight most commonly used seed beads, here’s an overview of the three main things to know when searching for the right jewelry-making products.
Size, Type and Shape
The first thing to pay attention to is the bead SIZE. You’ll see numbers in bead pattern instructions like 8/0 or 11/0 (the zero is called an “aught,” and sometimes the aught is displayed as a superscript). Those numbers do not correspond to the actual measurements of a bead, though, which can create some confusion! That number originally was used to explain how many beads would create one inch of beadwork.
Another confusing factor: the higher the number in the bead size, the tinier the bead actually is. A 15/0 bead is tiny, and a 6/0 bead is fairly large by comparison. Beads are measured in millimeters. The beads most commonly used in beading are 11/0s and 8/0s. These beads measure approximately 1.8mm and 2.5mm, respectively.
The next important thing to know about your beads is TYPE, meaning the material the bead is made from. There are plastic beads, paper beads, wooden beads, crystals, and SO many other materials, but the seed beads you want to use in jewelry are made from glass. The two countries best known for high-quality beads are the Czech Republic and Japan. The beads from those countries can usually be depended on to be uniform in size, which is key when you are following a pattern.
And finally, you’ll want to know about SHAPE. Again, we’re only talking about tiny seed beads here, but even within these little guys, there are a lot of variations. Here are some of the most common types of seed beads that are used by beaders.
Japanese seed beads
These beads are very regular in shape and size. They have large holes that are perfect for stitching, as sometimes you need your needle and thread to pass through a single bead more than once. These beads have a slightly squared shape, are usually sold in tubes or packages, and are available in sizes 15/0 (approximately 1.5 mm) to 6/0 (4 mm).
Czech seed beads
Czech seed beads are slightly more irregular in shape and size than Japanese seed beads, but they also are an excellent all-purpose seed bead. They are shaped like ovals with the hole running through the narrow part. Czech seed beads are usually sold in hanks (a bundle of beads strung on a cord, rather than loose in a tube), and come in sizes 16/0 (1.3 mm) to 6/0 (4 mm).
Japanese cylinder beads
Japanese cylinder beads are small cylindrical beads that have very thin walls and large holes. They produce an even and regular fabric of beads when they are stitched together. The original cylinder beads are referred to as 11/0s, though they are actually smaller than 11/0 seed beads. Size 8/0, 10/0, and 15/0 cylinder beads are also available.
Charlottes are seed beads that have had a single facet ground into them, which gives them beautiful sparkle. Originally, they were only available as 13/0s, but now they can be found in sizes 8/0–15/0.
Hex-cut beads have six sides and look like hexagons when they are viewed from the end. The blunt ends can be very sharp. Hex-cut beads are sometimes called “two-cuts.” Three-cuts are similar to two-cuts, except that they have additional facets on the ends, giving them a softer, more irregular appearance.
These beads come in sizes 5/0–12/0. Some have sharp corners, while others have rounded corners, depending on the manufacturer.
Cube beads are small square beads that come in 1.5 mm, 2 mm, 3 mm, 3.4 mm, and 4 mm sizes.
Drop beads are sometimes called “teardrops,” “fringe drops,” or “Magatamas.” They are available in sizes ranging from 3.1 mm to 6 mm and come from both Czech and Japanese manufacturers.
Bugle beads look like long, skinny tubes and range in size from 2mm to 30mm. They are made by Czech and Japanese companies, and they come in both straight and twisted varieties.
Start With Facet Jewelry Box
There’s a lot to take in when you start any new project and jewelry making is no different. A great way to ease into becoming a beading expert is by subscribing to Facet Jewelry Box. It offers more advanced stitching projects, which often require seed beads (eight of the nine projects linked above are stitching projects) and the more beginner-friendly stringing projects. By subscribing to the Facet Jewelry Box, you’re receiving handpicked projects and everything you need to make it, wear it and of course, love it! Give it a try and tag us in your finished projects!
For a limited time, get 4 Facet Jewelry Box projects for $24.95 by using code 2For1 at checkout!
Need more help? Use this link to view a detailed video showcasing the basics about seed beads.