If there’s one universal truth that we can all agree on is that human beings are naturally attracted to trinkets and artsy bits and pieces that can be worn to beautify or used to decorate. Take, for instance, beads. They have been used as far back as archeologists can dig. What I find even more remarkable is the different types of beads for crafting and jewelry you can find on the market today.
These beads come in all shapes and sizes and can be classified based on material, size, surface finish, design, purpose, and other factors. Here are the different types of crafting and jewelry beads that you need to know about.
What Are Beads Made From?
Crafting and jewelry beads are made from various materials. These are the common classifications:
1. Bone, Horn, and Teeth Beads
You can carve beads from the bones of various animals. These beads tend to be lightweight and warm-colored. You can also create beads from the teeth and horns of animals. Other similar materials that can be used to make beads include turtle shells, seashells, and hooves.
2. Ceramic Beads
Ceramic beads are made from clay and then heated, so they become hard. They also have a polished or glazed finish.
3. Glass Beads
Glass beads have been manufactured since ancient times. They are made by mixing melted silica and other minerals at high temperatures. The melted glass is then poured into molds of different shapes and sizes, with glass pressed beads having a marbled effect. Sometimes different colors of melted glass are mixed together to create lampwork beads. Glass beads are translucent and come in various colors. Popular types of glass beads include Venetian glass beads and Murano glass beads.
4. Coral Beads
Coral is an organic material made by small marine animals. The gem-like appearance of coral makes it perfect for making beads, and it can be easily fashioned into beads of different shapes and sizes.
5. Metal Beads
Most metal beads are made from brass or bronze, which are alloys of zinc and copper or copper and tin, respectively. Other metals like antimony are also added to prevent the surface finish from tarnishing easily. You can also find metal beads made from pure silver. Bali beads are a particular type of beads made from sterling silver and handcrafted in Bali, Indonesia.
6. Resin Beads
Resin beads can be made using a silicone mold and epoxy resin. They can be made to mimic other materials, such as glass and metals. The biggest advantage of resin beads is that they’re lightweight.
7. Pearl Beads
Cultured pearls are harvested from farmed mussels and can be freshwater or saltwater. These pearls can be sold in their natural form, or they can be dyed with striking colors.
8. Costume Pearls
These beads are made to look like pearl beads, but they are imitations since they’re often made from plastic or glass. Hence the name faux pearls. They are often used on fabric though they can also be used to make cheap and lightweight jewelry. There are also faux beads that are made to look like real gemstones.
9. Gemstone Beads
These are also known as semi-precious beads made from a variety of precious stones, such as agate, amethyst, carnelian, cubic zirconia, quartz, lapis, garnet, jasper, and moonstone. The beads are shaped accordingly and then polished to give them a sheen.
Gemstone beads are valued for their natural beauty and are used to make sophisticated jewelry, such as necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Semi-precious stones are not as rare as precious stones like diamonds and rubies, so they’re ideal for making beads. Besides semi-precious tones, you can also find beads made from natural stone or lava stone.
10. Crystal Beads
Crystal beads are a special type of glass beads made from leaded glass. They’re faceted, so they tend to have high reflectivity and a brilliant shine. The most popular brand of crystal beads is Swarovski beads which have the finest and highest precision cut. They’re the gold standard in beadwork. Clear crystals are known as rhinestones, and they are often used to make jewelry for special occasions.
11. Wood and Nut Beads
Beads can also be made from wood or nuts. Wood beads are made from natural wood, including sandalwood, palmwood, rosewood, whitewood, redwood, and ebony. These beads are polished to showcase the grain to full effect or painted to create different patterns and styles. Nuts can also be used to make beads, with most nut beads coming from palm trees.
12. Seed Beads
Seed beads are also known as rocailles, and they have a round shape and small size ranging from under a millimeter to 2mm. Because of their small size, seed beans are often used in embroidery and needlework. The term seed bead is also used to generally refer to any type of small bead.
13. Acrylic Beads
Acrylic beads are made from a plastic-like material, but they often resemble glass since they’re mostly transparent and can reflect light. Acrylic beads are lighter than glass beads and can be shaped into a variety of intricate shapes, and they also come in a variety of beautiful colors.
14. Plastic Beads
Plastic is a common material for making beads because of how cheap it is. For instance, you can find pony beads which are mostly oval-shaped and usually used during crafts and jewelry-making activities for kids.
15. Sugar Beads
Sugar beads are so-called because they look like they were rolled in granulated sugar. However, the fine grains that are stuck to the surface are actually tiny pieces of glass. The layered sugar-coating structure makes sugar beads ideal for making artful crafts and jewelry.
16. Paper and Fabric Beads
Kids and adults engaged in papercraft can make paper beads which are then used to make jewelry. You can use any type of paper to make paper beads as long as it’s durable enough to be rolled into a cylinder. You can make paper beads of different shapes and sizes. Similarly, you can use fabric beads by rolling different fabrics into the desired shape and then using adhesive to ensure the beads maintain their shape.
17. Beaded Beads
A beaded bead is a large bead that’s made from smaller beads. So you can take several smaller beads and weave them together to form a large bead.
What Are The Different Types of Bead Designs?
You can also find a wide range of crafting and jewelry beads with different designs. This is what makes beads so versatile. For instance, you can find mosaic beads that are ingrained with different colors to create a beautiful pattern. Some beads have metallic foil placed inside them to create an eye-catching design. Here are more designs you can explore with different crafting and jewelry beads:
- Cloisonne beads are made from metal and have thin strips of wire glued to the surface to create intricate designs.
- Givre glass beads are mostly translucent but have an opaque center.
- African trade beads have colorful patterns and eye-catching vibrant designs.
- Millefiori beads have colorful repeating patterns.
- Shambala beads are made from a combination of clay and crystals.
Bead designs are inspired by many different cultures. You can find Indian glass craft beads or Toho beads which are manufactured in Japan. There are Mala beads, also known as Buddhist prayer beads, and Krobo beads, which originate from Ghana.
Different Types of Surface Finish for Beads
You can find a variety of beads with different surface finishes, including the following:
These are usually referred to as Czech glass fire-polished beads. The beads are polished over a fire only until they begin to melt, which gives them a smooth and sparkly surface.
Opaque Luster Glass Beads
As the name suggests, these beads are made from opaque glass, so you can’t see through them. However, they have a luster coating applied which reflects light beautifully and makes the beads look luminous.
Most beads are polished so that they have some level of shine. However, with matte beads, the shine is completely removed, so they have a rougher texture. Matte beads give your jewelry and craft pieces a unique look by adding more texture.
Silver Lined Beads
Silver lined beads have a mirror-like or highly reflective finish that lines the holes.
Different Settings for Beads
These are the different settings you will find for beads:
- Top drilled – These are drilled over vertically about a quarter of the way. A peg is usually inserted into the drilled space so the bead can hang easily.
- Half drilled – These are only drilled from one end to the center.
- Fully drilled – These are drilled from top to bottom.
- Diagonal drilled – This often applies to beads with a cube or square shape that have a hole drilled from one corner to the other.
- Center drilled – These are drilled in the middle.
- Side drilled – This is how most non-spherical beads are drilled.
Different Types of Beads for Different Purposes
These beads are classified according to what they can do or what they are used for.
These bids are used for arts and crafts to create unique designs and patterns. They’re suitable because they can be heat activated and arranged on specialized pegboards to create the desired pattern. These fusible beads are typically made from low-density polyethylene and are safe for kids to use.
As the name suggests, space beads are usually tucked in between the main beads when making a craft item or jewelry. For instance, if you’re making a necklace using large glass beads, you can use smaller metal or glass beads as spacers. Spacers are used as fillers for different reasons, such as adding length, adding more texture, enhancing the colors of the focal beads, and creating a unique design.
These are also referred to as alphabet letter beads. They are popularly used to make bracelets that spell the wearer’s name.
Metallic or Galvanized Beads
These types of beads are not necessarily made from metal. They can be made from glass and have a metallic coating to give a more shiny appearance. The only downside of a metallic luster finish is that it can wear off and tarnish quickly.
What Are The Different Shapes for Beads
If you’re interested in crafts and jewelry making, you can use different-shaped beads, which include the following:
- Round beads. These have a spherical shape.
- Rondelle beads. These have a disc or doughnut shape, and the width tends to be greater than the height. These are similar to donut beads, which are donut-shaped with a larger hole in the middle.
- Tubular. The shape of tubular beads can also be described as cylindrical. These have a large hole, which makes them easier to thread. Tubular glass beads are called bugle beads.
- Pinch beads. Pinch beads have an oval shape. They have three flattened sides and a hole drilled from top to bottom.
- Pellet beads. Pellet beads are small and spherical, and they have an indented or pinched middle.
- Ribbed. These have grooves cut into the surface, so they have a textured feel and look.
- Square Beads. These have a square shape.
- Triangular beads. They are shaped like a triangle with two holes along one of the sides.
- Pebble beads. Flat-shaped beads with holes on either side (pebble beads)
- Faceted beads. Faceted beads are shaped to look like cut gemstones. So they have many flattened edges and tend to catch a lot of light for maximum sparkle.
- Teardrop beads. These have the shape of a teardrop with a hole drilled at the tapered end.
- Sequins. This type of bead is small, disc-shaped, and super shiny. Sequins are commonly used to embellish clothing and other fashion accessories like handbags.
- Piggy beads. These have two holes, so they sort of resemble a pig’s snout.
- SuperDuo beads. These are two-hole beads or twin beads.
What Colors are Often Used for Craft and Jewelry Beads?
Most of the different types of beads mentioned so far come in a variety of colors. The common colors include white, green, pink, purple, red, jet black, blue, and yellow. Other more interesting colors include:
- Earth tones
- Montana blue