Basic Knowledge About Seed Beads


Seed beads are one of the most commonly used beads for jewelry making and decorating garments. This post is all knowledge about seed beads including its definition, national origin and development, sizes and unit of measurement, colors and finishes etc. which will definitely bring a clear understanding on the world of seed beads especially for beginners who wants to start his or her art project using seed beads.
Definition and National Origin
Seed beads are tiny pieces of glass cane tubes that have been heated until they are smooth. Available in hundreds of colors and many finishes, they are the “paint” of your loom and off-loom beadwork.
Before World War II, there was a thriving bead industry centered in eastern Europe, especially in Bohemia, before 1918 a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and a part of the Republic of Czechoslovakia after, although Germany, Italy and France were also noted producers of glass beads.
Most contemporary high-quality seed beeds are made in Japan or the Czech Republic. Japanese seed beads are generally more uniform in size, shape, and finish as well as having larger holes than Czech seed beads of the same size, but the Japanese make fewer styles.
Size and Unit of Measurement
Seed beads range in size from 1.3mm to 3.3mm. Larger numbers mean smaller beads. The most common smaller sizes are 11/0 and 15/0, and the most common larger sizes are 6/0 and 8/0. The term “aught” refers to how many beads can fit into a standard unit.
Glass is the most common material used to fabricate seed beads, but some were made of metal, usually aluminum or steel, porcelain or tile. They are often cut in what is known as “three-cut” faceting; these are popularly known as steel cuts. Usually a 10kg rod of glass will yield about 8kg of seeds beads.
Colors and Finish
Seed beads come in an endless variety of colors and finishes, so it can be daunting to pick out the perfect beads for the jewelry you want to make. The unique look and feel of each seed bead comes not only from color, but also from the perfect combination of finishes that are applied to the seed bead. Here is a glossary of seed bead finishes that will help you pick out the exact beads you need for each project you make!
Color-lined: clear or colored transparent beads with an opaque color lining the inside. These beads can achieve a fantastic depth of colors.
Metal-lined: clear or colored transparent beads with real metal or metal color lining the inside. The beads lined with real metal are often less likely to wear than the colored lining.
Silver-lined: clear or colored transparent beads with a silver color lining the inside, a popular variation of metal-lined. This finish reflects light to achieve a very sparkly finish.
AB or Aurora Borealis: an iridescent finish applied to the surface that creates a rainbow effect. Iris, Rainbow and Rainbow-lined are effects that achieve a variety of iridescent finishes similar to the AB finish.
Luster: a shiny glaze applied to the surface that creates a pearly effect. This finish is at risk of wearing away or fading.
Gold Luster: a variation of the luster finish that creates a metallic gold pearly effect. This finish is at risk of wearing away or fading.
Ceylon: a finish applied to the surface to achieve a milky, pearly effect. This finish is at risk of wearing away or fading.
Opaque: colored glass beads that are not transparent. Most opaque seed beads are very stable and resilient to rubbing or fading.
Transparent: clear, colored glass that can be seen through. It is important to keep mind of the color of thread you use with transparent beads as it will show through.
Matte: frosted effect etched onto the surface of the bead. Matte finishes combine beautifully with metallic, AB, transparent and opaque finishes. Matte finishes are very stable and usually resilient to rubbing or fading.
Galvanized: Zinc plating coats the surface of the bead to create a shiny metallic look. This coating is at risk of wearing away or fading.
Permanent Galvanized: similar to the galvanized finish, however the coating is permanent and often shinier. This is a great alternative to galvanized seed beads when used on a piece that will have a lot of friction with skin or fabric.
Metal-plated: metal-plating over glass beads.
Metal: seed beads made of metal. These beads have sharper edges than most seed beads, so use of Fireline thread is recommended. Metal seed beads have larger holes and function well as an inexpensive alternative to spacer beads.
Satin: fiber-optic tubular seed bead with slight striations. Made from a different type of glass than other seed beads, satin seed beads have sharper edges, so use of Fireline thread is recommended.
Opal: semi-transluscent finish that is often achieved with a dye on the surface. This finish is at risk of wearing away or fading.
Dyed: seed beads are coated with a dye that is often impermanent. Dyed seed beads in bright pinks, purples and reds are less stable and more likely to wear and fade.
Methods of Packaging
Seed beads are sold either by “hank” or by gram weight.
A hank is unit bundle of strands of seed beads or bugle beads. A typical hank has twelve 20″ (51 cm) strands of beads. Different sizes and types of beads may be sold in hanks which have different numbers and lengths of strands. Different hanks (age, type, size) have had from 8 to 14 strands, and lengths have varied from 8 to 20 inches per strand.
Japanese beads are sold by gram weight, seldom by the hank. Buying Japanese beads by the hank usually costs about twice as much, therefore, they are not usually sold or purchased from Japan in this manner.
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