Types of beads • Different beads types • What are beads | beadsdirect.co.uk
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Types of beads

Before we get stuck in and focus all our attention on beads types, let's think for a minute or two what are actually beads?

What are beads?

You probably wondered many times, what are beads? Beads are usually small, beautiful pieces shaped in various ways.
In some ancient cultures, even thousands of years ago, beads have been threaded on strings, also other types of threads to become jewellery pieces. Beads have different sizes. From very, very tiny ones, as small as few millimetres. Up all the way to big, chunky ones.

Types of beads - different categories

Beads types can be described and named from different angles. They could be categorised based on such criteria:

  • material
  • shape
  • production process/treatment
  • origin
  • surface pattern -smooth/faceted
  • Grade

This article tries to mix different categories up to conclude the most commonly used types of beads used in the process of jewellery making and beadwork in general.

Types of beads/RANGES

GEMSTONE BEADS (SEMI-PRECIOUS BEADS)

Gemstone beads, also called semi-precious beads can include natural gemstone, enhanced gemstone or manmade reconstructed materials. Available in various shapes and sizes.

There are so many different shapes to choose from, from smooth round, faceted, chips, cabochons and nuggets of semi-precious stones (e.g. amethyst, jade, agate) that are irregular in shape. 

See all semi-precious gemstone beads here >>

CRYSTALOVE™ CRYSTALS

The CrystaLove range are beautiful faceted glass crystals in a rainbow of luscious colours and larger pack sizes than some of their more expensive rivals, making them great value for money and first choice for any discerning beader. They come in different shapes and sizes ranging from bicones, rondelles, rounds etc.

Bicone beads are precision cut crystal glass beads that are shaped like a diamond with facets to give them that extra sparkle. Bicones are widely used for jewellery making because of their dazzling look.

Rondelle beads are more compressed than a round bead so are great as spacers. They come in all finishes and sizes. We even sell a rondelle set with crystals.

See all CrystaLove crystals >>

MATUBO™ BEADS

Made with Preciosa Ornella glass and produced with special surface treatment technology, unique coatings (backlit) and high purity holes, these gorgeous Czech Glass Beads shine a degree higher. The holes have a glossy & smooth surface making them less likely to snag or tear your stringing medium. The beads in the Matubo range consist of ginko beads, superduo beads, gemduo beads and nib-bit beads. 

You can explore this range here >>

FIREPOLISH™ BEADS

These Firepolish beads offer great value for money. Made in the Czech Republic, these beads are machine-faceted and fired to give them that extra sparkle. These beads are a form of pressed glass beads produced in high temperatures. These beautifully faceted beads come in an array of size. 

See all Firepolish beads here >>

NATURAL PEARLS AND SHELLS

Natural pearls can be saltwater or freshwater cultured pearls which are made into beads. Natural pearls are usually pink, peach or mauve in colour, whilst white pearls are usually an off white or creamy colour. Glass pearls are also available which imitate the appearance of pearls whilst maintaining consistency in size, colour, shape and finish.

See all pearl/shell beads here >>

TOHO™ SEEDS BEADS

There are many types of seed beads, colours and shapes, but here the attention will be devoted to TOHO™ beads, a native of Japan. They deserve distinction, because in a mass they are very similar to each other (equal and regular), which allows them to be used in the most precise and sophisticated projects. In addition, their threading hole is larger than in other small beads, so they can be used with a slightly thicker thread, elastic, cord or string. Another advantage is their colour durability. They do not dye the skin or materials used in their vicinity. The choice of colour depends on your own imagination. TOHO™ beads reign primarily in the beading technique and they are also a paradise for supporters of the soutache technique. TOHO™ beads are made of glass and are produced by a Japanese company which since 1957, has been working on improving its products.

Also in the TOHO seed bead family are treasure beads, magatama beads, bugle beads, demi round beads and hex beads. Round seed beads range in sizes of for example size 3/0 (5.5mm), size 6/0 (4.1mm), size 8/0 (3.0mm), size 11/0 (2.2mm) and size 15/0 (1.5mm). 

Treasure beads are the best choice for bead weaving (on or off loom) and beadwork patterns such as peyote, brick stitch and square stitch as they lie beautifully flat.

See all TOHO beads here >>

WOODEN BEADS

Wooden ones are pretty common and are a great addition to your designs. Add an earthy touch to your beading creations with our fantastic range of Preciosa wooden beads. They're perfect for making Macramé designs and yoga-style necklaces. There are a few types of wood being used for wood beads production purposes:

  • Greywood
  • Jackfruit (Asia) 
  • Oak (Europe)
  • Rosewood (Philippines)
  • Patikan (Philippines)
  • Bayong (Philippines)
  • Palmwood

See all wooden beads here >>

BONNY™ CUPCHAIN & CRYSTALS

The bonny range has a selection of glass rivoli crystals and cupchains. Rivoli is braided in many different ways, some of which you can see in our Design Centre where we show you step by step instructions on how to create the right binding for these crystals. Rivoli crystals are circular and feature smooth facets that come to a point in the middle, on the front and back of the crystal. They do not have a threading hole so are primarily used to glue into a setting or base, or they are bezelled using seed beads.

Bonny rivoli’s give you a whole lot of possibilities, depending on how you frame them, you can bring out a completely different character from them. They can look elegant and classic or feisty and modern. Everything in your capable paws! The bonny cupchain is beautiful and uses a range of crystals which are held in place in individual settings which are placed onto metal chain. This cupchain is perfect for bead embroidery, embellishing and incorporating into beadwork.

See the bonny crystal range here >>

MIYUKI™ BEADS

MIYUKI glass beads are popular for their high quality, brilliance, and uniform shape. They are highly sought after by jewellery makers. MIYUKI produces various types and shapes of seed beads such as delica, tila, triangle, magatama, fringe, round and bugle beads. 

See all Miyuki beads here >>

CERAMIC BEADS

Ceramic beads are a great addition to your jewellery pieces, they are so unique and not one bead is exactly the same of the other. The colour, size and finishes can be different from each other which makes them desirable to jewellery makers.

See all ceramic beads here >>

FROZEN™ BEADS

Frozen™ beads are made of are glass with a matte coating which gives off a frosted effect. They come in two shapes, rounds and rondelles in a range of sizes.

See all frozen beads here >>

CABOCHONS

Cabochons can be the heart of many designs, they do not have any holes and have a smooth finish to them. They typically have one flat side and a domed side. Simply glue cabochons into a setting, attach to a foundation and embellish around or use seed beads to bezel around the cabochon. The possibilities are endless.

See all cabochons here >>

MISTIC™ BEADS

MISTIC™ beads are made of glass which have a crackled glass effect. They are imperious, beautifully scattering light rays. They come in two shapes which are oval and round in a variety of sizes.

See all mistic beads here >>

PRECIOSA™ BEADS

Pressed glass beads from the PRECIOSA Traditional Czech Beads™ brand. They are perfect for creating your handmade jewellery pieces and all manner of crafting projects. Durable, affordable and comfortable to use and wear.

See all Preciosa beads here >>


MILLY™ BEADS

Milly™ beads are made of are glass with shiny coating which gives off a lovely effect. They come in two shapes, rounds and rondelles in a range of sizes. Other similar glass beads can be found under the ranges SeaStar™, Candy™ and Mist™

See all milly beads here >>

OTHER TYPES OF BEADS

SHAMBALLA STYLE BEADS

These beads have a clay base with many Czech crystals set closely together over the surface to create a really sparkly, eye-catching bead. These beads are commonly used to create shamballa style bracelets using the macrame technique of square knotting between each bead.

See all Shamballa style beads here >>

CRYSTAL BEADS (SWAROVSKI)

Crystals are crystal beads made out of leaded glass and have a high shine. They are usually faceted for additional shine. The most commonly known crystals are Swarovski Elements but there are Czech crystals too which are of good quality at a cheaper price. Often used for wedding dresses and tiaras, crystal beads are most commonly used for special pieces of jewellery. Clear crystals are often known as rhinestones and can be purchased in a setting (chatons). Also part of the Swarovski family are flatbacks, chatons & rivoli's.  

Flatbacks are crystals set on one flat side so they can be glued on. You can also obtain iron-on flatbacks for garments, also known as hotfix.

Chatons are crystal beads that are faceted, with a pointed back and foiling to reflect their sparkle.

Rivoli crystals are circular and feature smooth facets that come to a point in the middle, on the front and back of the crystal. They do not have a threading hole so are primarily used to glue into a setting or base, or they are bezelled using seed beads. 

See all Swarovski crystals here >>

BUGLE BEADS

Bugle beads are tubular in shape and are cut to various lengths. The bugle beads are part of the seed bead group as they are available in very small sizes and are really useful for creating delicate seed bead jewellery. There are plenty of bugle beads available in different colours, finishes and twists. They are sized in length by using the numbers 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 3 and 5 with 0.5 being the shortest. The diameter of a size 2 and 3 is equivalent to a size 11 seed beads.

Want to learn more about beads? Take a look at our Bead Finishes information page >>

Acrylic beads are very popular and are so lightweight, ideal for kids craft or if you are making bulky designs but require lightweight products.

CzechMates™ Beads are made from high-quality Czech glass and feature fantastic geometric shape such as petal shaped dagger beads, crescents and four-hole flat tiles. These shapes open up a new world of intricate designs.

Les Perles Par Puca™ Beads range was designed by French jewellery artist Annick Puca. These distinctive geometric beads are made from high-quality Czech glass.

Lampworked beads are handmade one at a time by melting slender glass rods with a flame torch. The hot glass is carefully wrapped around a coated wire, which, when removed, forms the hole of the bead. These beads can be made with many different colours and layers of glass and may be highly decorated.

Charlottes are Czech seed beads with one or two small flat facets ground onto their surfaces.

Cloisonné beads are made of enamel fired on a background, usually metal, to produce a mosaic or stained-glass effect. These beads are highly decorative and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Crow beads are large beads shaped like seed beads. Sometimes mistakenly called pony beads, they are commonly made of glass, plastic or wood and are larger than pony beads.

Liquid beads (silver/ gold) are very fine tubes of silver they look “liquid” when strung. Available in lengths similar to bugle beads; great for covering stranded wires.

Pony beads are shaped like seed beads but are larger and most commonly made of wood or plastic, but can be made of glass. Pressed glass beads are formed into special shapes made by passing thick molten rods of glass by hand through an automatic pressing machine.