The Buyer’s Guide to Seed Beads – Part 1

When it comes to seed beads, there are so many different types and variations of them that it can be quite confusing to work out exactly what you need for your beading projects. Choosing the right seed beads can make a huge difference to how your beadwork will turn out when it’s finished.

In this article, part 1 of The Buyer’s Guide to Seed Beads, I’ll outline the main types of seed beads and what to look out for when choosing them.

What are seed beads?

Seed beads are small (or tiny) beads that look a little bit like plant seeds, hence the name! They can be used to create amazing jewelry pieces and for embroidery projects too. They come in a range of sizes, shapes and finishes.

Generally, seed beads are divided into the following main types – Japanese Cylinder Beads, Japanese Seed Beads and Czech Seed Beads. You can find cheap seed beads manufactured in China but it’s often worth spending a little extra to buy the best quality beads which come from Japan and the Czech Republic. Examples of Japanese manufacturers are Miyuki, Toho and Matsuno.

Seed bead types explained

Japanese Cylinder Beads

Miyuki manufacture the well-known Delica beads, which are a very high quality cylinder shaped bead. They are extremely precise in shape and size which makes them perfect for beadweaving projects that require a flat and even finish. Delicas are very lightweight beads with thin walls and they have a large hole for their size, which allows beading thread to pass through many times.

Another popular range of cylinder beads also manufactured in Japan are Toho Treasures. These are almost identical to Miyuki Delicas and can be used as a substitute for them in order to achieve the same kind of beaded effect. Another brand of cylinder bead is the Toho Aiko bead. These are available in a large range of colors but the like for like sizes are a little different to Miyuki Delica and Toho Treasure beads, so they can’t easily be used as a direct substitute.

Japanese Seed Beads

Miyuki, Toho and Matsuno manufacture a round seed bead (round seed beads are also known as Rocailles).These seed beads are also very high quality and uniform in size.

Czech Seed Beads

Seed beads manufactured in the Czech Republic are donut shaped beads. They have small holes so they are not always practical for beadweaving projects. They are not uniform in size but they often look very pretty and they can still be used for certain beadwoven pieces where irregular shape is needed. Czech seed beads work very well in bead embroidery projects. Czech seed beads are usually a little cheaper to buy than Japanese seed and cylinder beads.

Seed bead sizes

The most common sizes of seed beads that you’ll come across are sizes 6/0, 8/0, 11/0 and 15/0. Seed bead sizes are a little confusing because the smaller the bead size, the larger it is! For example a size 6/0 seed bead is larger than a size 11/0 seed bead. Size 11/0 seed beads are very popular for use in beadweaving and size 15/0s are very tiny and can be tricky to get hold of.

Other seed bead shapes

You can find seed beads in a range of other shapes as well as round and cylindrical. Charlotte beads are round with a cut on one side, to give them a slightly flat edge. Tri-cut beads are cut on three sides and hex beads are cut on six sides. The treatment of these particular beads gives them a bit more sparkle when they reflect the light. Miyuki and Toho manufacture triangle and cube beads and you can also find Miyuki Magatamas – these are curved teardrop beads.

Seed bead finishes

In addition to the many types, shapes and sizes of seed beads, they are also available in a wide range of finishes! Here are some that you might have seen or heard of already:

  • Color-lined – these are seed beads with a colored lining on the inside of the seed bead and transparent glass (clear or colored) on the outside.
  • Silver, gold or metal-lined – these are lined on the inside to give a metallic effect. The outside is made from transparent glass (either clear or colored).
  • Transparent – completely transparent (clear or colored) on the inside and out.
  • Frosted transparent – slight see through with a frosted matte finished.
  • Opaque – these are seed beads which are a solid color. You can find these in a shiny or matte finish.
  • Luster – seed beads finished with a pearlized sheen.
  • AB – designed to reflect and sparkle, this is a rainbow finish.
  • Galvanized – a frosted metallic finish.
  • Picasso – this finish adds a mottled or marble effect to seed beads.

In summary

There are so many beautiful seed beads available and each type can be used to create an amazing piece of jewelry. The challenge is in knowing which seed beads to use for particular types of projects! In part 2 of The Buyer’s Guide to Seed Beads I’ll be explaining about seed bead techniques and the types of projects you can create with them.

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