Beads are the most important part of beaded jewelry. You can create a different look just by changing the beads of a jewelry piece. The secret of making stunning beaded jewelry lies in using the right type of beads for your projects. Knowing your beads will give you an advantage not only in choosing the right beads but also in the designing process. Choose bead combinations to create unity and harmony in your jewelry pieces. There are literally 1000’s of beads available today, therefore I will only list the most popular beads used by jewelry makers.
Type of beads:
Glass beads are available in dozens of colors, shapes and sizes . It is perhaps the most versatile and most used medium for beads. The smallest ones called seed beads are often used for embroidery, loom work, and bead stringing. Bugle beads are also long small cylindrical tube beads. Millefiori beads are highly colorful patterned beads, mostly with flower patterns. Lampwork beads are also colorful beads made by lampwork artists over an open flame. These pretty beads have a lot of delicate detail about them. Venetian glass beads are hand-blown glass beads made either in Venice or the Italian island of Murano. Some people refer to it as Murano beads. These dichroic (which means 2 colors) beads are often inlaid with gold or silver foil, therefore the name silver foil beads. It is very trendy to use a large one like the pink heart bead in the photo as a pendant. Chech glass beads are very popular as well, especially the faceted crystal-like glass beads.
Swarovski beads are the world’s finest faceted crystal beads. They are made by the Swarovski company in Austria. The crystals are formed by adding lead oxide to glass which give it the sparkle that sets them apart from other crystal beads. These high quality beads come in a range of colors, shapes and sizes.
Czech crystal beads are also very popular and affordable. They are available in a variety of color, shape and sizes.
If you want to add the ‘wow’ factor to your jewelry then this is definitely it.
Hill tribe silver beads:
Hill tribe silver beads are handcrafted and 95 to 99% pure silver, higher than sterling silver. They originate from the Karen tribe in Northern Thailand. If you’re looking for unique and extraordinary beads then this is for you.
Sterling silver beads:
Sterling silver beads are 92.5% pure silver. Sterling silver beads are extremely popular with jewelry makers and the perfect compliment to any jewelry design.
Bali beads are handcrafted sterling silver beads from Bali in Indonesia. Some people use the term bali beads to refer to beads made in the style of silver beads from Bali. When buying bali beads, make sure you are dealing with a reputable seller that doesn’t sell cheap imitations which are cast from molds.Bali beads can add a bit of texture to your design.
Plated beads are cheaper and good for practicing and first projects. You can choose from a range of silver, copper, gold, and brass.
Pewter is an alloy that consist of 95% tin with copper and antimony. Most pewter beads today are lead free.
Cloisonne beads are enameled metal beads with flowery patterns. It makes me think of a stained glass window.
These beads have a thin layer of karat-gold over a brass, copper or metal base, unlike gold plated beads. The layers of gold placed over gold-filled beads varies in thickness, therefore some might wear off more quickly than others. Gold plated beads wear off much faster than gold-filled beads which are much more durable. Gold-filled beads give you the choice to work with gold in your design at a fraction of the cost.
14Kt Gold beads:
If you’re daring enough, then go for gold!
Go to any store that sells quality beaded jewelry and you will find gemstone earrings, bracelets and necklaces. Gemstones can add a natural element to your design. Because these beads tend to be more expensive, they are best strung on sturdy threads to prevent the beads from being lost if the thread breaks. Try mixing a variety of stones with good color combinations to create interesting designs.
I highly recommend Treasure-Cut-Gemstones if you need more information about gemstones or would like to purchase loose gemstones.
Beads from natural materials such as wood, bone, mother of pearl, shell, bamboo, seeds and clay, offers you the opportunity to create traditional pieces or jewelry with an ethnic feel.
Pearls are one of my favorite beads due to its beauty and sophistication. Natural pearls are extremely rare and still one of the most desirable items of jewelry. Most pearls that are grown and marketed today are considered cultured pearls. Cultured pearls are formed by inserting a small object into the tissue of an oyster or mollusk.
Cultured pearls can be categorized into four types:
Akoya (Japanese) pearls 5mm-11mm
Black Tahitian pearls 9mm-16mm
South sea pearls 10mm-20mm
Freshwater pearls 2mm-16mm
South sea pearls are the most expensive while freshwater pearls are the most diverse and affordable. Pearls are graded in four categories:
AAA+ highest quality, virtually flawless, high luster, clean surface, perfectly round.
AAA high luster, clean surface.
AA medium luster, slight surface imperfections
A lowest quality, low luster, heavy blemishes
You can buy pearls from online stores, retail shops, bead shows and auctions. Buying pearls can be a major decision because many people sell faux or imitation pearls. Make sure you buy from a reputable seller. There are a few things you can do to test if pearls are real. Run a pearl over the edge of your teeth. A real pearl will feel sandy and gritty, where faux pearls will have a smooth texture. Another way is to try rubbing two pearls against each other. The layers of nacre from real pearls will leave a powdery residue.
Polymer clay beads
Polymer beads are made of polymer clay, which can be blend together to make different colors like paint. You can either make your own beads and bake them in an oven or buy them. Most hobby stores sell polymer clay. There are different types of PC on the market. The most well known brands are Sculpey and Fimo.
I highly recommend JEM -
Jewelry Making and Beads Library
for valuable information on beads, stringing materials, tools, illustrated techniques, gallery designs, and information articles.
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