A Definitive Guide to Seed Beads
Seed beads are as essential to making jewellery as is an engine to making a car.
When it comes to seed beads, there seems to be some confusion and the usual questions gets asked regarding the size and needle to use with seed beads. Then we have different names types, manufacturers and country of origin which further confuses people.
Here you’ll find the most definitive seed beads sizing and information guide.
Some of the terms you’ll hear and people will often inter-change are seed beads ( generic), Czech seed beads, Miyuki Delica, Rocailles, Treasure, Aiko, Toho tree, Dyna-mites, Ming Tree etc.
All of the above are referred to as seed beads in generic terms with the obvious reference to the fact that they are tiny and all look like seeds.
The original or vintage seed beads were made in Bohemia when it was a part of Austr0-Hangarian empire which became Czechoslovakia and yet again the republic split into two independent country the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Bohemian tradition of cutting glass and seeds beads is still alive but slowly dying out due to costs and the entrance of competitors. Czech republic still offers the most variety and the quality is still unparalleled only to be surpassed by Japan in terms of consistency and uniformity of the beads. Lots of people credit Murano in Italy is the birth place of seed beads but this claim cannot be verified – Murano did have a rich tradition of glass beads & glass making e.g murano, millefiori beads etc. Germany & France also had some presence earlier during during the last century but that tradition almost died. France had specialised in faceted metal beads and similar seed beads but that tradition is lost as well only to be picked by Miyuki from Japan when they started producing their Delica seed beads.
Among other competitors to enter this market Japan produces the most uniform, high quality seed beads. Seed beads produced in India & China are of inferior quality but a lot cheaper – beads from these countries are not always uniform in shape and can have dye issues where colour from the beads is transferred to clothes. Most of the seed beads sold in retail markets is imported from China & Taiwan or India – unless explicitly stated that the beads have been imported from Czech republic or manufactured by Miyuki from Japan.
Japanese Seed Beads
The Japanese seed beads are perhaps the best quality seed beads in the market today and are mainly manufactured by three big companies – Matsuno, Toho and Miyuki. Toho and Miyuki has a very strong brand name and often their seeds beads are sold as Toho seed beads and Miyuki seed beads respectively. Since the quality in terms of the shape of the seed beads is high, you’ll get their beads to be symmetric, uniform and the consistency is always there. With this quality and consistency, comes higher prices as well. A word of caution, the beading size will differ from the rest of the seed beads e.g Japanese seed beads seems to be taller and the hole is also wider compared to its diameter.
Czech Seed Beads
The major seed bead supplier from the Czech republic is Preciosa and even though over the years, the Czech market may have lost some market share to other competitors mainly the Japanese seed beads manufactures at the high end and Indian/Chinese manufacturers at the lower end, it still remain a sentimental favourite among many beading designers. Czech seed beads are pretty much the original pioneers in this industry and still offer the natural softer and more natural round shapes, compared to the more precision-cut Japanese beads. Its more vintage, traditional and offers more shapes and is still a pioneer in offering more versatility as well as more colours. Most artists prefer the authentic Czech beads in embroidery, clothing and other handicrafts due to the natural look and feel of the Czech seed beads – the fact the hole is slightly bigger and you can pass threading multiple time is also an added advantage.
Indian & Chinese Seed Beads
Seed beads manufactured in both China & India are very similar in make & feel and often the difference in not visible to a naked eye. However, these are cheaper versions and consistency might be lacking but some Chinese manufactures are known for producing high quality seed beads. These seeds beads may not be suitable in a Peyote, brick stitch, look work or even some high end fashion designs or clothing due to their unevenness and the fact that the uniformity of the beads is missing. These are ideal for necklaces, bracelets where this unevenness may actually add some contrast but threading these seed beads might also be frustrating & difficult at times as the holes may not be uniform either.
Seed Beads Types
There are too many types and it will be difficult to mention all of them as the seed beads styles keep on evolving but I’ll touch on the main types.
Round Seed Beads: These are the most common embroidery, jewellery making beads and I do not know of any jewellery making supplies or a beads shop that does not have these beads. You can find the below types of round seed beads
Clear: Round beads which are transparent or clear in colour – probably the most commonly used seed beads.
Opaque: Opaque seed beads are solid colour coated beads. Miyuki uses galvanised Duracoat technology to create them. To determine if these are solid enough you can hold them to light and see if light passes through them or not. A properly formed opaque seed beads will not allow light to pass through.
Lustre: Lustre seed beads are again coated seed beads to give it the extra shine. Regular coated or lustre beads will last and retain their colour. Colours will normally not rub off, fade or change due to wear & tear or UV light. Some died or special lustre beads like gold etc might fade and are not that durable. Most of the renowned and reputable companies will not have any discolouration or fading problems.
Two-tone: Two tone seed beads are an amalgamation of two colours interwined into a single bead. You can use a number of colours to mix and match to produce any two tone seed beads. Two tone beads are now available in different shapes & pretty much all different combinations.
Silver lined: Silver lined beads are usually transparent or a clear outer layer but inside the hole there is a silver lining and it is the presence of this silver lining which reflects and is the shinny part. To enhance the reflectiveness, hole is usually square shape as it helps with the reflectiveness. The inside silver lining is very much like a mirror and behaves in a similar fashion.
Plain: Plain or clear seed beads are the exact same thing. Please refer to clear seed beads.
Colour seed beads: Coloured seed beads can come in any shape or form and hundreds of different colours. It would be an impossible to list all the colours as colours are often mixed together to create new colours and shades.
AB or Aurora Borelis: Also referred simply as ‘AB’ , ‘AB Coated’, Rainbow or Aurora Borelis seed beads. It is another way of coating the seed beads similar to an opaque seed bead but the main difference is that coating is done in such a way that the colour looks different from different angles ( iridescent). The coating is typically applied to an opaque or a transparent bead. The coating will contain many hues and mostly these come in darker colours where the effect is more vivid.
Bronze Lined: Toho, Preciosa and all major seed beads manufacture have these in stock. These are similar to silver lined seed beads with the obvious difference that a bronze enamel/coating is applied to the inner hole which gives it the bronze / brown look.
Copper Lined: Similar to bronze lined as the technique is the same. Coating is applied to the inside of the clear bead to give it the effect of a reddish colour or copper look.
Colour Lined: Taking the technique applied to bronze and copper lined beads, it is extended to different colours and you have hundreds of different colour lined seed beads.
Delica: One of the most commonly used seed beads are these cylinder beads also known as Delica beads which are manufactured by Miyuki. Other leading Japanese manufacturer is Toho which produces “Treasure and Aiko”. As stated previously the Japanese cylinder seed beads are the highest quality beads when it comes to uniformity, quality control since these are produced by state of the art machinery using the latest CAD programming, moulding techniques and sharp laser cutting. With this high quality comes slightly high prices but these beads are lighter than normal non-Japanese seed beads so if you are buying by weight, expect to get more beads for your money. These beads also have other characteristics which make them kind of unique – the holes in these beads are larger compared to the diameter and are considered over-sized which makes them ideal for scrapping, embroidery and a number of other projects. Mill Hill is relatively an unknown American supplier of cylinder seed beads and made an entry into this market via their magnifica brand – it has been reported that their cylinder beads are actually manufactured by Toho beads company in Japan.
Frosted transparent: Frosted & Matte are interchangeable terms and often refers to a dull colour due to a lack of shine, it looks a bit frosty. It does have a polished surface which gives it a frosted look. These are solid colours seed beads and therefore no light can pass through. A number of techniques and youtube videos are available to illustrate the frosting process and already there are a few chemicals available in the market which can matte or frost your beads.
Galvanized: Galvanized seed beads are coated with a metal like substance. Miyuki uses Duracoat to galvanize its beads. The coating is shinny and after its application the beed looks like a metal bead rather than a glass bead. The coating will come off on the more cheaper and inferior qualities of seed beads. An alcohol/bleach test can be performed on the actual bead overnight to see its proper effects. Exposure to sunlight may also cause a bit of wearing off particularly in the Australian summer.
Luster: Luster beads are also known as Opaque, transparent or opal beads. These beads look transparent have a definite shine and can be coloured into most colours. It is suppose to be a permanent colour and these are known to retain colour over time with the normal wear & tear.
Matte: Please refer to “Froster Transparent” section
Picasso: I think the idea behind these seed beads by Miyuki was a representation of an artistic work similar to Picasso. These were introduced as part of the Miyuki collection & has spatter paint across them giving them a very artistic flair as well as an earthy look. They could resemble gemstones but one thing is for certain tat each bead is unique and there is no symmetry between two beads other than the shape it represents. It uses the Miyuki patented technology “Duracoat” which is thicker and stronger than the normal coating.
Roccailles: Pretty much any round seed bead today is interchangeably referred to as a rocailles ( pronounced as roh kai). However, historically the rocailles were round in shape but mostly silver lined with square holes. Toho has gone back a bit in the past and introduced new roccailles with square holes as demanded by customers due to their easiness in placing in different design works. Preciosa also uses round hole Ornela rocailles and are considered very highly for their quality.
Silver, gold or metal-lined: Very similar to any other lined seed beads – basically the only difference is the colour. The metal lining inside the hole of the seed beads for more durability and threading than for aesthetic reasons. Often the lining is silver, gold or copper.
Transparent: Round beads which are transparent or clear in colour – probably the most commonly used seed beads.
Translucent: A cross between transparent and opaque seed beads. If you put them against a light, the light will pass through.
Aiko: Aiko beads are manufactured by Toho (Japan) and these are manufactured to the most stringest standard compared to other seeds beads by Toho. Aiko beads are available in an unbelieveable 1000 different colours and are the same size as delica and treasure beads.
Mill Hill Magnifica: Mill Hill is an American company which made an entry into the seed beads market through their “Magnifica” brand. It is a division of Wichelt Imports based in Wisconsin.
Dichroic: There are no dichroic seed beads available in the market at the writing of this article but what some individual have done is something totally amazing by creating dichroic seed beads to an amazing affect by coating dichroic glass over cylinder seed beads. Since these are specialised beads and created by individual artists, expect to pay some good money for them.
Berry Beads: Berry beads, Farfalle, Peanut shape beads refer to the same – these beads look like a peanut shape seed bead or two beads joined together. Berry beads were introduced by Miyuki.
Bugle: Bugle beads are from the seed beads family but can be classified as beads on their own. Bugle beads are long and thin like a tube shape which are cut into different length, size and colours. These can be cut, plain, twisted or hex and just like seed beads depend on their country of origin and will vary according to quality & pricing. Bugle beads can be used for any beaded jewellery projects, but also can be used in a number of other purposes like clothing, cards, craft, embroidery, leather – the longer bugle beads are great for lampshade fringe and dangling earrings.
Charlotte cut beads: These beads are the most sought after seed beads and difficult to find and source. These are technically also difficult to produce with any consistency in terms of shape and form as these are very small beads like any other seed beads and make matters more complicated & difficult, these are faceted as well to give it that extra shine and sparkle. You’ll find a lot of Charlotte cut beads as polished beads one one side of the faceted side. A typical Charlotte cut beads has only a single side which is faceted but there are also Charlotte beads with two or three polished faceted sides on a Charlotte bead often referred to as two cut or three cut beads respectively.
The default size for Charlottes is 13/0 but are also available in 6/0, 8/0, 15/0 sizes.
Corolla beads: Czech seed beads in the shape of a four-leaf clover (PRECIOSA Corollas) are made by cutting glass tubes with a straight or super-twisted surface. Corolla seed beads come in four different sizes as well in twisted shapes.
Cube: as the name indicates seed beads also come in cube shape. Normally the cube seed beads come in limited sizes ( 3) but bead manufacturers are adding more sizes as the demand grows.
Cylinder: One of the most commonly used seed beads are these cylinder beads also known as Delica beads which are manufactured by Miyuki. Other leading Japanese manufacturer is Toho which produces “Treasure and Aiko”. As stated previously the Japanese cylinder seed beads are the highest quality beads when it comes to uniformity, quality control since these are produced by state of the art machinery using the latest CAD programming, moulding techniques and sharp laser cutting. With this high quality comes slightly high prices but these beads are lighter than normal non-Japanese seed beads so if you are buying by weight, expect to get more beads for your money. These beads also have other characteristics which make them kind of unique – the holes in these beads are larger compared to the diameter and are considered over-sized which makes them ideal for scrapping, embroidery and a number of other projects. Mill Hill is relatively an unknown American supplier of cylinder seed beads and made an entry into this market via their magnifica brand – it has been reported that their cylinder beads are actually manufactured by Toho beads company in Japan.
Drop: As the name indicates, the drop beads looks like a normal drop bead and the hole is drilled into the top/side of the seed beads rather than the center. You’ll find that these are also used as fringe beads and often called as fringe or tassel seed beads.
Farfalle: Farfalle beads, Berry beads, Peanut shape beads refer to the same – these beads look like a peanut shape seed bead or two beads joined together. Farfalle beads were introduced by Matsuno.
Fringe: Fringe beads are the same as a drop bead ( see drop beads).
Hexagon or Hex: These are faceted beads with six sides as suggested by the name “Hex’. These are amazing seed beads due to their tiny size and the difficulty of creating facets when working with such small sizes. Hex beads are mostly made by the Japanese manufacturers and also are known for a radiant shimmer.
Magatama (Drops): Magatama beads are very similar to drop beads but resemble a water drop more closely than a normal oblong drop. Magamata takes the meaning from its literal word in Japanese meaning “curved bead”. Magamata seed beads are manufactured by both Miyuki & Toho in Japan. Normally magamata seed beads are larger and broader than a drop seed bead.
Macco Beads: Macco seed beads are like the normal tube beads but are super thin & thus suitable for embroidery or clothing. Macco beads are mostly manufactured by Preciosa and are available in three sizes.
Macrame Beads: As the name indicates these are seed beads with large hole where a thicker threads can be use – these beads are ideal for macrame type of work. Usually you’ll be use wooden beads for macrame but seed beads are increasingly used for macrame as well.
Oblong: These are commonly known as Preciosa oblongs as these are almost exclusive to them. These beads come in two sizes 5 X 3.5mm and 10 X 3.5mm and according to Preciosa these are unique offering from them and are slightly different from the normal oblongs in that these have more rounded shape. The oblongs are also available in bevelled round edge
Peanut Shape Beads: Peanut shape beads, Farfalle beads, and Berry beads refer to the same – these beads look like a peanut shape seed bead or two beads joined together. Peanut shape beads beads were introduced by Preciosa.
Square (cube): Having a square shape beads means you can have a larger hole which is ideal for threading thin leather as well. Preciosa has introduced diamon shape holes ( still square or cube beads) which has even better control. They offer both the conventional square (cube) as well as twisted square beads.
Star: Very similar to Corolla seed beads by Preciosa but it has six round petals for ming a star instead of the four sides in a Corolla.
SuperUnos: SuperUnos are a diamond shape seed bead with a widened middle and a bit of a taper towards the end. The hole is a reasonable 0.8mm and comes in a variety of colour. The same colour pallet as SuperDuo and Rulla seed beads. A number of manufacturers are producing SuperUnos and SuperDuos seed beads
SuperDuos: Are very much similar to SuperUnos but the obvious difference is that they have two holes.
Three Cut Beads
|Column 0 Value||Column 1 Value||Column 2 Value|
Seed Beads Sizing Chart
|Bead Aught Size||Diameter (mm)||Hole Size (mm)||Beads Per Inch||Beads Per Hank||Beads Per Gram||Additional Notes|
|1/0 or 1º||6.5|
|2/0 or 2º||6|
|3/0 or 3º||5.5|
|4/0 or 4º||5|
|5/0 or 5º||4.5|
|6/0 or 6º||3.3||10||2100||15|
|7/0 or 7º||2.9||11|
|8/0 or 8º||2.5||13||2880||38|
|9/0 or 9º||2.2||15||3156|
|10/0 or 10º||2.0||16||3540|
|11/0 or 11º||1.8||19||4080||110|
|12/0 or 12º||1.7||20||4440||190|
|13/0 or 13º||1.5||22||4980|
|14/0 or 14º||1.4||24||5580||255|
|15/0 or 15º||1.3||25||5800||290|
|16/0 or 16º||1.2||6720||900|
|18/0 or 18º||1.1|
|20/0 or 20º||1.0|
|22/0 or 22º||0.9|
|24/0 or 24º||0.8|
Miyuki Seed Beads Sizing Chart
|Hex 2-Cut 11/0||2.0||0.8|
Matsuno Seed Beads Sizing Chart
Round Hole Rocailes = RR
Square Hole Rocailes = SR
(Hexagon)Two-Cut = 2CUT
(Hexagon)Two-Cut Bugles = 2CUT B
Round Hole Bugles = RB
Square Hole Bugles = SB
Cut – Off Beads = CUT OFF
Twist Bugles Beads = TW
Drop = DR
Peanut = P
Spiral = SP