1. What are glass seed beads?
Seed beads are uniformly shaped, spherical beads ranging in size from under a millimeter to several millimeters. "Seed bead" is a generic term for any small bead. Usually rounded in shape, seed beads are most commonly used for loom and off-loom bead weaving. They may be used for simple stringing, or as spacers between other beads in jewelry. Larger seed beads are used in various fiber crafts for embellishment, or crochet with fiber or soft, flexible wire.
Seed beads have been around for almost 500 years. They are the most versatile beads ever invented, and are used for jewelry, clothing, purses, sculpture, textile and so much more. They are very popular because of their sizes, finishes, shapes and price. They have found their way into all cultures and traditional costumes. Highly treasured among bead weavers, they are used to make stunning jewelry and bead embroidered collars and bracelets. These wonderful beads are made of glass. So we also call them glass seed beads.
Seed beads were first made in Italy for use in beaded purses, but were mainly used as trade beads, especially by the French fur traders who used them to trade seed beads for pelts. Because of this, these tiny beads soon found their way into the Native Americans bead works and also in African tribes. They used the beads and developed several beading techniques that we use today, like Brick stitch, Peyote stitch and African helix.
The Italians began to make seed beads in the 15th century, but seed beads are found in graves in Egypt, and also in Nigeria and Spain, dating 4000 years back. So these small cuties are a pretty old invention.
The mass production of seed beads started in Italy. Murano in Italy was a prominent producer in the 19th century, but no longer make seed beads today. Italy still produces them in Venice, but in smaller scale. Their beads are cut by hand, and the length of the beads are there for uneven.
Today there are four major seed bead producers, Preciosa Ornela in the Czech Republic (former Bohemia), Miyuki, Toho and Matsuno in Japan. You can also get seed beads from China (Ming tree), India and Taiwan, but they are of lesser quality and are less uniform in size, hole and finish.
When Czech seed beads were mentioned, both Jablonex and Preciosa came up, or just plain Czech seed beads. In 2009 Jablonex group in the Czech Republic sold the glass and seed bead production to Preciosa Ornela. So Preciosa is now the right and only name of Czech seed beads.
The Italians did not only produce the traditional round little bead, the Rocaille, but began producing bugle beads in the end of the 15th century in Venice. It took Bohemia a couple of hundred years before they followed their competitors and started producing bugle beads first in the 18th century. However Preciosa Ornela is the largest producer of seed beads in the world today.
The Japanese production is quite young, starting with Matsuno who was established in 1935 and Miyuki following up in 1949. However what they lack in experience they have gained in quality. Japanese seed beads are today's most uniform beads when it comes to size, color, hole and finish.
A. Round: This is the most common shape of seed bead. Round seed beads have rounded edges and resemble small donuts. They can vary widely in shape. Czech seed beads and Japanese seed beads are examples of round seed beads.
B. Bugle: Bugle beads are tube beads of various length. You can get them plain or twisted, and even two-cut and hexagon cut. The quality varies depending on where they are produced. The Czech bugle beads are not polished after cutting, and have there for sharp and uneven ends, that easily cut the beading thread if you are not careful. The Japanese are polished and have clean endings.
C. Triangle: These beads are triangle shaped. They come in three sizes and are produced mainly in Japan. These cute beads have triangle shaped holes, which ensures that the beads will lay correctly in your design.
D. Drop: These beads are drop shaped, and are also called fringe beads. They have the hole in the center of the bead, and come in four sizes.
E. Cube: you can get cube beads in three sizes. The cube beads made by Toho have diamond shaped holes, that allows the beads to lay correctly in your design.
F. Magatama: These are drop beads as well, but instead of having the hole in the center they have the hole off center, something that makes them look like curved beads. They come in two sizes from Miyuki and Toho and are similar to the drop beads, only they are larger, wider and broader in shape. Long Magatama beads resemble a dagger or the spear shaped Czech glass bead, but the holes in the Magatamas are on a slant so that they lean in one direction when strung.
G. Peanut: These are new beads from Matsuno and they are peanut shaped with a hole in the middle. They are similar to the Czech Farfalle beads.
H. Tila: Tila beads are small, square-shaped beads with two holes that are manufactured by the Miyuki Company of Japan.
Seed beads come in a huge variety of finishes, so you have piles of beads to choose among. It can be a bit overwhelming, because there are so many finishes, and new ones are developed all the time. There are however some that are common from all four producers. When it comes to sizes and finishes, a bead with a finish will be slightly larger than one without one.
Anyway here is a list of the most common finishes.
A. Color lined: Color coat applied inside the bead
B. Transparent: Glass is see through
C. Translucent: Can see diffused light through the bead
D. Opaque: Solid color throughout the bead
E. Matte: Matte finish
F. Silver lined: Silvery coating applied inside the bead
G. Copper lined: Copper coating applied inside the bead
H. Bronze lined: Bronze coating applied inside the bead
I. Luster or Luster: A transparent pearl effect applied to the surface of the bead
J. AB (Aurora Borealis): Rainbow effect applied to the surface of the bead
K. Metallic: Iris coating or bronze luster glazed, gunmetal, iris bronze
L. Gold luster: Gold luster glazed
M. Ceylon: Luster coating or inside coloring of opalescent beads
N. Dyed color: Color on the surface
O. Galvanized: Silver plating on the surface
P. Silky luster: silky color with satin finish
Q. Special plating: 24KT gold, Palladium, Nickel etc. Inside gold, inside copper, dyed
R. Frost: matte, frosted beads. Frost rainbow, matte bronze, matte gold luster.
A. Rocailles: rocailles are the most used type of glass seed beads. They were created in Venice, Italy in the 15th century. These beads have been produced industrially in Bohemia since the 18th century.
These round-shaped seed beads are manufactured using unique technology for cutting glass tubes with round or square holes into various sized pieces which are then rounded and polished when hot and subsequently classed by size and shape. Round holes also called round-H-rocailles and square holes often called square-H-rocailles.
B. 2-cut This crosscut used to be done by double cutting; therefore they are called 2cut beads. Two-cuts are seed beads in the shape of longer cylinder cut from tubes with a round hole and with a hexagonal crosscut (or twisted hexagon), that are further tumbled and polished by heat to get rid of sharp edges after cutting
C. Three-cuts are seed beads in the shape of two-cuts cut from tubes with round hole and with the surface in the shape of a hexagon. They are cut while strung on a wire on specially shaped grindstones to achieve beveled edges at the end of the seed bead and also to create some randomly placed facets
D. Bugle: in the shape of a roller are known as PRECIOSA bugles or rods. The production technology for PRECIOSA bugles is similar to that used for PRECIOSA rocailles, however the cut rods with various shaped holes (round, square or hexagonal) are not rounded, but are merely fine tumbled in order to smooth off any sharp edges and heat polished. In order to produce an increased and more effective sparkle, PRECIOSA bugles are produced with a twisted or extra twisted hole or surface which in PRECIOSA bugles can be round or square, straight or twisted. The variability of the PRECIOSA bugles is therefore enormous.
Aught Size mm diameter beads per inch
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7. Janpanese Seed Beads:
Japanese seed beads are tiny glass beads that are made in Japan.
A. Japanese seed beads are slightly larger than Czech seed beads and Japanese cylinder beads. They are more cylinder shaped than Czech seed beads, but still have very round edges. Their holes are large enough to allow several thread passes through each bead.
B. Japanese seed beads are available in 15/0, 14/0, 11/0, 10/0, 9/0, 8/0, 6/0 and 5/0.
C. Japanese seed beads have a truly incredible range of colors and are available in almost 900 different colors. You can find your basic opaque and transparent seed beads as well as color-lined, luster, metallic, matte, shimmering and gilt-lined.
D. Manufactures of Japanese seed beads:
Miyuki Co., LTD
Matsuno Glass Beads Co.
Toho Co., LTD
Each of these manufacturers has a slightly different process for manufacturing their beads, so there will be slight variations in size and shape in the beads from each company. But because they are so similar in size and shape, you can easily mix beads from different manufacturers in the same project.