As if it isn't difficult enough to figure out all of the different types of seed beads, the sizes and seed beads and what they mean, the colors and finishes of seed beads, you also have to figure out how the beads are packaged and what the best deal for your bead buying budget is.
Seed beads are typically sold one of three ways: by the hank, by the strand or by the gram.
A hank of seed beads is a bundle of strands of seed beads. The bundle can range from 10 to 14 strands - but very often have 12 strands. The strands themselves can also vary in size - but are usually about 20 inches in length (10 inches long when the strands in the bundle are folded in half), depending on the manufacturer, type of seed bead, and age. Czech beads are sold by the manufacturer in hanks, but they may be re-packaged by stores to be sold by the gram.
The number of grams in one hank of seed beads will vary according to the type of bead. One hank of 11/0 seed beads may contain approximately 4000 seed beads and weigh between 20 and 50 grams.
Most beads sold by the strand are larger beads that are measured in millimeters as opposed to aught sizes. Large seed beads measure from 3mm and up and are sold in 20 inch strands. In all honesty - beads of this size are not typically referred to as seed beads, even though they may still be made of glass and be available in similar colors and finishes.
By far, the most common way to buy seed beads is in tubes, vials or bags measured by the gram. Japanese seed beads are typically sold in packages by the gram. It can be difficult to judge how many seed beads are in each size package and compare the packages to get the best value for your money. For instance, long skinny tubes of beads will appear to have more beads than small ziploc bags with the same amount of beads. Our minds can play tricks on us when it comes to the packaging - so it's important to understand how many grams are in each type of package.
Of course, seed beads don't all weigh the same amount. Even beads that are the same type - i.e. 11/0 Miyuki seed beads, may each have a slightly different weight depending on the type of finish applied to the bead. Metallic seed beads may weigh slightly more than others because of the finish added to the bead to make it metallic. The difference can be quite substantial. According to a chart at Fusion Beads, regular finish 11/0 seed beads can have 1050 beads per 10 gram package while metallic finish of the same beads can have less than half that - 487 beads per 10 gram package!
As a point of reference, you can expect that 11/0 seed beads have approximately 110 beads per gram, 8/0 seed beads have approximately 40 beads per gram, and 6/0 seed beads have approximately 12 beads per gram. Understanding the quantity of beads in each package can help you ensure you have the right amount of beads for your next project.
For a detailed chart on the number of beads per gram for each major type of seed bead, refer to the Seed Beads Per Package chart at Fire Mountain Gems.