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The sheer quantity of beads available to purchase is truly astounding – so as a beginner, where on earth do you begin? It really needn't be so baffling! To defy your state of discombobulation, we've compiled lists of common bead types, materials and finishes that you should expect to regularly find in the jewellery making world.
It's apparent that there are many, many types and styles of bead, but what are they all actually made from? Using different materials in jewellery making projects boasts different benefits, so it's key that you really think about how the material you use can affect the appearance of your finished piece. We've selected the top materials you'll expect to find, providing examples of each.
Acrylic beads are regularly found within bead kits and jewellery bundles as they're incredibly easy to accommodate into jewellery projects. The term itself doesn't describe a specific type of bead, but is moreover an umbrella term for beads constructed of plastic – this means they're often light and inexpensive, available in a whole host of colours, shapes, sizes and finishes.
Crystal beads are constructed from high quality glass, so are sometimes also referred to as 'glass beads'. Usually facetted, these beads have incredible shine and lean towards the more luxurious end of the bead market. Crystal beads are available in many sizes, colours and shapes, such as bicones and chatons, with the most frequently recognised crystals being Swarovski and Czech.
Gemstone beads (or 'semi-precious beads') are constructed from semi-precious stones, such as amethyst, hematite and agate, and are highly desired elements for elegant jewellery projects. These organic minerals are often irregular in shape to produce unique looks every time. Available in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes, these natural treasures have a distinctive appearance and a lovely shine.
Metal beads provide a powerful characteristic to jewellery making projects with a strong, impactful presence. This robust material can be presented as plain metal, cast into shapes or engraved with sharp definition for a vintage look. There are many types of metal beads available to purchase, such as gold finished, silver plated, brass, gunmetal and pewter, each providing a different finish.
Pearl beads have a quintessentially classic appearance, favoured for formal jewellery pieces. There are essentially three types of pearls available: saltwater, freshwater or coated glass pearls. Genuine pearls aren't often pure white in colour, but are peach, pale pink, cream or mauve, which means they're usually dyed to a more visually pleasing hue. Pearls are available in a fabulous array of colours and sizes, but are customarily rounded in shape.
Wooden beads are a natural alternative to manmade materials, often favoured due to their rustic charm. These trendy beads can be constructed from ebony, palmwood, rosewood and bayong, among many other types of wood, to produce lightweight beads with a strong visual impact. Wooden beads can be manipulated to a range of shapes, sizes and designs, and can be bought with a variety of finishes, including dyed and varnished.