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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.
But it's not all about the type of bead! Product descriptions often describe the way beads they look after they've been formed, providing details on how they've been finished or what they've been coated with. Thus, here's a list of popular bead styles, explaining exactly what each term means.
Sometimes you'll come across the term 'AB' in the description of a bead – this stands from Aurora Borealis, so takes inspiration from the Northern Lights. This shiny coating is often also described as 'iridescent' as it reflects a radiant rainbow of colours as the light hits it at different angles.
Constructed from transparent glass, lined beads have their insides coated with colour to produce a dual-tone effect. There are two main types of lined beads: colour-lined and silver-lined. Colour-lined beads have opaque dye lined inner walls, while silver-lined beads have a mirror-like inside coating for a reflective effect.
Lustre beads have a distinct shiny finish with a pearl-like sheen, gleaming as they catch the light. These beads can be solid in colour, transparent or opaque, and have a transparent finish applied to them to produce the glossy effect.
Matte beads have an almost powdered texture and muted or frosted finish to hinder their ability to reflect light. These beads are mostly used to complement focal beads, to add another texture to projects, or to create jewellery pieces with a little quirk.
Metallic beads truly stand out from the crowd, offering a bright, vibrant finish. These beads aren't necessarily made of metal, but offer the visual characteristics of the material when coated with a metal-like glaze, usually a form of bake-on paint.
Opal beads have a cloudy, milky or translucent appearance with a sort of glow about them. Due to their ability to transmit light, they can feature small patches of shifting colour as the light moves through them.
Opaque beads are solid blocks of colour that don't transmit any light, usually featuring a shiny appearance with a gemstone-like finish.
Translucent beads are made from cloudy glass or acrylic that can transmit light, but aren't transparent enough to clearly see through them.
Transparent beads are made from glass or acrylic that transmits light truly and purely, allowing you to see directly through them – even if they're coloured!