Making Sense of Seed Beads

With all the brands, sizes and colors of seed beads on the market today, it's often difficult to know which to choose for your projects.

This article focuses on the most popular brands of size 11/0 seed beads (the most common) available at Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®.

Delica® Seed Beads

Glass Seed Beads by Miyuki Shoji of Japan
Delica Seed Beads

Delica beads come packaged in 7.5 gram vials as shown above.

Delica beads have long been the most popular seed beads for bead-weaving because of their precise size, shape, and consistent hole size.

Bead Shape:

Delica beads were the first to be manufactured using a special process that creates regular, cylindrical shaped beads--which is very different from the manufacturing process of the traditional ''donut'' or standard seed bead shape.

Delicas are available in two shapes, round (circular cut which is cylindrical in shape) and hex-cut. Hex-cut beads are machine cut to form a six-sided exterior; the hole remains smooth and round. Each shape is available in what is called size 11/0 which is slightly smaller than an 11/0 Dyna-Mite™ seed bead. They are slightly smaller, between an 11/0 and a 12/0 size. This is the only size seed bead that is called Delica.

Delica® Seed Beads

Colors Available:

Delica beads are made in every color of the rainbow and every color in between.

Delicas have different glass and surface treatments added to enhance colors, causing them, according to type, or project, to recede, glow or soften.

Enhancements include: transparent, opaque, color- or silver-lined, frosted, pearl finish, silky luster, metallic, gold-lined and even precious metal plated. Delicas also have different finishes added to the top of all of the enhancements mentioned above. The finishes include: matte, a non-reflective finish; iris, resembling colors of oil upon water; aurora borealis, reflections of a transparent rainbow superimposed over the base color; and satin, a soft color etched gently to a matte finish.

Beading Applications:

Delica beads are ideally suited to linked bead-weaving stitches, such as peyote or brick-stitch. They are also excellent for loom weaving, since they stack against one another so well in the weaving process and do not slip.

Shop all Delica® seed beads here.

Toho Beads® Seed Beads

Glass beads by Toho Beads® of Japan
This highly customer-requested brand of seed beads is well-known and loved for consistency in shape and color. Toho Beads began in 1951 and has grown to be a giant of the glass bead-making industry in Japan, largely due to their innovations in manufacturing techniques and dedication to quality.

Bead Shape:

Toho seed beads are mostly available in traditional #11 round. The available stringing hole shapes are round, triangle, square or diamond. These seed beads from Toho were designed to have a slightly larger stringing hole that allows for more passes of your needle and thread. Another advantage of a larger hole is that each bead weighs just slightly less.

Colors Available:

Toho glass beads are consistently colored, ensuring designer-artists have access to the same colors for adding to or re-creating beaded designs. The myriad of colors are available in a range of finishes: opaque, transparent, translucent with galvanized, metallic and other effects to offer a large variety.
Making Sense of Seed Beads

Beading Applications:

Due to the level of precision, Toho seed beads are favorites for use in bead weaving, looming, peyote stitch and basic stringing techniques. Toho also makes its own nylon thread to use with their seed beads. One-G™ 100% nylon thread is specially made to be stronger and more shred-resistant than other nylon jewelry-making threads.

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Dyna-Mites™ Seed Beads

Seed Beads by Matsuno of Japan

Dyna-Mites Seed Beads Dyna-Mites seed beads are wonderfully consistent in shape and color as compared to the standard shaped seed beads on the market today.

Bead Shape:

Dyna-Mites seed beads, made in Japan exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, are best described as a cross between the shape of a Delica bead and a regular, donut-shaped (Czech) seed bead.

Colors Available:

Dyna-Mites seed beads come in a wide range of rich colors with beautiful color saturation and clarity. Dyna-Mite™ seed beads are available in many different finishes: ceylon pastels; silver lined; opaque; transparent color; transparent inside color; and transparent inside rainbow colors. Many of the above are also available with a matte finish.

Beading Applications:

Dyna-Mites seed beads are perfect for just about any seed bead application, such as peyote, brick-stitch, loom weaving, netting, right-angle weave and jewelry-making applications (used as spacers).

Dyna-Mites seed beads are economical and tough--holding up to tight tension in netting, bead weaving and other applications, even to multiple passes of threads through the beads. They are excellent beads and are perfect to stock up on, especially if you are beading on a budget.

Shop all Dyna-Mites seed beads here.

Czech Seed Beads

by The Ornela Company of the Czech Republic

Czech Seed Beads by Ornela have always been considered the ''gold standard'' of seed beads. Bead-making has long been a way of life for the people of the Czech Republic, especially in the Jablonec region. Known in the Middle Ages as Bohemia, this area has been the largest European bead center for hundreds of years, with techniques being handed down over generations of bead makers.

The Ornela Company is a well-respected glass supplier, also servicing the lampwork beading community with a selection of glass colors--their reputation for glass is excellent. Fire Mountain Gems and Beads is proud to be a direct importer and distributor of Ornela seed beads.

Bead Shape:

Czech seed beads are a rounded, almost donut-shaped bead, some with square holes, others with round holes, depending on how they are made and whether they have a coloring or metallic lining on the inside of the bead hole.

Colors Available:

Czech Seed Beads by Ornela are available in a tantalizing variety of colors and treatments, including some colors that closely mimic the ''old colors'' which are only found in genuine antique beads.

The Ornela reds are especially rich and lovely due to the pure gold added while the glass is molten. Not only does the gold make the reds and pinks more brilliant, it also stabilizes the color and prevents it from fading. The rainbow colors are subtle yet glowing, and the selection of ''pearl'' shades is impressive.

Czech Glass Seed Beads

Samples show brilliant rainbow and pearl colors.

Beading Applications:

Czech seed beads can be used in any type of beadwork. However, they are most often found in bead embroidery, especially in Native American regalia-making. Because of the round shape, they are also used extensively in jewelry making--they mimic larger beads and add lovely glints of color to necklaces or bracelets when used as spacers.

Czech seed beads can also be used in loom weaving and in bead weaving, but can cause problems with stitch tension because of their rounded edges. If you wish to use these beads in bead weaving and have not done so before, try a matte-finished bead. Matte-finished beads tend to grip the thread well, making it easier to maintain proper tension.

Shop all Czech seed beads here.

Making Sense of Seed Beads Making Sense of Seed Beads

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Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article "Making Sense of Seed Beads," as featured in an email newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

Giving feedback on the seed bead article... it was very helpful. Now I understand the difference between the delicas and the donut glass beads! Thanks for this.
- Maureen

"The April newsletter on seed beads was fascinating. There were several bits of information I was not aware of. Thank you for the free newsletter and the valuable information each month. Sincerely,"
- Carol

"Really liked this article on seed beads. Now let's have one on the other sizes and how to tell what you are ordering, (like you want Miyuki, but Not Delicas!) And what the sizes are best for, and what sizes there are."
- Jim and Joanne

"Very good like the info on size variation. Would love to find a chart showing actual sizes of available beads. Delica, Ornela, Toho, Dynamite"
- Leigh

"Explaining about the various beads just made me more interested in the possibility of beginning to work with seed beads. Or at least add them to my regular jewelry designs to begin with. Thanks for another informative story. Keep 'em coming, I love 'em."
- Nancy

"Very useful article."
- Virginia

"Thank you for the great summary of the ins and outs of the most popular seed bead offerings. I'm getting ready to do some loom work now and now I have a much better idea of what to order!"
- Christy

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