Seed Beads 101 - A Jewelry-Maker's Guide to Seed Beads

Seed Beads 101 - A Jewelry-Maker's Guide to Seed Beads Seed Beads 101 - A Jewelry-Maker's Guide to Seed Beads
by Susanne Kathol, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

A Jewelry-Maker's Guide to Seed Beads gives you the valuable knowledge you need to buy the right seed beads and design with confidence. Find information on seed bead sizing, finishes, shapes and more, all in one place, including FREE printable seed bead resources and charts for quick and easy reference and hassle-free product ordering.

What is a seed bead?

A seed bead is a generic term for any small glass bead. Seed beads are usually donut- or cylinder-shaped beads ranging in size from under a millimeter to several millimeters. Seed beads are most commonly used for loom and off-loom bead weaving and simple stringing, such as spacers between other beads in jewelry.

Seed Bead Sizes

Seed Bead Sizes Seed beads are classified by a number that relates to their size, such as 6/0, 8/0, 11/0, 12/0, 13/0 and 15/0. The biggest key to understanding seed bead sizing is the concept that the smaller the number, the larger the bead. This means that a 6/0 seed bead is larger in size than a 12/0 seed bead. The 0 used in the measurement is pronounced aught and can be denoted by a slash followed by a zero or a degree mark. For example size 11 can be written 11/0 or 11°, and is referred as "size 11" or "11 aught" seed beads.

This sizing number is historically based on the idea that bead manufacturers would refer to their standard-sized beads in the largest quantities as size 0 or null. Smaller size beads such as 10/0 were therefore beads that were 10 times smaller than the size 0 or null bead.

The size measurement also correlates with the number of beads that will fit into a given inch when the beads are lined up side by side (with the holes parallel to each other, as in the ladder stitch). For instance, size 8/0 would equal eight beads to one inch. Keep in mind this is just a general rule of thumb, as there can be variances in this measurement based on the manufacturer, the type of glass used and the bead's finish.

View Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' FREE printable ''Seed Bead Sizes and Hole Sizes'' conversion chart to find the approximate diameter of the different seed bead sizes available. Keep in mind the length of seed beads will vary depending on the shape, brand and due to different manufacturing processes, coatings and finishes. This chart also includes approximate bead hole sizes and recommended wire gauge sizes for jewelry-making projects.
Seed Bead Sizes and Hole Sizes Chart

Types and Shapes of Seed Beads

Get to know the many different brands and shapes of seed beads available for any jewelry-making and beading project you can imagine in the illustrated Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Seed Bead Brands, Shapes and Styles Index.

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads offers a robust line of Delica® seed beads from Miyuki, a Japanese manufacturer of seed and cylinder beads recognized worldwide for their standard of high quality. Speaking of high quality, we also carry Toho Beads®, a customer-favorite precision-cut Japanese seed bead. We are also a primary distributor of Preciosa traditional Czech glass beads, known for their exceptional color and size consistency. We offer our own brand of Japanese seed beads as well, Dyna-Mites™, by Matsuno® of Japan, available in a wide range of colors. And economical Ming Tree™ seed beads too. View all the seed and bugle bead product offerings organized by brand, style, size and finish, including a convenient shop by Delica bead number reference guide, to find exactly what you're looking for.

Seed Bead Brands, Shapes and Styles Index

The mostly widely distributed seed beads come from Japan and the Czech Republic. Here's an illustrated index of the majority of seed bead brands, shapes and styles available on the market today.

Seed Beads Seed Beads - small glass beads that resemble plant seeds. There are many types available, but the most widely distributed seed beads come from Japan and the Czech Republic.
Bugle Beads Bugle Beads - long, skinny tubular-shaped beads available in twisted, straight and hex-cut varieties. Great for use in ladder stitch and stringing designs.
Square Seed Beads Cube or square beads - small square beads.
Delica® Seed Beads Delica® - high-quality cylinder-shaped seed beads by Miyuki of Japan, perfect for precision loom and off-loom work. Available in sizes 8/0 and 10/0, and most commonly in 11/0.
Toho Beads® Seed Beads Toho Beads® - precision-quality glass seed beads from Japan loved for use in bead weaving, looming and peyote stitch. Available most commonly in 11/0.
Dyna-Mites™ Seed Beads Dyna-Mites™ - Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' brand of seed beads made by Matsuno® of Japan. Excellent for loom work and available in a wide range of colors.
Fringe Beads Seed Beads Fringe seed beads - also known as "teardrops" or "drop beads." They are available from both Czech and Japanese manufacturers.
Hex 2-Cut Seed Beads Hex 2-cut Beads or Hexagon Beads - a six-sided bead with regular facets that looks like a hexagon when viewed from the end. Also referred to as "two-cuts."
Magatama Seed Beads Magatama - from Miyuki of Japan, the long magatama is an angular drop-like bead used as a fringe bead.
Matsuno Seed Beads Matsuno - a Japanese bead manufacturer.
Ming Tree™ Seed Beads Ming Tree™ - Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' brand of economical seed beads.
Miyuki Seed Beads Miyuki - a Japanese bead manufacturer of seed and cylinder beads, including the Delica brand. Their beads are considered very high quality.
Pony Beads Pony beads - also known as crow beads, are large-sized seed beads often made of acylic.
Czech Glass Seed Beads Czech glass seed beads - renowned for the quality of its seed beads. Size and shape may vary slightly and color may vary from dye lot to dye lot.
Rocaille Seed Beads Rocaille - a term used for the traditional seed bead shape. These are donut-shaped and slightly oval; the ends are rounded. Available in many sizes and brands and can be used in weaves both on- and off-loom, depending on the uniformity of the specific beads.
Tila® Beads Tila® Beads - square flat beads with two holes running in parallel.
Triangle Seed Beads Triangle seed beads - triangle-shaped beads with triangular-shaped holes ensuring the beads sit correctly in a design.
Twin™ Seed Beads Twin™ - two-hole seed beads, size and shape may vary slightly and color may vary from dye lot to dye lot. Testing for colorfastness is recommended.

Seed Bead Coatings and Finishes

There are many unique coatings and finishes available in seed beads, producing a multitude of color options for unlimited design potential. View the illustrated ''Seed Bead Finishes and Treatment Durability'' to quickly familiarize yourself with the different seed bead coatings and finishes.

As with any applied coating or finish, there is always the possibility of fading through long exposure to sunlight, or wear through day-to-day use. Learn more about the color and treatment durability of seed beads with Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' printable ''Miyuki Seed Bead Finishes and Treatment Durability Chart'' and ''Delica® Color Durability Chart''.
Seed Beads 101 - A Jewelry-Maker's Guide to Seed Beads

Buying and Measuring Seed Beads

Seed beads are sold either by "hank" or by gram weight, packaged in strands, tubes or bags. Czech seed beads are often sold by the hank, a unit bundle of strands of seed or bugle beads. A typical hank has 12-14 strands of beads ranging from 14-19 inches in length. However some beads may be sold in hanks with different lengths or number of strands.

Japanese beads are commonly sold by weight, measured in grams. Overall, the number of beads in a hank or tube will vary, depending on the size of the bead, type of glass and finish. Fire Mountain Gems and Beads offers FREE printable seed bead buying guides to help estimate the number of seed beads a particular tube, package or hank will include. View our ''Seed Beads Per Package'' resource for more detailed information.

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