Glossary of Beading Terms

Beads

Bali beads

Bali beads

Originally, Bali beads referred to sterling silver beads made individually by hand in Bali, Indonesia. The style has since been mass produced and sold under the same moniker.

Barrel Bead

Barrel Bead

Barrel refers to the shape of the bead – the bead can be made of any material such as metal, glass, wood, or plastic. photo credit

Bicone

Bicone

A type of bead that looks like two pyramids or cones stuck together at their bases. photo credit

Bugle Beads

Bugle Beads

Bugle beads are thin tubular shaped glass beads manufactured in lengths from 2 millimeters to 35 millimeters and a width of 1-2 mm. Bugle beads can be threaded into jewelery or glued to fabric as decoration. These beads can be used to great effect in cascading style necklaces. Necklaces consisting purely of silver bugle beads are sometimes called liquid silver. photo credit

Cabochon

Cabochon

Piece of semi-precious or precious stone that is cut and polished, but that contains no facets. Often large and oval.

Charlotte Beads

Charlotte Beads

A type of seed bead where one side is cut (faceted), making them sparkle. Originally they were only made in 13/0 and therefore charlottes in other sizes are sometimes referred to as “true cuts” or “one cuts”. photo credit

Cowry

Cowry

Sometimes spelled cowrie, these shells are rounded, shiny, and have a porcelain-like appearance. They are egg-shaped and smooth with colorful patterns and a long, narrow, slit-like opening. Historically, cowry shells have been used as currency in Africa, China, and India.

Crow Beads

Crow Beads

Crow beads are similar in shape to seed beads and pony beads, but much larger and more squarish. They are cut from tubes of glass or plastic and tumbled and polished to give a smooth rounded, slightly oval finish. Crow bead size is commonly 9mm (with 5mm hole) or 6mm (with 3mm hole). They are popular for using in hair braiding, fringe, and some Native American styles of jewelry.

Czech glass

Czech glass

Glass made in the Czech Republic, where the tradition of craftsmanship in glass-making goes back centuries. Also called Bohemian glass or Bohemia crystal. photo credit

Fire-polished

Fire-polished

A form of “polishing” used in Czech glass beadmaking that employs heat rather than abrasion to buff a bead’s faceted surfaces. The heat causes the surfaces of the bead to melt just enough that they become shiny. These beads are less expensive to produce but also more likely to have imperfections. photo credit

Furnace Glass Bead

Furnace Glass Beads (also known as Cane Glass Beads) are adapted from Italian glass-making techniques. These beads use large decorated “canes” built out of smaller canes encased in clear glass and then pulled out to shape the beads with twisting, linear, or stripe patterns. Although they may sometimes look like blown glass, no air is used to make these beads. They do, however, require a furnace and an annealing kiln to make.

Hank

Hank

A hank is made up of multiple strands of beads. Many bead shops display strands of beads in hanks and the buyer can purchase as many strands as they need. The number of beads per strand and strands per hank depends on the type and size of bead. A hank of size 13 seed beads contains twelve 20-inch strands, approx 400 beads per strand and 5000 beads per hank. A 16-inch strand of 6mm round beads only contains 68 beads. The average 6mm bead hank contains 10-12 strands. photo credit

Heishi Beads

Heishi or heishe beads are small disc or tube shaped beads usually made of stone, shell or wood. They were first made from shell by Native Americans of the New Mexico area. Authentic heishe beads are handmade and can take days to produce strands of 2 – 3mm beads. Strips of shell or stone are drilled with evenly spaced holes, cut into squares, then shaped and smoothed by hand. The beads are beautifully smooth and uniform donut shapes.

Lampwork

Lampwork

Lampwork beads are made by melting narrow rods of glass by hand over an open flame (usually a torch). The glass is wrapped around a thin metal rod (a mandrel), which later becomes the hole through the bead. Many effects can be achieved through using various colors of glass and various techniques. Lampwork beads can also be crated into small figurines such as faces or animals.

Miracle beads

These unique beads have a lucite (acrylic) core which is coated with a silver mirror-plated layer and finished with several layers of colored lacquer. The result is an illusion of depth or a “bead within a bead”. I’m not sure if this qualifies as a miracle, but they do look pretty cool.

Name Beads

Name Beads

Beads with letters on them that can be used to spell names or other words. Also called alphabet beads.

Prayer Box

Prayer Box

A small metal compartment or box worn around the neck as a pendant. Also called a “wish box”. Similar to a locket, but made to hold a piece of paper securely rather than to show a photo. Prayer boxes usually open either through a latch or through unscrewing the top.

Rivoli

Rivoli

A shape of bead that consists of two short wide cones stuck together at their bases (like a flying saucer). In other words, they are round and come to a point in front and back. They do not have holes, so to incorporate one in jewelry you need to have a setting for it, like a cabochon. Usually a bezel setting is used–you can make one with seed beads using peyote stitch, or purchase metal ones. photo credit

Seed Bead

Seed Bead

Available in an amazing array of colors, finishes, and styles, they are most often used in bead weaving and loomwork. Larger sizes are smaller, with 11/0 being the most common.

Venetian Beads

Venetian Beads

A style of glass bead making originating in Venice in the late 1800s. Antique “fancy” Venetian Beads are rare and prized by collectors. Today, many types of beads made by hand in Murano and Venice are sold under this label. Generally the term denotes a very high level of craftsmanship and that the beads are made individually by hand.