Glossary of Beading Terms
A glassy plastic-like material which can be molded or cast or used in paints and coatings. Acrylic is molded into plastic-like beads or is used to coat beads to give them color or luster. Acrylic beads are available in hundreds, if not thousands, of shapes and colors, and are generally less expensive than metal or glass beads and are far more durable.
A thin wire or cable made from braiding several strands of thin steel wire together and then coating them with nylon. It is stiff so it does not require a needle to use. Brands of beading wire include Accu-flex, Beadalon, and Soft Flex. Beading wire is extremely strong and durable, although it is prone to kinking. Beading wire cannot be tied in a knot like thread, so jewelry must be finished using crimp beads.
A strand of metal links. Chain comes in a huge variety of styles and metals, can can be used as either a component or entirety of a jewelry design.
This can refer to many things, but in beading it usually means either naturally occuring quartz gemstones, or man-made leaded glass beads. Adding lead to glass beads makes them sparkle more; the more lead, the higher quality the bead. It also adds weight, so really light “crystal” beads are probably just glass. Man-made crystal beads come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors like cubes, rounds, rondelles, and specially shaped pendants of all kinds. There are many types of crystals available, but Swarovski crystals seem to be the most popular and are widely considered the highest quality.
Glass that has a distinctive and intensely colorful metallic appearance which changes as the piece is viewed at different angles. Sheets of dichroic glass can be purchased and worked using fused glass techniques.
Hard dark brown wood from certain tropical trees, often carved into beads and statues.
A silicone-like substance that is baked on metal, glass or ceramic beads to apply decorative color, glossy finishes, or protective coating. Some enamel applications are detailed and contain many colors like a painted floral design. Enamel beads became widely popular during the 60s and throughout the 70s, but were not as common in the 80s and 90s. Today, enamel beads are available from almost any bead retailer and are extremely popular.
A fibrous plant of the Cannabis family, or the fiber from it. Hemp is used in jewelry primarily to make macrame jewelry, especially chokers. Hemp is one of the most versatile plants on the planet and produces a strong fiber. Until recently it has been illegal to grow in the US because it is related to the marijuana plant, but laws are currently changing due to marijuana becoming legal in certain states.
A hard, smooth, white material from the tusks of elephants and sea mammals, used for beads and carved into statues. Harvesting ivory is illegal due to the near extinction of these animals. Synthetic ivory is made from celluloid, casein, and plastic.
Clear plastic thread used for fishing line. It is almost transparent and requires no needle, but is easily stretched and cut, so you may not wish to use it for finished jewelry if durability is a concern. It is useful for trying out designs. It’s also great for the invisible floating necklace look. Buy Illusion Cord
A hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. It is distinct from sap and latex which are also compounds exuded by plants. The term resin is also used to refer to resin-like polymers. Synthetic resin beads are cast in molds and often have a frosted translucent look reminiscent of sea glass. photo credit