Beads and Beading 101

By on July 23, 2014
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by Judy Ellis,

Jewelry Tip for July 23, 2014

Beads and Beading 101

For those of you who are beginners, today I thought I’d give you a little introduction into the world of beads and beading. We have a number of great articles on our blog, but this is a great “simple” explanation of beads and beading.

The craft of making things out of beads is called beadwork.

There are many different beadwork techniques and they can be broadly categorized as:

  • Stringing: Bead stringing is the putting of beads on string. It can range from simply sliding a single bead onto any thread-like medium to complex creations that have multiple strands or interwoven levels. ..
  • Embroidery: Bead embroidery uses a needle and thread to stitch beads to a surface of fabric, suede, or leather. Bead embroidery is an embellishment that does not form an essential part of a textile’s structure.
  • Crochet: Bead crochet is a technique that incorporates beads into a crochet fabric. The technique is used to produce decorative effects in women’s fashion accessories.
  • Knitting: Beaded knitting is a type of knitting in which the stitches are decorated with ceramic or glass beads. The techniques are for beads, but knitting sequins (and other perforated objects) can be done analogously.
  • Loom weaving: When bead weaving on a loom, the beads are locked in between the warp threads by the weft threads. The most common bead weaving technique requires two passes of the weft thread.
  • Off-loom weaving: Off-loom beadweaving is the technique of stitching together beads with thread without the use of a loom. Off-loom beadweaving requires only a needle, thread and beads. Seed beads are the most common type of bead used in off-loom beadweaving.

What are Beads?

Beads are small objects of decoration that are usually used in jewelry. In order to be used beads must usually first be pierced so that thread can be passed through them so that they can be joined together on a string.

However beads can also be adhered to surfaces of various items such as wall hangings and sculptures in which case they would not need to be pierced. Beads can also be used to adorn personal items such as handbags and purses. They can also be found in household items such as cushions and table cloths.

What kind of Beads are there?

Beads differ vastly in size from tiny little beads that are too small to handle without precision tools to large beads that are more than a centimeter in diameter.

Please don’t get confused by the term “seed bead”. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the bead is made from seeds, which some beads are. “Seed bead” is a generic term that is often applied to any small bead.


Gemstone Beads Venetian Glass Beads Metal Beads Seed Beads

Beads can be made from all kinds of different material, but some of the most common include:

However beads are also made from many other materials such as:

As you can see you can become very spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding what materials you would like to work with.

Beads have been around a very along time since the first known civilizations. The oldest known examples of jewelry are an approximately 100,000 year old pair of beads made from sea snail shells.


These are four views from different angles of a perforated Nassarius gibbosulus shell found at an archaeological site in Oued Djebbana, Algeria. The shell may be as much as 100,000 years old. The scale bar represents 1 centimeter, or half an inch.

Apart from being used in jewelry and personal adornment beads are also used for religious purposes, good luck talismans and curative agents.

Who Beads?

Hobbyists of all abilities can practice the craft of bead working. The simplest examples of beaded jewelry can be created by a novice beader in virtually no time at all, such as this Quick Bead & Wire Pendant pattern.

CLICK HERE to view the pattern

Experienced beaders may spend weeks of meticulous effort on their beadwork using specialized equipment and tools.

A few additional examples:

Swarovski Skull Beads Silver Plated Round Beads Gold Plated Round Beads Pearls

Getting Started:

Beads are a fun and easy way to start creating, either with wire-wrapping or without! If you’d like to learn more about basic beading techniques, take a look at our Wire Jewelry Books for some great instructional materials to get you started!

We carry a full line of supplies to get you started on your first project! Take a look at our Beading Supplies today!

Bead & Gemstone Containers Bead Tools Beading Boards Beading Wire

Happy Beading!

Do you love this information- why not sign up today for your FREE Jewelry Making Patterns. It’s a great place to start!


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