Types Of Beads

Acrylic Resins are transparent man-made resins that are used in making molded plastic beads.

Amber is a fossil resin that is found primarily in the Baltic States and dates from the Oligocene period (40-60 million years ago). It is also found in China, Myanmar (Burma), Sicily, Romania, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Baroque Pearls are irregularly-shaped pearls.

Bone Beads are mostly made form cow or sheep or camel bones today and are a byproduct of the food industry. In fact they have always been part of the food chain. Today most bone beads come from Indonesia where they are made by hand in small factories and private homes. Bone is a durable material that is hard enough to wear well, but soft enough to be worked with nearly any hard tool. Modern bead makers have the advantage of steel tools and powered machinery. This makes bone beads both abundant and inexpensive.

Bugle beads have different lengths but all bugle beads will be longer than they are thick, creating a tubular shape.

Cased glass which is also known as layered or overlay is glass in which one color is surrounded by a different color. It is usually a bold opaque and white or a paler color covered by brilliant transparent hues. These beads are transparent red over white glass or opaque pink or yellow. Beads that have a white core and lack a red exterior are called white hearts.

Cathedral Beads are known for their brilliant colors and beautiful metallic trim which is reminiscent of stained glass windows.

Charlotte cut beads are seed beads that have a single facet per bead to add sparkle. These are called the most brilliant of all seed beads. Two-cut beads are similar to charlotte seed beads, but are not technically the same. Two-cut beads have two flat faces rather than one.

Chevron Beads are special glass beads, originally made for trade in the New World and the slave trade in Africa by glassmakers in Italy as far back as the early 15th century. They are composed of many consecutive layers of colored glass. The initial core is formed in a star-shaped mold, and can have anywhere between five and fifteen points. The next layer of glass conforms to that star shape. Several layers of glass can be applied (typically four to seven layers), either star-shaped or smooth. After all layers have been applied, the glass is drawn out to the desired thickness and when cooled, cut into short segments showing the resulting star pattern at their ends. The end can be ground to display the chevron pattern. Chevron beads are traditionally composed of red, blue, and white layers, but modern chevrons can be found in any color combination. Original beads made for trade to the New World and Africa were typically composed of green, white, blue and red layer.

Cloisonne is an enamel, that has surface decorations set in hollows, which are formed by strips of wire welded to a metal plate. It is an ancient metalworking technique that was first developed in the Near East. It spread to the Byzantine Empire and from there along the Silk Road to China. Chinese cloisonne is arguably the most well known of all the varieties of cloisonne and enamel making. Russian cloisonne from the Tsarist era is also highly prized by collectors. Chinese cloisonne is sometimes confused with Canton enamel, a similar type of enamel work that is painted on freehand and does not utilize partitions to hold the colors separate.

Combed glass is a form of decoration that is considered to be one of the earliest decorative techniques. It is also call raking or dragging, because the look is attained by stroking a pointed tool across the lines of the bead for the purpose of forming patterns. These patterns are usually zig-zags, scallops, waves, festoons, or feathering (in which up and down strokes are alternated across parallel lines).

Compound means having two or more distinct layers of glass one of which is layed upon the other in a bead.

Conus shells are the shells from a thin-walled cone-shaped mollusk. It has a thicker apex which can be cut and made into a disk. These shells have been used in jewelry making for the past 5,000 years.

Copal is a softer fossil resin often used as a substitute for amber in areas such as Africa and South America where amber is not found. It does have a lower melting point and decomposes in a relatively short time, which makes it less desirable than amber. It is however considered to be rare, so that most examples found are plastic imitations.

Coral has been used since ancient times to make beads. It comes from marine animal skeletons belonging to the invertebrate phylum Cnidaria (coelenterata). This is the same group that sea anemones and jellyfish belong to. Two varieties of coral are used in jewelry making hard stony corals and softer horn-like corals. They both consist primarily of calcium carbonate (just like shells). While stony corals are considered to be more precious and have colors ranging from white, pink, orange, rid to black, horned corals have a greater color variation including yellow, blue and metallic gold. Sometimes the color is enhanced by dyeing. The stony corals are harvested in the Mediterranean and South China seas, while the horned corals come from the Red Sea, the Philipinnes, and Hawaii. It is important to remember that only dead coral is harvested. Coral is protected and therefore it is illegal to harvest live specimens.

Cornaline dAllepo means Aleppo (Syria) carnelians. They are compound beads in which a reddish glass is put on top of a white, yellow or pink core. It was originally made to imitate banded carnelian onyx beads and stones that were popular in western Asia.

Cowrie shells are mollusks that are related to snails and in ancient times were used as a form of currency. Today and in earlier times they have also been popular in jewelry for their symbolic shape.

Crumb glass is an easy method of decorating glass beads by rolling the softened bead over multicolored glass pieces which creates the look of dots and blotches.

Cubic Zirconia is a synthetic gemstone developed in 1977 to look like a diamond.

Cylinder beads are a new shape of Japanese seed bead that has become increasingly popular during the last decade. Unlike regular rounded seed beads, the cylinder beads are quite uniform in shape and size and have large holes for their size. Because the ends are flat instead of rounded, work created with cylinder beads has a flat, smooth texture. Rows and columns in weaving line up more uniformly, so pattern work comes out more accurate and even.

Dagger Beads are also called as spear beads. They are a type of pressed glass bead and are used primarily in necklaces or earrings.

Czech drop beads are very versatile in shape so that they can be used in just about any style of jewelry. They are a type of pressed glass bead that is identifiable by the hole drilled through the top.

Dichroic Beads begin as glass sheets, high tech equipment then applies the coatings under vacuum, tiny chips of the dichroic are then incorporated into the traditional bead styles producing a innovative mixture of old world style with the latest technology. The uniqueness of the dichroic beads is their individuality no two are ever alike and when held in the sunlight they will appear different as a result of the coatings.

Increasingly, dichroic glass is being used to produce high-end art beads. Dichroic glass has a thin film of metal fused to the surface of the glass, resulting in a surface that has a metallic sheen that changes between two colors when viewed at different angles. Beads can be pressed, or made with traditional lampworking techniques. The metal coating used was originally developed by NASA for the space program.

Druk Beads are round pressed beads that have been produced in Bohemia for centuries.

Eye Beads are decorated to resemble an eye. These beads date back to Ancient Egypt and have symbolic meanings. They are often used in amulets. Today beads of any material that contain a circular or spotted decoration are referred to as eye beads. They can range from very simple to very complex crumb beads and mosaic beads.

Firepolish beads are one of the most popular components for jewelry making. Faceted rounds are usually used because of their classic look and brilliant sparkle. Shapes such as triangles and octagonal faceted beads are found more in vintage style jewelry.

Fire-polished beads are faceted glass beads made in the Czech Republic. They are faceted by machine and then drawn through ovens to make the surfaces molten, and thus shiny when the beads cool. This method of polishingis faster and cheaper than buffing and results in a reasonably attractive bead, though generally less perfect than buffed beads. Czech fire-polish beads are made in an area called Jablonec nad Nisou. Production of glass beads in the area dates back to the 14th century, though production was depressed under communist rule. They commonly come in sizes from 3 mm (0.12 in) to 22mm (0.87 in).

Florato beads are Venetian beads that are decorated with flowers. They get their name from the Italian word fiore, which means flower, hence florato meaning small flowers. The bead can be made in any technique, such as gold foil, silver foil or sommerso, however on the outside there will always be a small flower which is drawn using molten stringers of colored glass. Many times there will also be decorations on the exterior of the piping. Florato beads require more skill than sommerso for making and are therefore usually more expensive.

Fusible beads are also known as Perler Beads, and are sometimes called melty beads by young children. These small, plastic and colorful beads are placed on a peg array with a solid plastic backing to form pictures and designs and then melted together with a clothes iron. Fusible beads come in many different opaque colors, transparent colors and with sparkles (flakes inside the plastic) and peg boards come in various shapes (e.g. figures) and squares and rectangles. They also can be strung into necklaces or bracelets, or even woven into key chains.

Furnace Glass Beads are a special type of art bead. They are made using traditional glassworking techniques from Italy that are more often used to make art glass objects. The manufacture of these beads requires a large glass furnace and annealing kiln. Furnace glass beads, also called can glass beads, are sliced from long glass rods, often decorated with stripes and other color, also known as canes.

Heishi (pronounced Hee-Shee) is a term that was used by the Pueblo Indians to describe shell disks of a consistent size that have been drilled and strung together as a necklace. This created a rope-like tube that is symbolic to a moving serpent. Today thin, uniform disk-shaped shells, gemstones and metal beads that have the centers drilled and strung in a row are known as a Heishi.

Lampwork Beads are made by using a torch to heat a rod of glass and spinning the resulting thread around a metal rod covered in bead release. When the base bead has been formed, other colors of glass can be added to the surface to create many designs.

Lampwork means that the beads have been worked over a flame. The same technique has been used for thousands of years with the only change being in the energy source.

Lampworking is the process of heating and manipulating glass using a Bunsen burner or something similar that is usually fed with liquid fuel and made hot enough so that it can melt glass by forced air. While we know that it dates back 500 years and more, little is known about it prior to the 16th century when Venetian and other European glass makers began incorporating it into their bead making.

Lead Crystal Beads (also known as machine cut crystal) are cut crystal beads made with hi-tech precise machinery. Thanks to this state of the art machine cut processing the crystal items achieve outstanding geometry and excellent optical parameters. Many lead crystal beads are enhanced with surface coatings. Aurora Borealis, or AB, is a very common surface coating that diffused light into a rainbow. Other common surface coatings are vitrail, moonlight, dorado, satin, star shine, heliotrope.

Swarovski along with Preciosa branded crystal beads are prized by jewelers and hobbyists. They are a high-lead content crystal although today production of lead-free crystal is common. Lead crystals have an incredible sparkle and clarity, and are often multi-faceted to resemble gemstones. Styles and colors go in and out of production, so vintage cuts and colors are often prized with a similarly associated price tag. Swarovski along with Preciosa bicones are the most popular crystal beads in sizes 4mm and 6 mm.

Lucite Beads is a term that commonly refers to many plastic beads. However, Lucite is one of the many name brands used to describe Poly(methyl methacrylate)(PMMA) or poly(methyl 2-methylpropenoate) the synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylated. Lucite methyl methacrylate polymer was among the first high-pressure technology developed from ammonia production. The polymer crystal-clear appearance and its strength were far superior to nitrocellulose-based plastics. Lucite was in heavy demand during World War II for use in windshields, nose cones, and gunner turrets for bombers and fighter planes. After the war, DuPont marketed it for use in a variety of decorative and functional uses, such as lamps, hairbrushes and jewelry.

Millefiori Beads are also referred to as thousand flowers, lace beads or mosaic. These Venetian beads originated in Murano, Italy, and have been popular for centuries. It is made by gathering a small ball of clear or matching color transparent glass, rolling the ball over small slices of the millefiori cane or carefully placing the miillefiori slices on the ball. The bead is continuously rotated and evenly heated until the millefiori slices are completely formed into the bead.

The millefiori techniques involve the production of glass canes or rods, known as murrine, with multicolored patterns which are viewable only from the cut ends of the cane. Millefiori beads are made of plain wound glass bead cores and thin slices of cut cane (murrine) which are being pressed into the bead surface, forming mosaic-like patterns, while the glass is still hot. Another name for Millefiori bead is mosaic bead.

Millifiori was created by the fusion of several glass rods arranged so that the cross-section creates a flower or pattern with a mosaic-like appearance. For the past 600 years, glassmakers have applied the cane pieces to a separate base, which is one of the ways you can distinguish these from earlier millifiori beads.

Porcelain is a transclucent white ceramic that is made from kaolin clay and feldspar. It is believed to have been first made by the Chinese in the 7th century AD. The term originally was coined by the Italians porcellana means little pigs in Italian and refers to its similarity to cowrie shells, which are called piggy shells in Italy.

Pressed Glass Beads are formed by pressing the hot glass into mold to give the bead its shape. Often pressed beads are made using machines that stamp the shape from the molten glass. The shapes can have holes punched in virtually any direction. The Czech Republic is the primary producer of pressed beads, although India and China also produce significant amounts.

Seed Beads are uniformly shaped, spheroidal beads ranging in size from under a millimeter to several millimeters. Seed bead is a generic term for any small bead. Usually rounded in shape, seed beads are most commonly used for loom and off-loom bead weaving. They may be used for simple stringing, or as spacers between other beads in jewelry. Larger seed beads are used in various fiber crafts for embellishment, or crochet with fiber or wire.

Slave Beads (often called Trade beads) were otherwise decorative glass beads used between the 16th and 20th century as a currency to exchange for foods, services and slaves (hence the name). Made to ease the passage of European explorers and then traders mainly across the African continents, the beads were made throughout Europe although the Venetians dominated production. Trade beads are also found in the United States and Canada, and throughout Latin America. The production of slave beads became so popular that literally tons of these beads were used for this purpose. Beads were used as ballast in slave/trade ships for the outbound trip. The beads and other trade items were exchanged for human cargo as well as ivory, gold and other goods desired in Europe and around the world. The beads traded were not of a set design, but were produced according to demand. Millefiori (thousand flower) beads from Venice, Italy were one of the most commonly traded beads, and are commonly known as African trade beadsĀ. They were produced by creating flowers or stripes from glass canes that were then cut and molded onto a core of solid color. Beads such as the kiffa beads of Mauritania are thought to have resulted from women creating powdered glass beads to mimic the appearance of millefiori beads. The success of this form of currency can largely be attributed to the high intrinsic value African people put upon decorative items. Africans often used beads for currency, (often referred to as African money) and wealth storage, and social status could be easily determined by the quality, quantity and style of jewelry worn. This created a high demand for trade beads in Africa.

Sommerso means submerged in Italian and refers to how the bead is made - small flecks of color, are suspended inside transparent glass.

Table Cut Beads are also known as window beads because they have only two large cuts, or windows, on each side, which gives them a flat table-like appearance. Many of them have the look of a two tone color, which is achieved by using a core color and an outer finish.

Tagua Nut Beads come from the ivory-nut palm, Phtelephas aequatorialis, a plant that can be harvested for vegetable ivory. It is often used for beads, buttons, and jewelry, and can be dyed. The beads can take a form of the whole Tagua nut or various slices, beads and shapes carved and cut from raw Tagua nuts. In its natural form Tagua resembles Ivory and hence the name vegetable ivory is sometimes used to describe it. However unlike Elephant ivory Tagua is completely eco-friendly.

Trade beads or Slave beads are various types of beads made in Europe specifically to be used in the slave trade and other trading in Africa. Chevron beads are a specific, historically important type of trade bead. Africa was not the only outlet for these beads. As far back as Christopher Columbus expeditions, these beads were traded to Native Americans for goods and slaves.

Vintage Beads in the collectibles and antique market, is a term used to refer to an item that is 25 or more years old. This term and its meaning have been widely adopted in the bead industry as well. Vintage beads are available in a variety of materials including Lucite, plastic, crystal, metal and glass.

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