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Chevron Beads are special glass beads, originally
made for trade in the New World and the slave trade in Africa by glassmakers in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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 beads. 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
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
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
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.
copyright,1998-2014, Great Northern Bead And Gem