In yesterday’s post we looked at manufacturers, sizes, and some shapes of seed beads. Today we’ll finish looking at shapes and talk about finishes. The names companies use for these might change but the shapes and finishes stay consistent.
Round and cylindrical seed beads aren’t the only ones out there. The popularity of these small beads for jewelry has created an explosion of new shapes. Larger bead companies, such as Miyuki and Preciosa Orneia make many of the shapes. Virtually all of these shapes are available in 11/0 (size 11) beads. Fewer shapes in a more limited selection of colors are available in other sizes.
Hex: Instead of rounded sides, these beads have flat sides. If you see them from the top they look like nuts with very large holes for their size. For stitchers an advantage is that the beads will sit flat on the canvas. The disadvantage is that the angles will still show and will catch the light differently.
These beads can also be called ‘two-cut.’
Preciosa Orneia also makes a rounded version of the hex called 3 Cut.
Drops: These beads have their hole near the top and hang down with a small bulb. They were originally designed to be the end beads on fringe, hence their other name, fringe beads.
These are a great choice for stitchers when you want the bead to hang down like a Christmas ornament, because the hole at the top will create a more secure connection to the canvas. If you don’t want them to hang down per se, just attach them a thread higher on the canvas. Be aware though that if you use these beads your beads will move.
Triangle: These beads have a triangular shape when seen from the top. Miyuki triangles have rounded corners with flat sides, creating a bead that will lay flat on the canvas, but won’t have strong contrasts on color. Preciosa Orneia’s triangles have sharp corners. If you want the look of a hex bead but want it to lay flatter on the canvas, try these beads.
Slant-cut: These beads,called Magatama by Miyuki, have slanted ends, just as penne pasta does. Their hole is off center, so it can be used as a fringe bead would be. However the cuts give an angular instead of a rounded look. To my eye they look larger than other 11/0 beads.
Tiles: Miyuki calls their tiles Tilas and they are made in two-hole and one-hole versions. The two-holes are called Tilda and they are square You can read my review of them here).
New is a half-width, but still two-hole version, that’s rectangular called a Half-Tila. These are great choices for needlepoint when square and rectangular beads are needed, especially for larger areas.
Preciosa Orneia makes an oval two-hole bead called twin. While these are smaller versions of other oval beads, the two holes will give them more stability on canvas.
Rectangles: Preciosa Orneia makes seed beads that have square and rectangular cross sections.
Beads come in dozens of colors and finishes but some are given specific names. When looking at bead finishes the first distinction to make is whether the beads are opaque or transparent on the outside.
If the beads are transparent the color surrounding the hole has an effect on the color you see on the bead. If the hole is a color, called inside dyed color, that will be the color of the bead, but it will look as if you are seeing the color through glass. You get a similar effect if you use colored thread and a completely clear bead.
If a transparent bead, colored or not, is lined with silver it used to be called rocaille, but is now called ‘silver-lined.’ These beads give the effect of a more sparkly version of the outside color.
You can also have transparent beads with no inside hole color.
There is a wider range of finishes in opaque beads. Usually beads are called opaque if you cannot see through them and they have a matte or slightly shiny finish (i.e. the natural finish of glass).
Other finishes are applied to the outside of the beads. Some are only available on opaque beads, others come in both opaque and transparent beads. All of these add more sparkle than the natural finish of the bead.
Aurora Borelis, abbreviated as AB, is on of the most common finishes. It adds rainbow-like highlights to the color. If you think of the effect of a thin layer of oil on a puddle when the sun hits, you’ll know what AB looks like. Another common name for this finish is ‘Rainbow.’
Luster creates a soft glow for the bead. It’s similar to the glow of pearls. When applied to the inside of beads, this finish is called ‘Ceylon.’ You will also find Ceylon as a finish on crystals.
Metallic a finish that turns plain color into metallic colors. These finishes can also slightly change the color making it bronzed, silvery, or more gold. The use of metallic finishes has greatly expanded the color finishes of beads. Sometimes for colors, this finish is called’galvinized.’
Frosted This finish turns the naturally shiny surface of the glass matte. More commonly these days, this finish is not singled out but these beads are just called matte beads.
Plated beads have a metal plating on them. They are both more fragile and more expensive than regular beads.
Warnings about Using Beads
While most beads can easily be used in needlework, in some cases you need to make modifications.
If you are using bugle beads, always use beading thread and/or strengthen your thread. These beads do not have finished edges which can be sharp and cut your thread.
Plated beads have finishes that can flake off, especially when rubbed.
Some beads have colors that can fade in sunlight.
Miyuki has information and a guide to durability on their page about bead finishes.