10 Seed Bead Tips, Facts, and More!
While roaming the aisles at Bead Fest, I overheard a few ladies talking about beads – seed beads, that is. They were trying to help each other understand the difference between a size 11 Delica and a size 11 Czech seed bead. One didn’t believe there was a difference and the other knew one was made in Japan and one was made in the Czech Republic. AND, the one in the Czech Republic has facets. I loved their enthusiasm and passion.
The vendor quickly stepped up and helped get them all sorted out and they left that booth happy and “discussing” something else each was sure they had right.
It was one of those moments that took me back to my childhood listening to my neighbor’s grandmothers discussing tomatoes for gravy (or sauce depending on where you’re from). It also led me to dig up some fun seed bead tips and facts on what I hope you’ll find helpful for today or the next time you go shopping with my neighbor’s grandmothers.
Images and some information adapted from Getting Started with Seed Beads, by Dustin Wedekind
1. Seed beads have been around for ages, originally used as a commodity in trading for other goods and services. Not unlike their use and value in the past, in today’s beading world, we covet these tiny pieces of glass and gladly trade cash to own them!
2. Seed beads used in bead weaving and for making jewelry are manufactured primarily in glass factories in the Czech Republic and Japan. Each bead has it’s own unique properties and each manufacture has a niche. Beads are sold in tubes, containers, on hanks, and in bags.
3. Czech seed beads are typically donut in shape and more irregular than Japanese seed beads. This difference, an attribute we use to our advantage, makes Czech seed beads perfect for use in freeform work, stringing projects, and overall, anywhere a more organic feel will work.
4. Czech beads are sold by the hank. There are about 4,000 size 11/0 beads in a 30-gram hank.
5. Czech Charlotte beads are also donut in shape with a facet cut onto the surface of the bead (just one facet) offering a little sparkle as it catches the light.
6. Japanese seed beads are generally more uniform in shape and the “donut” larger, more square, and taller than Czech seed beads. These beads are cut to be precise but from time to time you do need to cull out misshapen beads.
7. Japanese seed beads can also be found in a cylindrical shape. The brand names for this type of bead are Delica, Treasure, and Aiko, depending on the company they are sold by. These beads look almost square from the side, they have a larger hole end to end, and their precise cut means you will rarely have to cull out misshapen beads. (These beads are a little pricier due to the extra work needed for this precise cut.)
A 6” tube of size 11/O beads weighs 30-grams and contains about 3,400 beads. A 2” tube of size 15/0 beads weights about 10 grams and contains 2,600 beads. A 2” tube of cylinder beads contains about 900 beads.
8. Cylinder-shaped beads are beautiful in woven designs, creating a smooth finish (almost fabric-like), as well as yield a lighter weight piece, as the walls of these beads are much thinner than traditionally shaped seed beads.
9. Seed beads are sold by size; the larger the bead the lower the number. Each manufacture and each type of bead uses a different metric for measuring, so this area can be a bit tricky. An example, a size 11 Delica does not equal a size 11 seed bead. And a Czech size 11 is not necessarily the same size as a Japanese size 11. They are close, but if you are looking to create a pattern using a specific size and manufacturer, and want it to be exactly the same, be sure to buy beads in that size and by that same company, whenever possible.
10. Often seed bead size is followed by /0 or this symbol “°”. Czech glass seed bead sizes were originally termed “aught,” indicating how many beads fit into a standard unit. This metric no longer applies but the term and symbol have carried forward to this day.
The measure of aughts: Beads are sized by how many of them fit side-by-side within one inch. Shown here are size 6/O, size 8/0, Japanese 11/0, Czech size 11/0, Delica cylinders, and size 15/0.