Types of Beads: Gem Beads, Metal Beads and Glass Beads

Types of Beads: Gem Beads, Metal Beads and Glass Beads

Xinar is your trusted online jewelry-making supplies with over twenty years of experience in metal types of beads.

We provide jewelry designers and crafters with the finest sterling silver, gold-filled, genuine copper, and rose gold-filled beads for jewelry and crafting projects year-round at the best prices upfront.

The first part of our beading tutorial series tackled the essentials of beads, including how the bead drill types work and how you can better manage the sizing of your cording or wires. Today, we will explore the different types of beads that crafters can use for various projects.

Part two of our beading tutorial will focus on the most essential types of beads for beadwork.

Early people made the oldest known beads out of marine shells about 100,000 years ago. Beads are a uniquely modern human feature for body ornamentation and jewelry. There is no indication that Neanderthals, the forefathers of modern humans, utilized beads or personal ornamentation.

Beads are now manufactured from a wide range of materials using various techniques. In addition, hand-cut gemstones and pearls are produced on pearl farms.

Wood, horn, and bone, among other natural materials, are carved or molded by hand or machine. In addition, some beads are made of molten glass, ceramic, porcelain, and precious metals and are handcrafted or produced.

Beads can also be molded or pressed from various malleable materials, such as plastic and resin. With adequately positioned drill holes, materials such as nuts, seeds, teeth, and antlers are converted into beads.

Synthetic Types of Beads: Glass Beads

  1. Glass beads are classified according to the method used to shape molten glass into beads. Handcrafted glass beads are lamp wrought, blown, or cast, whereas manufactured beads are typically drawn, pressed, or molded.

Diverse glass combinations produce different colors, metallic coatings and linings offer intrigue, and the bead maker’s talent always adds value. The following are examples of glass bead types.

  • Drawn glass beads are made by dragging molten glass through a long cane of glass in such a way that a bubble remains in the center. After that, the cane is cut into individual slices and smoothed with hot sand.

Seed beads are made by mechanically drawing (or extruding), chopping, and smoothing the beads on highly sophisticated equipment.

Seed beads are made using a variety of machines, depending on the brand. Each seed bead brand has its distinct shape: some are rounder, others are more donut-shaped, while others are slightly uneven.

  • Thick rods of molten glass are fed through intricate presses or molds that form the glass and pierce the hole, resulting in pressed and molded glass beads.

The freshly pressed or molded glass beads are rolled in hot sand to minimize seam lines. The Czech Republic has long been known for producing the best glass beads globally. Superior bead stamps and molds, as well as years of glass-making skill, went into manufacturing them.

  • Lampwork beads are made by wrapping colored glass canes around a metal rod with the help of a specialist lampworking flame. After the beads have been created and adorned, they are annealed (hardened) in a kiln.

The quality and price of these beads are chiefly determined by the type of glass used, the type and temperature of the torch used, and the artist’s expertise. Lampwork or pressed glass beads fused with a thin covering of metal to create a color-changing surface with a high gloss are known as dichroic beads. Glass canes encased in transparent glass are extruded and cut into beads, then burned or annealed in a furnace to reinforce the glass.

  • Sand-cast beads, also known as powder glass beads or recycled glass beads, are primarily produced in West Africa, while Chinese replicas have recently joined the market.

These beads are traditionally produced from shattered beads, broken bottles, and other glass scraps. The glass is pulverized, heated, and put into hand-formed clay molds before being punctured to make the hole.

A carefully managed wood fire is used to heat the beads. The beads have a particular texture because of the low temperature of the wood fire. The beads are removed from the molds once they have cooled, cleaned to reveal the color, and in some instances, painted with designs.

  • Leaded glass is used to make crystal beads. Lead is mixed with the standard glass ingredients of quartz sand, soda, potash, and other minerals. Adding information to a typical glass formula increases the glass’s weight, durability, and chromatic properties.

The amount of lead in glass crystals varies depending on the manufacturer. Therefore, wearing leaded crystal jewelry does not constitute a health concern, even though information can be hazardous if consumed.

  • Swarovski Crystal is the finest brand of crystal on the market, produced in Austria. Swarovski beads and pendants contain 32% lead, making them the heaviest and most colorful crystal beads.

Daniel Swarovski, a northern Bohemian (now the Czech Republic) native, invented a highly the specialized glass-cutting machine that revolutionized the crystal-cutting industry in 1895.

Swarovski beads are one-of-a-kind not just because of their high lead content but also because of their precision-cutting procedures, which it has refined over a century.

  • Jablonex, a centuries-old Bohemian (now Czech) maker of cut glass and chandelier components, produces the Preciosa crystal. In addition, Jablonex makes seed beads, pressed and molded glass beads, glass components, and crystal beads.

Preciosa crystal contains 30% lead, making it comparable in weight to Swarovski Crystal. The primary difference between Swarovski and Preciosa crystals is in the cut, which gives the beads and pendants their prismatic properties.

  • Chinese crystal is sold under various brand names. However, it contains only 20% lead in all cases. Reduced-quality crystal beads are lighter and less reflective than their more expensive counterparts due to the lower lead content and mass-production manufacturing technique.

Natural Types of Beads: Gem Beads

Gemstones are types of beads that form of numerous minerals found in the earth’s crust that occur naturally. Gems are divided into families based on their crystal structure, chemical composition, and impurity level and appear in a wide range of colors and clarities.

A gemstone’s worth is determined by its beauty, rarity, clarity, and how it is cut and polished.

Diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires have traditionally been regarded as the most valuable gemstones, commanding the most excellent prices in the marketplace. However, other colored gemstones, such as turquoise, have steadily increased costs as they become scarcer.

Because they are more plentiful and less expensive, many other gemstones, such as feldspar, garnet, and quartz, are frequently referred to as “semiprecious.” Today, regardless of their worth, all jewelry-grade stones are referred to as gemstones.

Diamonds’ hardness, or scratch resistance, is another essential factor. Unfortunately, a technique for identifying minerals was not yet created in the early nineteenth century.

When cut, polished, and drilled, the natural world generates a beautiful mineral diversity that converts into gemstone beads.

  1. Agate and jasper are chalcedonies, a subfamily of quartz with identical mineral compositions. Both are formed in volcanic rock and come in a broad spectrum of colors due to their mineral composition. However, the main aesthetic distinction is that agate is translucent while jasper is opaque.

Agates are typically fibrous, milky, translucent, and feature banded inclusions. Agate variants include black onyx, a famous stone; fire agate, which has feathery banding and ranges in color from white to deep orange; and blue lace agate, which has complex white banding and fields in hue from light blue to deep blue.

Jaspers are transparent stones with speckled inclusions that come in various colors. The spotting is caused by the unique way sediments settle in the cooling volcanic basalt.

  • Feldspar is the most common rock on the planet’s surface. Amazonite, labradorite, moonstone, and sunstone are examples of gemstone-quality feldspar. Because alternating layers of two types of feldspar shatter light as it is reflected, these gemstones all have a fiery or “floating light” appearance.
  • The crystal structure of garnet is comparable to that of gemstone-quality feldspar. Though garnet is commonly regarded as a deep red color, only pyrope, the most common garnet, is that hue.

Due to the somewhat varying chemical makeups of each gemstone, garnet comes in various colors. Hessonite is brownish red, grossularite is yellow-green, and tsavorite is deep green. Rhodolite is purple-pink, while spessartite is deep orange.

  • Jade describes two different mineral gemstones: nephrite and jadeite. Early man used jades to build ax heads, blades, and other weapons due to their durability. The color of nephrite is always creamy white or mild yellow-green. Jadeite is available in various colors, ranging from white to vivid green. The iron content of these stones determines how green they appear.
  • Precious gemstones have been treasured for their rarity and beauty throughout history and, as a result, attract more incredible prices. Diamonds have long been regarded as one of the most valuable and desired gemstones. Their crystal structure is unique for its ability to split white light into the whole spectrum of hues.
  • Emerald comes in various colors, ranging from yellow-green to blue-green, with dazzling “emerald” green being the most frequent. This is because trace levels of chromium cause the stone’s green tint.
  • Sapphire comes in various colors, including pink, orange, and yellow, and is most typically blue.

The most valuable ruby is a rich, natural red but is frequently found in lighter colors. To attain the desired red hue, rubies are typically heavily colored.

  • There are two varieties of quartz: macrocrystalline and microcrystalline. Macrocrystalline quartz can be seen with the naked eye, while microcrystalline quartz can only be seen at high magnification (microcrystalline).

Crystal quartz is a translucent, colorless form of quartz. Many people believe this variety of quartz to be the best. Rose quartz ranges in color from pale pink to rose pink. Even though rose quartz is hazy, it is still one of the cheaper gemstones. Smoky quartz comes in various colors, from light gray to dark brown, and is frequently heated to deepen the brown coloring.

  • The gemstone amethyst, a transparent deep purple macrocrystalline quartz that forms as visible crystals, is a common type of macrocrystalline quartz that forms as visible crystals. The more expensive amethyst is, the darker the purple coloration. Citrine, which is structurally similar to amethyst, comes in various colors ranging from pale yellow to brown. Ametrine is a gemstone formed when amethyst and citrine grow together in the same crystal.
  • Other popular quartz variations have a microcrystalline structure that can only be seen under a microscope. For example, Aventurine is a grainy-structured translucent green quartz gemstone.

Aventurine has a unique shimmering look due to mineral inclusions. Carnelian is a transparent gemstone that ranges in color from bright orange to deep red and has a gloss that can be improved by polishing. The tiger’s eye has a delicate luster when polished, but it’s known for its parallel gold and brown stripes.

  1. Topaz is a translucent gemstone with a wide range of colors. Impurities cause the color differences in the stone. The most well-known variant, Imperial topaz, is a pale yellow to a golden brown. Genuine blue topaz is uncommon; however, pale gray stone types are frequently heat-treated or irradiated to generate dazzling blue topaz. Swiss blue topaz and London blue topaz are too familiar trade names for blue topaz. Mystic topaz is a colorless or light-colored topaz that has been surface-coated to create a beautiful rainbow impression.
  2. Tourmaline is one of nature’s most structurally complicated gemstones, with at least ten different kinds. Each stone’s hue or combination of colors is determined by the location of its mining and the components present in the gemstone.

Colors range from pink to red, blue to green, brown to black, and everything.

Lithium-rich tourmalines are types of beads that can be practically any color, including blue, green, red, yellow, and pink. However, iron-rich tourmalines are usually black to deep brown, whereas magnesium-rich tourmalines are brown to yellow.

Tourmaline crystals that are bicolored or multicolored are highly prevalent. This arises due to the chemical content’s fluidity during crystallization. For example, watermelon tourmaline is a form of tourmaline that is green on one end, pink on the other, green on the outside, and pink on the inside.

  1. Turquoise is a relatively soft gemstone renowned for its magnificent, opaque blue-green color for ages. The chemical and impurity composition of each stone and where it is mined define the color of turquoise. Finding good-quality stone has become increasingly difficult as the material has been overmined. The best turquoise today can be found in northern Iran.

Unfortunately, treatments like stabilization and the emergence of fake or synthetic, turquoise-colored materials have reduced the value of turquoise and other types of beads. Dyed howlite and dyed magnesite are two stones that are frequently mistaken for turquoise. If the price of turquoise appears to be too good to be true, it is almost certainly one of these fakes.

A variety of metals are used to make metal beads and jewelry-making components. Precious metals, base metals, and hypoallergenic metals are the three types of metals that are commonly used. A range of metal beads is identified by the way they are created and the metal type. Many metal beads, components, and findings (crimps, clasps, rings, and so on) are mass-produced, but the most delicate metal beads and findings are handcrafted by artisans worldwide.

Handcrafted metal beads have been made for years by various cultures all over the world. For example, Karen bead makers in Thailand work in small groups to create beautiful delicate silver beads in traditional designs. Hill Tribe Silver Beads are the name given to these beads. These collectives have recently begun creating their classic patterns in alternate metals, such as brass and copper, due to the enormous spike in silver costs.

In Ghana, West Africa, the lost-wax method of casting metal beads is still used, while Tibetan exiles in Nepal maintain the tradition of manufacturing metal beads. Nomadic tribes in Afghanistan continue to make metal beads, pendants, and amulets, as they have for centuries. Beads and charms in various metals, including copper, brass, and pewter, are designed and produced by many contemporary artists and artisans.

Personal preference, metal color, and cost all play a role in deciding which metal to employ for your stringing project. Gold, fine silver, and sterling silver are examples of precious metals.

  1. Gold is a soft, corrosion-resistant metal that may be easily worked. Gold is created in alloys with decreasing percentages of pure gold content to improve durability and reduce cost. 24-karat gold, for example, is 100% pure gold, whereas 14-karat gold is 58.5 percent pure gold.
  2. Gold-filled is a gold alloy that has been layered with sterling silver or a base metal before being drawn or rolled to the desired thickness or shape. The term “gold-plated” refers to copper that has been electroplated with a thin layer of gold. 18-karat gold is gilded or washed over sterling silver or another metal to create vermeil [ver-MAY].
  3. Silver is a glossy white metal with a silvery sheen that is easy to work with. Silver patinas or darkens because of oxidation over time. Sterling silver is 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent copper, whereas fine silver is.999 percent pure silver.
  4. The hallmark of genuine sterling silver is the stamp. 925. A silver alloy that has been drawn and molded into a desired thickness and shape is known as silver-filled. The copper electroplated with a thin layer of sterling silver is known as silver-plated.
  5. Nickel, nickel, silver, copper, brass, and pewter are examples of base metals. Nickel is a silvery metal that is hard, corrosion-resistant, and moldable. Nickel silver is a silvery, robust, corrosion-resistant alloy of 65 percent copper, 18 percent zinc, and 17 percent nickel. Nickel silver contains no silver.
  6. Copper is a ductile reddish-brown metal that may be easily molded.
  7. Brass is a copper-zinc alloy with 75% copper and 25% zinc, while bronze is a copper-zinc alloy with 90% copper and 10% tin.
  8. Pewter is a metal alloy of 90% tin and 10% copper, antimony, and bismuth. Britannia metal is a pewter alloy composed of 92 percent tin, 6% antimony, and barely 2% copper.

Hypoallergenic Beads

Stainless steel, niobium, and titanium are all hypoallergenic metals. In the 1950s, the cosmetics industry invented the word “hypoallergenic” to describe goods less likely to induce an allergic reaction.

The nickel component of jewelry findings is allergic to most people with metal allergies. Therefore, the only option to avoid an allergic reaction altogether is to use nickel-free metals or alloys such as gold, sterling silver, or niobium.

Stainless steel is a steel alloy available in a wide range of grades. The most popular steel alloy for jewelry findings is hypoallergenic and stain- and corrosion-resistant. Surgical steel is medical-grade stainless steel that resists corrosion and rust.

Niobium is a soft gray metal nickel and lead-free and has very low toxicity. Niobium findings are available in various colors, as well as black, copper, and bronze tints.

Niobium is a metal that few people have heard of, but if you have metal allergies or are seeking a unique, naturally colorful metal, it could be the right choice for you. Niobium is a rare, relatively precious metal that resembles platinum or titanium in appearance. When anodized, however, it takes on unique, iridescent colors that make for striking jewelry. The best aspect is that it’s hypoallergenic and completely safe, even if you have metal sensitivity.

The propensity of niobium to reflect iridescent hues on its surface distinguishes it from other metals. Therefore, when niobium is heated and anodized, it produces these hues. Next, the metal is immersed in a bath and given an electric charge. This results in forming a transparent oxide coating that adheres to the surface and produces a rainbow of colors.

These surface colors are like the patina that occurs on metals like platinum. But there’s a difference: this chemically stable phenomenon won’t change over time. Unlike plating, these colors will not flake or fade. So not only are the crazy hues permanent, but they’re also completely safe to wear.

Titanium is a rigid metal frequently utilized in body jewelry and surgical implants. It’s especially beneficial for folks who have severe nickel allergies.

Beads And Stones

You’ll want to integrate stones or beads into your creation at some time. A piece of jewelry with stones adds color, depth, and focus. Stones can be placed in metal in a variety of ways. Any setting technique aims to bring out the most significant features of a stone. A setting is fashioned to match an individual stone, whether a simple rub-over setting or a sophisticated claw setting.

Stones come in the widest range of sizes and colors, and they can cost anything from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Any stone’s look is determined by how it has been carved to reflect light. On these pages, you’ll find a wide assortment of precious and semiprecious gemstones in various cuts.

Cabochon

Cabochon stones have a smooth domed top and a flat (or nearly flat) base. Cabochons can have any shape, but the most frequent are oval or round. A little collar, or “bezel,” is created to fit neatly around the outside edge of the stone and is gradually coaxed over and down onto it to keep it in place.

Faceted

Faceted stones have a lot of flat, angled surfaces that uniquely reflect light. Faceted cuts are commonly used on precious stones such as diamonds, topaz, spinels, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. They can come in various shapes, but the most common cut for any of them is “standard brilliant cut.”

Stone Cutouts

Several cuts are used depending on the type of stone and the desired impact. For example, variations on the brilliant-cut are designed to allow light to reflect through the stone. In addition, fancy cuts are occasionally employed to conceal defects or maintain weight.

New to Buying Stones?

It can be tough to decide where and what to buy because so many lovely stones and beads are available. Many large cities offer a specialized bead store where you can buy individual beads and different strings of semiprecious beads that can be easily strung together to make necklaces. Individual stone importers and dealers also exhibit their wares in a growing number of gem exhibitions, which may be found in various locales across the country. You’ll find some gorgeous cabochon and faceted stones in addition to a large selection of strung beads. Although internet sales are prevalent, it is best to buy just one stone or a single string of beads at first to reduce risk until you discover a dealer you can trust.

Carats

Most stones are sold by weight, which is measured in carats. (It’s sometimes spelled with a “k” instead of a “c.”) A carat is 100 points; thus, if a stone is a “10-pointer,” it weighs one-tenth of a carat.

To calculate a stone’s carat weight, do the following:

• Determine the stone’s weight in grams.

• Take the stone’s weight in grams. Multiply the weight by five to get the number of carats.

Multiply the number of carats by the stone’s cost per carat to determine the price. Some stones are offered individually, but this is more common with less expensive stones like turquoise, quartz, and hematite.

Quality

In general, the more precise the stone, the higher its quality. Remember, though, that perfectly transparent stones may have been manufactured and heat-treated, which is acceptable if you know what you’re looking at.

Heat, laser treatment, or injection may have been used to improve the color of more valuable stones like rubies and emeralds. However, unless the stone is precious, it is unlikely to be completely flawless; and if the hue appears to be too good to be true, it most likely is.

Most stone providers have a showroom, so make an appointment to view what they have on hand. Choose one or two items that you love and can afford, and resist the urge to buy more than you need.

Expert Advice for Buying Stones

Large inclusions that cross a stone from side to side should be avoided. They may appear extremely small, but the stone may split if too much pressure is applied during the setting. Flaws are less visible in faceted stones.

If you’re buying a valuable stone, inspect it over with an x10 magnification loupe to see if there are any faults.

Diamonds have a globally accepted quality grading system. The price per carat varies according to the grading, ranging from “flawless” to “imperfect.”

When selecting or ordering diamonds, inquire about the grade.

FL—Flawless

No internal or external flaws can be noticed with the naked eye or an x10 loupe.

IF—Internally Flawless

An x10 magnification loupe reveals no defects or impurities.

VVS- Very, Very, Slightly Imperfect

Slight inclusions that can only be noticed using an x10 loupe are possible.

VS—Very Slightly Imperfect

Under an x10 loupe, little inclusions are difficult to notice.

SI—Slightly Imperfect

Inclusions are visible under an x10 loupe, and a trained eye can identify them even without one. The emergence of little black carbon particles is another potential defect in diamonds.

I—Imperfect

The stone has inclusions that are visible to the naked eye.

Some grades reflect finer and more specific gradings within these ranges, but these grades should provide a good starting point.

Bead Necklace Construction

Some semiprecious stones come with drilled holes that can be used as beads. You can also get a diverse range of beads made of various materials. Make a simple necklace out of beads by threading them onto earring drops or pendants.

1. Necklaces often measure 16–20 inches (400–520 mm) in length. Cut a tiger tail or nylon thread length at least 6 in (150 mm) longer than you require.

2. Solder the jump ring closed after threading an end-catch onto it.

3. Loop the tiger tail or nylon thread around the jump ring and back through it.

4. Bring the other end of the thread close to the jump ring and thread a crimp onto it. Pass the other end through it. With the tapered flat pliers, tighten the crimp.

Thread the beads onto the thread now. Bring them up to the crimp and thread the short end through as many beads as possible. If necessary, trim it.

6. Once you’ve threaded all the beads, add the second crimp, then the second jump ring with the end catch connected. Tighten the thread.

7. Insert the end into the crimp. Squeeze the crimp up to the jump ring with the tapered flat pliers. Return the thread’s short end through as many beads as possible.

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