Crafting beads and findings are among the friendliest materials for novice and intermediate jewelry makers. If you don’t know about crafting beads and beads crafts in general, check out our previous jewelry guide on beadwork which includes information on sterling silver beads, gold-filled beads, copper beads, and more.
We also discuss various bead string materials that are essential reading for people who want to try natural or synthetic threads or cords. Then, of course, metal wires for beadwork for beads arts and crafts. So if you don’t know the first thing about where to begin, you need to read more about jewelry preparation.
Crafting Beads by Drill Type
Fully Drilled Beads
With thoroughly drilled beads, the center of thoroughly drilled beads is drilled all the way through. Always double-check the diameter of your beads’ holes to ensure they’ll work with the threading material you’re using. The majority of designs for beads crafts require fully drilled beads.
Half-drilled beads have a center hole and are commonly used with pearls and beads affixed to earring pegs. Use glue on the half-drilled beads to the peg findings. These crafting beads have holes that only go halfway through, rather than all the way around, like a regular bead. Many components, including ring settings and earring posts, are designed to accept half-drilled beads. You may also use them as an end cap on memory wire bracelets. Bead glue is used to secure them. Epoxy glues are particularly effective.
Top drilled crafting beads have a quarter-inch hole drilled vertically through the top of the bead. You can put a post in it, and when it’s hanging from a chain or earring, it looks like a droplet.
This is how pearls, teardrops, and other unusually shaped beads are frequently drilled. As per your design, these beads should be fastened to the peg finding of your choosing. You may need to file the peg down a little to make it fit snugly against the top of the bead. To secure the bead to the peg, we also recommend using epoxy glue.
Top-drilled crafting beads have a horizontal hole drilled through the top of the bead, allowing it to hang lower than the thread. Using necklet wire, chain, or flexrite wire, this bead form is ideal for making basic designs. Our briolette bead collection is highly recommended!
Spacer beads are smaller than regular beads and fill gaps in designs while also adding texture and decoration. The purpose of spacer beads is to fill in the gaps in a necklace or bracelet. Most jewelry focuses on a single pendant, charm, or bead. Filler beads are often smaller and put between these more extensive main elements to draw attention to these items.
All beads can be spacer beads, but you should vary the sizes of your beads in your design. We don’t want your design to become too cluttered. This isn’t necessary unless you’re making a simple mala with all the same-sized beads. Spacer beads are crucial in crafting aesthetics and layout.
Large-Hole Charm Beads
Large-hold charm beads are ideal for use with larger cords and wires and charm bracelets.
What are Natural Crafting Beads?
Shells, seeds, bone, wood, and coral amber are just a few materials used to make natural crafting beads. The oldest beads discovered date back over 100,000 years and coincide with the emergence of modern human society. Simple shells with hand-bored holes and a hand-painted red ochre coating are among the earliest examples of personal decoration.
Many people regard fine materials like amber, coral, and pearl as precious organic gemstones. They are grouped with other gems because of their distinct beauty and because they are difficult to cultivate or harvest.
Freshwater pearls are the most popular choice for necklaces and bracelets. Seeding the freshwater mussel with tiny shell beads and allowing the mollusk to react to these irritants by excreting a nacre material is how cultured freshwater pearls are made. The nacre develops over time, and lustrous pearls can be extracted.
Coral comprises a large colony of tiny sea animals called coral polyps, which create calcium carbonate skeletons to defend themselves. These colonies eventually develop large enough to produce coral reefs over time. However, because many coral species are endangered, only specific types of coral can be lawfully harvested today.
Amber is made up of the petrified resin of long-dead coniferous plants. Authentic fossilized amber is extremely hard, often contains extinct insects, and does not crack or melt. Copal is a tropical tree resin derived from living trees that have not yet been fossilized. It’s frequently confused for amber, although it’s not as hard as actually fossilized amber, and it cracks and melts.
Shells, nuts, and seeds are plentiful worldwide and can be converted into beads by drilling holes. Kukui nuts, betel nuts, sibucau seeds, buri seeds, and palmetto seeds are only a few nuts and seeds used as beads.
For decades, beads and buttons have been made from wood, horn, and bone.
Nowadays, most beads created from these materials are either recycled or sourced from environmentally friendly sources. For example, wood products are typically made from fast-growing tropical trees such as palm, bayong, tiger ebony, black ebony, and rosewood, and animal products are made from food waste.
What Are Plastic Crafting Beads?
Plastic beads are constructed of easily formed and molded materials. Each sort of plastic has its unique qualities and recipe.
DuPont invented Lucite as a brand name for plastic in 1931. During World War II, the US military made substantial use of Lucite. As a result, DuPont began marketing Lucite as a decorative material after WWII, including beads and jewelry. Some of the most stunning Lucite beads were manufactured between the 1930s and the 1960s. They came in a rainbow of colors and shapes, and many of them had strange iridescent properties.
A multistep technique is used to make resin beads. Resin is light and easy to color, and it may be extruded and molded. Resin beads are frequently made to seem like glass beads. Acrylic beads are created using a variety of patented synthetic formulations to resemble amber, crystal, and metal.
What are the Types of Bead Treatments?
The innate brilliance of most beads manufactured from valuable natural materials is enhanced by additional treatment. Treatment and enhancement of gemstones and pearls have been practiced for centuries. Gemstones and pearls are commonly heat-treated, irradiated, dyed, oiled, or stabilized to improve their attractiveness or change their natural hue. As a result, most of today’s gemstone and pearl beads have been enhanced somehow. Unfortunately, natural, unspoiled gemstones and pearls are extremely rare and, as a result, quite expensive.
The oldest method of enhancement is heat treatment. Heat causes a gemstone’s color to lighten, darken, or alter. It can also improve a gemstone’s clarity or give it a unique surface sheen. Hard gemstones like diamond, ruby, and sapphire are treated at temperatures as high as 1,800°C for several hours, while soft materials like amber are treated at temperatures as low as 175°C for a few minutes.
Irradiation exposes gemstones or pearls to radiation to enhance or completely change their original hue. To achieve a better or new shade, irradiation is sometimes followed by heat treatment.
The practice of oiling delicate gemstones, particularly emeralds, decreases the visibility of microcracks and inclusions. This is because they are burned under pressure after soaking the gems in cedar-tree oil to force the oil deep into the cracks and inclusions.
Stabilization is infusing a bonding chemical into a porous stone like turquoise to increase its strength and prevent it from absorbing undesired things like body oil, which can cause discoloration.
Beads are dyed by soaking, heating, and soaking in natural or artificial colorants to enhance or change their color. The presence of dyed beads can easily be seen with the naked eye. For example, the bead thread could be colored, the holes in the bead could be darker than the rest, or the color of the bead could be exceedingly strange.
The coating is the equivalent of applying nail paint to beads. Coatings are transparent chemical glazes that boost luster or affect the reflecting qualities of a bead’s surface when used with heat. The following are some examples of standard coatings:
- The aurora borealis (AB) creates a colorful or rainbow reflection on a bead’s surface.
- Vitrail produces a pink-green reflection on the surface.
- Luster is a popular effect created by applying a glossy coating on glass beads in various color combinations.
- Picasso is a luster coating that creates a speckled, spotty finish with an earthy, natural look.