What are Seed Beads?
Seed beads are small beads that are said to resemble plant seeds, hence the name.
Another word for a seed bead is a Rocaille. Although an exact definition of a Rocaille is hard to find, it is generally taken to mean a basic round seed bead.
There are several different types of seed beads but most of the better quality ones come from Japan and the Czech republic.
Types of Seed beads
Japanese seed beads
These include Myuki, Matsumo and Toho, They are precision cut and very uniform in size. They also have large holes which allow you to pass the thread through them several times and are ideal for off-loom bead weaving.
Czech seed beads
Are less regular in shape and size than Japanese seed beads but are usually cheaper. They have a more squashed oval shape with the hole running through the narrow part of the oval. They usually come strung on hanks.
Japanese cylinder beads
These include Miyuki Delicas, Toho Treasures and Toho Aikos and are small tubular beads with thin walls and large holes. They are excellent for off-loom bead work such as peyote stitch and give a lovely uniform finish to a finished project.
Size 11 Delicas are slightly smaller than other size 11 seed beads so it is best to stick to one type of seed bead if you want a smooth, regular finish to your beadwork.
Charlottes are seed beads with a single facet ground into them to give sparkle. They may also be called one-cuts or true cuts
Hex cut beads
Are cut to have 6 sides so that they look like a hexagon when viewed from the top. Again this gives them a sparkle. However, you need to be careful which thread you use with these as the ends can be sharp.
Hex cut beads are also sometimes called two-cuts. Three-cuts are similar but they have additional facets on the ends giving them a more irregular appearance.
Come in sizes 5-12. They are manufactured by both Myuki and Toho, Toho triangles have sharper corners than those manufactured by Myuki.
Are small square beads that are made by both Toho and Miyuki. They come in size 1.5mm, 2mm , 3mm, 3.4mm and 4mm.
Are also called Magatamas, teardrops or fringe drops. They are a round bead with the hole offset to one side giving a drop effect. They work well in fringes.
Are long skinny tubes. They can be either straight or twisted.
Seed Bead Sizes
Confusingly, with seed beads the higher the number the smaller the bead. A number 11 bead is much smaller than a number 6 bead.
The number generally refers to how many of that type of seed bead will fit into an inch when the beads are lined up side by side with the holes parallel to each other (not in a row as they are when they are strung).
This is not always accurate however, for example size 11 Delicas have 14 beads to an inch instead of the expected 11, whereas size 11 Czech seed beads have 12 to the inch.
Seed Bead Finishes
There are many different types of Seed Beads finishes, including colour-lined, opaque, ceylon etc. Below is a description of as many of them as I can think of.
AB is an iridescent coating on a bead. It refers to Aurora borealis, or northern lights, and is meant to be a finish that resembles the Aurora Borealis with its dancing patterns of lights and colours.
Are beads with a lustrous pearly finish. It doesn't rub off.
Are beads are made out of a transparent glass on top of an opaque glass.
Galvanised beads are coated with a zinc based finish. It may rub off easily and can be protected by spraying with an acrylic fixative.
Lustre is a transparent glaze which gives an extra sheen and sparkle to the beads.
Matte Beads are beads with a shine free surface with a 'velvety' appearance. A matte finish is usually achieved by acid etching.
Metal-lined beads are clear or transparent glass over a real metal or metallic coloured lining. They have a lovely sparkle.
Metallic beads have a metal surface coating that is either electroplated or baked on. It can wear off in time, to protect it you can spray it with an acrylic fixative.
Opaque beads are made out a coloured glass that you cannot see through
Transparent beads are made out of clear of coloured glass that light can pass through.
Vitrial is another iridescent coating, that is similar to an AB coating, but which seems to have a slightly stronger, more opaque, rainbow effect.