Posts Tagged ‘seed pearls’

Types of Seed Beads

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Seed Bead TypesSeed beads are those tiny beads that were first made around 1550 in Venice, Italy. They were a less expensive replacement for seed pearls, which were a very popular ornament for high-fashion clothing worn by the very rich. The real pearls were remarkably rare and expensive.

A hundred years later, the French made slightly larger beads called rocailles, which were faster and easier to make than the original seed beads. These days the difference is not considered, and the terms seed and rocaille both refer to the same type of bead.

Some beads got modified by having a facet ground into one side. They reflect light and have a definite sparkle. These are called charlotte beads.

In 1575 the English made bugle beads. These are very different and are made from tubes of leaded glass. A silver lining makes them sparkle. Bugle beads are longer than they are wide and come in a variety of lengths. Be careful – sometimes they have sharp edges.

Cylinder beads have straight walls and large holes. The early ones were very large and were known as pony beads. The Native Americans often wove them into their ponies’ manes – hence the name.

Please keep in mind that all of these beads were made by hand and required lots of time and attention to detail. They were an expensive luxury. It was not until the early 1800s that seed beads could be made by machines. Mass production reduced the cost considerably.

In 1983, the Japanese Miyuki company introduced tiny cylinders called delicas. You can read about how Miyuki seed beads are made in the Harlequin Beads bead library. You can see additional variations like tila, hex, cube and triangle in Harlequin’s seed bead section.

by Beverly