Bead Library: Seed Beads

The Wonderful World of Seed Beads | Seed Beads

The Wonderful World of Seed Beads

By Harlequin Beads and Jewelry

The term seed bead refers to an entire category of small, usually glass beads that have been used for adornment for over 200 years. The first glass seed beads were made and strung by hand in Italy in the early 19th century. Most of the seed beads in production today are manufactured in Japan or the Czech Republic in the area that was once known as Bohemia. Czech seed beads are used in traditional Native American regalia and require a high level of skill to work with. Seed beads that are produced by the Japanese are much more uniform in shape with typically larger holes than Czech beads which are have slight irregularities that give them a more organic look that many people prefer in their designs.

Czech seed beads come in a variety of shapes from the long bugle tube to the traditional charlotte that is faceted on one side to add sparkle. Japanese seed beads are mostly made by two companies, the Miyuki Shoji and Toho, and though they come in a variety of shapes the cylinder shape has become increasingly popular in the beading community. Miyuki’s cylinder beads are called Delicas while Toho has 2 cylinder beads, the Treasure bead and the newer, updated version, the Aiko. Lining up straight to create a woven tapestry effect, cylinder beads are exceptionally precise in all manner of stitches such as Peyote, Brick Stitch and the Herringbone weave. Cylinder beads make pattern designs come out accurate and even and also give curved stitches such as the Dutch Spiral or Rosette a more angular shape. Japanese seed beads in particular are unique from one dye lot to another but come in the most specialized rainbow of colors with legendary finishes that are obtained by treatments such as etching, galvanized metal coatings and metal linings to name a few.

Seed beads are typically sold by the hank (a group of strings) or by weight (loose in a tube or bag). Possibly the most popular size today in both Czech and Japanese seed beads is the 11 but seed beads can be found from a 5 or 6, (being the largest), up to 22 or 24, (the smallest). Below is a chart that shows the recommended needle and thread size for different sized seed beads, and for more detailed recommendations, please see our Beading Resources article in the Library section.

Seed beads are also frequently used as spacers in straight stringing and mixed media projects. We at Harlequin know the importance of having a full palette of colors and textures of seed beads so we are constantly updating and increasing our already impressive selection of these important little treasures. Be sure to check our collectible bead section for rare antique seed beads as well, and happy beading. seed bead chart
Seed Bead Chart
[click on image to enlarge]

About the Author

We are passionate about beads and beading at Harlequin Beads & Jewelry. We always welcome any opportunity to share what we know with kindred spirits. Bead on...
All article text and photos © Harlequin Beads & Jewelry unless otherwise noted.
Text and photos may not be used without permession from Harlequin Beads & Jewelry.

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In Harlequin's bead library you will find information on the history of beads, how beads are made and how beads have been used throughout the world.

Many articles include a bibliography to provide you with additional resources. Many of the beading books referenced are available at your local library.

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Harlequin Beads and Jewelry specializes in Swarovski crystal, pendants and pearls, Czech glass and seed, Japanese seed and gemstone beads, plus a full selection of stringing supplies and jewelry findings.