Beads: Buying Tips Part II


beadbuyingtips2A Fabulous Ensemble Cast

If you don’t already, one day, you’ll have a bead collection that’s a fabulous ensemble cast, with you as the director arranging them into wonderful and interesting combinations that are somehow greater than the sum of their parts.

In Beads: Buying Tips Part 1: I wrote about strategies for visiting the bead store without going broke. In this post and the next one (about beading, that is), I’m going to review several basic bead styles for folks who might be new to beading and provide a few links so you can see some examples and have somewhere to start if you need to buy your beads online.

Today’s post will focus on a few glass beads that I consider staples –beads I tend to use very often in my own projects–and my next post will focus on spacers, gemstones, and pendants.

Glass Beads

Glass beads seem to come in every shape and style and there’s a ridiculous number of choices to sift through in just one lifetime. I personally find many of these styles a little on the boring side, so I’ll ignore them for now and just focus on a few of my favorites that make great staples for your stash:

  • Fire Polished

Czech Fire polished glass beads are machine faceted and come in lots of shapes and sizes. They will be your go-to beads that you’ll reach for again and again in your designing. The facets help catch the light and give your beads a subtle sparkle. Fire polished beads are offered in a variety of finishes–two of my favorite finishes are metallic and Aurora Borealis–AB for short. The AB finish is a thin metallic sheen that enhances the bead color and creates sophisticated color variations.

They also come in a wide range of sizes from 2mm (very tiny) to 20mm, although you’re most likely to see 8mm, 10mm and 12mm. They also come in bicones, teardrops (which can be great for earrings), and a rondelle shape–kind of a flattened circle that ‘s very nice and makes a great spacer (see below for more about spacers).

Fire Mountain Gems has a nice selection you can take a look at:

And this company has a good chart for sizes:

  • Cathedral Beads

Cathedral beads are usually Czech and have some faceting as well as a metallic glazing on the top and bottom of each bead–they add a bit of texture and variety to your design and the metallic touch is subtle but nice. Another good staple.

Fire Mountain Gems also has a nice selection in this style:

  • Glass Pearls

The more I work with glass pearls, the more I like them, even though they aren’t the real thing. Actually, they’re easier to work with than the real thing (no tiny holes), cheaper, and come in a fun range of colors.

This site had a nice explanation about glass pearls and a lot of other interesting beading information you might like:

I hope this information helps and the links get you excited to bead. If you’ve got any favorite glass bead styles I didn’t mention, please suggest them in the comments section–I’d love to hear from you.

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Categories : Beading, Supplies


  1. Liza says:

    I am a huge, HUGE fan of glass beads of all kinds, and find them the perfect accent for gemstones in my work.

  2. Sarah says:

    @Liza–Yes!! I really enjoy combining them with gemstones as well–looks great and it also lets me use gemstones affordably…Do you have any favorites?

  3. Liza says:

    I love unearthing antique glass beads — wherever I can find them. And my current obsession is Roman glass. It’s so beautiful!

  4. Sarah says:

    I LOVE Roman glass too! Where do you do you do your unearthing? :-)

  5. Liza says:

    I wish I could give you some websites, or specific address, but I’m a self-diagnosed antique store junkie — and find my most original beads all over the world. Flea markets are my best resource!

  6. Liza says:

    PS: I know this might seem like an overdone topic, but at some point I would love to see a post on buttons! I have a great collection of buttons my grandmother collected through the decades, and I’m still not sure how to properly honor them in my designs!!!

  7. Sarah says:

    I love antique stores for the little things too–I have a thing for old xmas ornaments.
    And yes, I’ll think about the button idea–I use them in collages all the time, but not as a mass….thanks for the suggestion!

  8. [...] post is a continuation of my previous posts about basic bead types, (Bead Buying Tips I and Bead Buying Tips II ) why and when you might need them, and some links to several online [...]

  9. [...] you want to get started beading or learn about some great online bead resources, click here, here, and [...]

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