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Guide to Beads for beginners

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Are you new to crafting jewelry? As a follow up to my jewelry making supplies for beginners, I have created this guide to beads for beginners, so that you can navigate that complicated world. (Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links)

 

Your full guide to buying beads for jewelry making crafts and DIY projects! This is geared toward helping beginners understand various bead shapes, materials, and types.

 

Beads come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and most importantly, materials. There are thousands of options to choose from, and it can get very overwhelming. 

 

When you are setting up your jewelry-making stash, you’ll probably be tempted to get ever single bead in the store. It’s the funnest part of supplies shopping (for me, at least), and knowing what you NEED will help you figure out where to start. Follow this guide to help you learn how to discern between bead types and materials, and find out which beads are great for a beginner!

 


Want to learn how to make jewelry out of anything – not just beads? Get the book!


 
 

Differentiating between beads for beginners:

 

 

 

 

  • Sizes: Beads are also measured in mm. Larger sizes such as 10-14mm beads make for great funky, trendy pieces. Smaller sizes such as 3-4mm are accents. 6-8mm beads are perfect for in-between. For starters, I’d get a small selection in 4,6, and 8mm in some of the styles listed below.

 

 

  • Colors – Of course, beads come in the largest variety of colors, tones, patterns, etc. These are often defined by the material, but not always. Even natural beads are often dyed or bleached. I’d recommend starting off with some neutrals, and then purchase colored beads on a per-project (or “what’s on sale”) basis. 

 

  • Materials: Beads come in a HUGE variety of materials, which I will outline below.

 

Different types of beads:

 

 

“Types of beads” generally refers to the materials that they are made out of, but are not exclusive to that.

 

Materials: cheap but quality beads will often come in glass and wood. Glass beads has a huge selection of effects, styles, and more -which there is no use in my going through now (it will just overwhelm you). If you want to learn more, browse a bead catalog, book, scour a website…  My favorites are simulated pearls. In my opinion, plastic or “acrylic” beads look like children’s play (with a few exceptions.) 

 


 

You can also get crystals, including Swarovski branded Austrian crystal for more upscale designs. These are a popular choice in higher end costume, and sterling silver jewelry. They simulate the sparkle of a high quality cut gem stone, but without the cost.

 

I love playing around with inexpensive gemstones  and pearls (though you can get high-end stones too.) The variety out there is massive! I tend to bargains hop with these, but you don’t really need to, as they have value.

 

Other materials include horn, shell, rubber, metal, and more.

 

Cabochons – these are un-drilled with a flat back, and can be glued, wire wrapped, or set.

 

Seed beads – are those tiny beads that come in a massive rainbow of colors. People literally make huge drawings by weaving seed beads. You’ll only need these if you plan to do woven beadwork (I don’t).

 

FocalsThese aren’t really beads – they are components, but are often sold alongside beads and made of the same materials. They are larger pieces that are meant to be the decorative focal point of your piece.

 

Spacers: spacer beads come in many forms and sizes, and are generally used to add a little dimension to a strung piece. For me, 3 and 4mm metal balls are standard.

 

 

So where should you start with beads for beginners?

 

 

Start off with a few styles in some basic colors, and sizes as listed above. Start with glass bead mixes and pearls,  and wood beads, plus the metal balls  if you plan to follow along with my crafts. You’ll want to buy beads more specifically for each project, but having some basic colors that can coordinate with others is a good place to start.

 

Look for sales at craft stores, Michaels, Amazon, eBay, and more! You can find lots for sale on eBay, destash supplies on Etsy, etc.

 

I’d highly recommend figuring out the style of jewelry you like. Scour Pinterest, and Etsy not to imitate but to see what pulls your eye. Start a small stash based on those beads. And finally, set yourself a budget, and use it smartly. Allot, say $50 (depending on how much you’re putting into your initial stash) and find how you can best assign it. 

 

And finally, keep in mind just how many beads you’ll be needing. Some pieces are built almost entirely of beads. Some use beads as accents. Don’t overdo it, but have a good selection handy.

 

 

Want to know where to buy beads? I shared my favorite places, what I like about each, and when I shop where right over here!

 

Any questions regarding beads for beginners? Feel free to comment below, and I will reply ASAP!

 
 


Want to learn how to make jewelry out of anything – not just beads? Get the book!


 
 

 

Your full guide to buying beads for jewelry making crafts and DIY projects! This is geared toward helping beginners understand various bead shapes, materials, and types.

 

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Erin

Friday 31st of May 2019

I use seed beads as spacers in more colorful, more delicate pieces. I find that I can accent my main beads better with them, at a more reasonable cost. (Not the uber tiny ones, but still pretty small!) They give my clay, polished beads a bit of individual distinction rather than being clumped together.

Sophia

Monday 6th of August 2018

Hi I'm Sophia this my first time learning how ro make beads bracelets what is a good size beads and is Lava beads good for beginners?

Menucha @ Moms & Crafters

Monday 6th of August 2018

Hi Sophia, if you are just starting, 6 and 8mm beads are a good starting point. Lava beads are very unique and if you like them they are great for beginners.

Patricia Phillips

Tuesday 30th of January 2018

Hi, I am not really new to jewelry making and other bead crafts . My heart belongs to Christmas ornaments. I also hope you are still answering questions. It has to do with silver lined seed beads, the problem is blackening at the core. The quality of the seed seems to make only a small difference. They all do it. Granted nothing lasts forever, and some I am still hanging year after year. I am trying to redo some of my grandmother's for the youngest in my family. This level is her gt, gt, gt. grands. I wish I had done , or at least started before now as I am 70. Thanks for your thoughts. By the way I do pack a piece of chalk in my storage at the end of the season..

Menucha @ Moms & Crafters

Wednesday 31st of January 2018

Hi Patricia,

I don't think there is a way around it. As you mentioned, the quality only makes a small difference. It's still a coating, and after many years it will wear down. There are things that can be done to preserve a coated bead better (I use clean nail polish!) but since these are seed beads and it's on the inside, it would be way too tedious. I'm sorry I couldn't help you out better!

Paula Tate

Sunday 19th of February 2017

Hello I'm new to jewelry making and my question is when or how do you decide to use wire, cord or thread for bracelets other than the stretch magic...

Menucha @ Moms & Crafters

Tuesday 21st of February 2017

Hi Paula, It depends on the qualities you want. Do you want something stiff, like a bangle? Go for wire. Do you want something flexible but strong? Cord or tigertail beading wire are great. Thread is good for more intricate beaded projects.

debbie

Thursday 26th of January 2017

I didn't see the answer above. how do you know what size hole you will need and what size hole are actually in the bead itself? need a hole large enough for crochet thread to fit into and be able to feed the beads on. thanks

Lisa

Wednesday 20th of May 2020

I would take my project with me to a craft store and find the correct size buy for that one project and then you can order online

Menucha @ Moms & Crafters

Thursday 26th of January 2017

Hi, Debbie, Most product descriptions will have hole size listed. Look at the size of your thread listed on the package and make sure the bead hole is bigger

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