Jewelry 101: Seed Bead Extravaganza

Today’s installment of Jewelry 101 is all about seed beads! If this is your first Jewelry 101 post, you can read about the series here and catch up with the first two installments here and here.

Seed beads are one of my favorite kinds of beads to use for jewelry – but they have one odd caveat that totally confuses me, which was actually the impetus for this post.

Before I go into that, I’m going to delve into more about what seed beads are and why I like them so much. As the name implies, seed beads are very tiny beads, like seeds. They are usually made of glass and [the best part!] come in any color and finish you could think of. Frosted, matte, iridescent, clear, opaque, you name it. There are even multi-colored and striped seed beads. Because they are colorful and on the affordable side, seed beads are super versatile, and you will see them used often in a variety of types of jewelry and decoration. I like to use them to make bracelets; I like choosing a color palette and creating a bracelet by alternating and mixing up the sequence of the colors.

Anyway, now to the weird part. Seed beads come in a range of sizes, most commonly from 6/0 to 15/0 – all sizes have that ‘/0’ denotation tacked onto the end. Here’s the key thing to know though: the higher the number, the smaller the bead … which is the opposite of how most things in life work. I’m not sure why it’s done that way. My guess is that the measurement is based on N beads that fit within X amount of space. Regardless, I don’t like it, but here we are.

My personal preference is to use sizes 6/0 and 8/0, so I only have examples of those two, but that should still give you a good guideline on scale.

L: the green bracelet is made of size 8/0 / R: the orange bracelet is made of 6/0s
On my wrist for scale

It is also important to consider that the hole gets smaller as the bead gets smaller, so if you are working with the smaller-sized beads, you will need to ensure that your wire or cord is thin enough to string them. The packaging or website product page should include an approximate hole width in the description. You can also get seed beads with square holes – again, that will be noted clearly in the product description (though I have made the mistake of purchasing square-holed beads for a round cord. Not the end of the world, but not my preference either! ;)).

This post ended up being more than you ever wanted to know about tiny beads, so I hope you took away some helpful tips for your crafting efforts. Happy beading!

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