|Seed Bead Information
"Seed Bead" is general term used for any small bead. Seed beads are small rounded beads that can range in size from those that are even smaller than a grain of sand, to those the size of a pea. Seed beads are used for loom and off loom techniques, embroidery, stringing, wire work or as embellishments in crafts.
The highest quality of seed beads are known to come from Japan and the Czech Republic. The Japanese have long been the leaders in high quality seed beads, producing the most uniformly shaped beads with the largest holes - perfect for seed beading. Czech beads however are a close second in quality and have a distinctly rounded shape in comparison to the more cylindrical Japanese counterparts.
Seed Bead Manufacturing
Seed bead machinery uses glass rods softened to a red heat, fed into a steel die stamp that forms the shape of the bead with a reciprocating needle that forms the hole. Manual and automatic machinery techniques are used in the production of Czech seed beads.
Formulas for different colors of glass are closely guarded by each manufacturer. The recipe for a true black glass was lost during World War I, and modern black glass held to sunlight is actually a deep purple. Examples of true black glass are still circulating in jewelry pieces made to commemorate the funeral of Queen Victoria.
TOHO beads are produced starting from scratch. Silica ash, soda ash and charcoal are mixed and melted. The molten glass is then extruded and made into canes. The canes are made in either opaque or transparent glass. From these canes the process of creating different finishes, shapes and sizes is begun. It can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 7 weeks to produce the beads depending on the cut or finish.
Striped Seed Beads
Glass rods made with concentric layers of color or stripes of color can be used to make patterns of color in seed beads. These are still produced by the Czech and are often made in primary colours and black and white.
Delica's and Treasures
During the last decade, a new shape of Japanese seed bead, the cylinder bead, has become increasingly popular. Unlike regular rounded seed beads, the cylinder beads are quite uniform in shape and size and have large holes for their size. Because the ends are flat instead of rounded, work created with cylinder beads has a flat, smooth texture. Rows and columns in weaving line up more uniformly, so pattern work comes out more accurate and even.
There are now 3 versions of cylinder beads:
- Delica made by Miyuki. Delicas are currently made in three sizes: 11/0 (the smallest), 10/0, and 8/0. Delica varieties include a "cut" Delica that reflects light from flat facets.
- Treasures (formerly Antiques) made by Toho
- Aiko - an all new, extremely precise bead made by Toho, introduced in 2005
Charlotte cuts are seed beads that have a single facet per bead to add sparkle. These are called "the most brilliant of all seed beads".
Two-cut beads have two flat faces rather than one, and three cuts have three facets.
Hex Cut Seed Beads
These are a six sided faceted seed bead that has a brilliant sparkle caused by the refracted light from each facet
Bugle beads are a tubular shaped bead named after the brass instrument - the bugle - because the shape of the bead is similar to that of the Bugle.