Beginner Beading, part 2: Choosing Good-Quality Beads

When you’re just beginning to bead, as I wrote about last week, it’s hard to know what kinds of beads to choose–there are literally hundreds of different kinds available! And, as I unfortunately learned, not all beads are created equal in quality.

A Cautionary Tale: The Missing Bead

beadednecklace_example When I first started beading, I made this necklace, pictured at left, as one of my first projects. I was very, very proud of my work, especially since most of the beads hadn’t cost that much to purchase and yet rendered such a lovely result, interspersing black plastic teardrop beads with dark blue and clear sparkling crystal beads.
necklace_missingbead What I didn’t know, however, was that one of the plastic beads already had a crack in it, right near the point where the beading wire threaded through it–and one day, it cracked off while I was wearing the necklace. I didn’t notice until I got home, took the necklace off, and realized that the beaded pattern at the two ends of the necklace no longer matched (denoted by the red circles on the image at left).

Learn From My Fail: Choose Better Beads

In order to keep from losing bits off your own beading projects, here’s some tips on which beads to choose (and which to avoid):

Quality Beads…

  • Are made of glass, polished wood, or crystal-like materials
  • Have well-drilled bead holes that won’t catch on the beading wire/thread
  • Do not have bead holes drilled in thin/fragile areas (this was what made my necklace’s bead crack)

Cheap Beads…

  • Are made of plastic or rough wood/stones
  • Sometimes have coatings on them (like iridescence or big pieces of glitter) that wear off easily after being handled
  • Do not thread evenly because the bead holes are drilled crooked

Final Word to the Wise: Shop Local Bead Stores

The best places I have found for quality beads are small, local bead and craft shops, whether you buy in-store or online. Such places often simply take care of their bead stock better, storing and displaying them on flocked jewelry trays which don’t allow the beads to get crushed or knocked off easily. Plus, bead specialty stores often carry the crystal-like beads and other finer-quality stock that will give your beading projects not only a more expensive look, but a longer life. (Lastly, the shop owners can help you select just the right bead for a project!)

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