Regardless of what type of beadwork you do, buying quality beads is of the utmost importance. If you want your finished product to look good and last for years to come, you need to make sure you are working with high-quality beads. Otherwise, you are bound for disappointment.

If you aren’t buying quality beads, your beadwork isn’t likely to live up to your expectations. Choosing quality now will save you from heartache and frustration later down the line. The first step to choosing quality is understanding the types of beads available, and the things to watch out for.

Why Buying Quality Beads Matters

If you aren’t buying quality beads, your project is liable to look cheap when you complete it. This is a serious concern if you are making jewelry, especially if you are selling it. No one wants to look like they are wearing cheap plastic. And if you are using cheap plastic beads, it will be quite noticeable.

If you want your beaded jewelry to be the finely handcrafted item you envision, you need to use high-quality materials. Using low-end materials simply won’t make an excellent fashion statement. Actually, it won’t even make a good one.

Another reason to make sure you are buying quality beads is to guarantee that the item you are putting so much time and effort into lasts for the long-term. Nothing is more disappointing than pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into a project only to have it fall apart in a matter of months (or weeks).

Cheap beads not only look cheap but they also wear out quickly. We’ve all seen beads that have lost their color because the paint peeled off. Whether you are making jewelry or are doing other types of beadwork, it is a real bummer to watch the color peel off of your creation, or colors leaching out of them. Use good, solid materials so that your creation endures for years to come.

Types of High-Quality Beads

Beads come in a dazzling array of colors, shapes, and sizes. But there is also a wide variety of types of beads. Of course, I am referring to the different materials that can make up the bead itself. There are more variations of beads than you can shake a stick at, but a few of the most common high-quality beads are those consisting of gemstones or semi-precious stones, glass, acrylic, wood, crystal, and pearl.

Gemstone beads

These beads are made from semi-precious stones. Want to make a stunning amethyst necklace? Or perhaps a set of turquoise earrings? Maybe you fancy a topaz bracelet because it’s your birthstone. All of these projects and more are possible with gemstone beads. You can find gemstone beads made of amethyst, turquoise, quartz, topaz, onyx, and more. You name it, and if it’s a semi-precious stone, you can most likely find beads made from it.

A container with ten different types of gemstone beads.

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These gorgeous beads are perfect for jewelry making. Because they are actual gemstones, you never have to worry about them looking cheap. These semi-precious stones are the same as the gemstones you will find in professionally made jewelry.

You can buy gemstone beads by purchasing all one type, or you can go with a set that gives you multiple types of gemstone beads in one convenient package. Quality gemstone beads look fantastic and can last for a lifetime. However, because these beads are made from semi-precious stones, they are often pricier than other options on the market. Take care to buy your gemstone beads from a reputable dealer, as there are many fakes out there. Among the most common imitation gemstone beads are onyx, hematite, red carnelian, blue sapphires, and turquoise.

Glass Beads

Glass is what makes up glass beads. I know, shocking, right? These beads can be quite beautiful. But you should remember that they are also breakable. After all, they are glass and glass can shatter. This isn’t a reason to avoid glass beads, but it is something you should keep in mind when deciding what kind of beads you want to use for any given project. However, if you take care of them properly, glass beads can last for a very long time. As with other beads, you can either buy all one type or go with a set that provides an assortment of various colors.

A plastic container filled with ten various colors of glass beads.

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Not all glass beads are the same. Despite the fact that the name of this type of bead is pretty self-explanatory, there are many options when it comes to glass beads. You can find glass beads in darn near any color or shape that you can imagine. There are many types of glass beads including crystal beads, lampwork beads, millefiori beads, fire-polished faceted beads, pressed glass beads, blown glass beads, and wedding cake beads.

Crystal beads

The most common type of glass beads is crystal. Swarvorski crystal, also known as Austrian crystal, is arguably the most popular type of crystal to make beads from. Crystal beads can be downright breathtaking. They catch the light and are known for their sparkle. These dazzling beads come in many different shapes and colors.

A circle made of teardrop shaped clear crystal beads.

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Although crystal is a type of glass, crystal contains a much higher lead content than plain glass. Crystal has a lead content that ranges from six percent to as high as 30 percent. It is the lead that gives crystal its famous sparkle. Due to their beauty, crystal beads are not only used in jewelry making but are also often seen in chandeliers and on wedding dresses. Because crystal is stronger than glass, it is more resistant to breaking than glass and can be etched or engraved.

Lampwork beads

To create these tiny works of art, a cane or rod of glass is heated with a flame torch. This molted glass is then put around a type of rod that is called a mandrel. To create designs, layers of glass is added on top of one another. While the bead is being worked on, it must be held over a heat source.

This is no easy task and means the beadmaker must be highly skilled to keep the bead from completely losing its shape. Lampwork beads then have to cool slowly or else they will crack since the outside cools and hardens faster than the inside. To accomplish this, they use a kiln, which also makes the glass stronger and less likely to break.

Assortment of of lampwork beads in many different colors, shapes, and sizes.

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Lampwork beads can come in many different shapes. Some are smooth while others have bumps. They can be clear or opaque and can have any number of colors. Some are rather plain while others feature intricate designs, which can be on either the inside or the outside of the bead. People all over the world create these little masterpieces and some designs or styles are even specific to certain countries.

Millefiori beads

The word millefiori translates to “thousand flowers.” To make these beads, they fuse thin glass rods of different colors together to form a design. As the name implies, flowers are common but they are far from the only pattern to be found in millefiori beads. They then slice off pieces, which are placed over a glass core and melted.

An assortment of millefiori beads with many different colors and designs.

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This process creates a detailed bead with a three-dimensional pattern. This type of bead became famous in Venice during the 1800s. These beads can be found in numerous colors and designs.

Fire polished faceted beads

Although many people often refer to these beads as crystal, they have no lead and therefore aren’t real crystal. These beads are faceted, which causes them to reflect light and it is this that gives them their sparkle rather than their lead content. After the facets have been cut, the edges are then polished smooth. These beads can have multiple colors. Sometimes the core is a different color or material than the outside of the bead. Gold or copper are sometimes added to the core to give it an extra bit of sparkle power.

Other types of glass beads

Pressed glass beads are created by pressing the molten glass into a mold. Blown glass beads, on the other hand, are made by blowing through a tube of glass with a blob of molten glass on the end and turning it over a fire to create a hollow bead. Wedding cake beads actually look like teeny-tiny wedding cakes with “icing” on them.

Acrylic beads

These beads are more affordable than some of the other types of beads that are available. Some acrylic beads can be quite beautiful. But you do need to remember that not all acrylic is created equal. Some are nothing more than cheap plastic. As a result, your jewelry or other beadwork projects will look cheap. And as we’ve already established, nobody wants that.

An assortment of acrylic beads in a variety of colors with swirly designs on them in sparkly silver.

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Acrylic beads can be very simple, or they can feature elaborate designs. They also come in many various shapes.

Just remember that you get what you pay for and if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Instead of going for low-quality beads that seem like a bargain, spend the extra money on buying quality beads.

Wooden beads

If you are trying to create a more earthy type of project rather than flashy jewelry, wooden beads may be the option you are looking for. Unlike glass beads, wooden beads are difficult to break. This means that they can last for many years. You can use these beads for jewelry that has a natural feel to it. Or you can make an unlimited number of crafts using these wooden beads.

An assortment of wooden beads featuring different shapes, sizes, colors, and designs.

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Like most kinds of beads, they come in various shades, shapes, and sizes. Some wooden beads even come in painted colors. Others have designs painted on or carved into them.

Pearl beads

It should be noted that not all pearl beads are actually real pearls. Pearl beads can consist of materials such as glass or acrylic, but some of them are truly pearls. Usually, if pearl beads are real pearls, they are freshwater pearls. However, there are some pearl beads that use saltwater pearls.

White pearl beads made of real freshwater pearls.

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Naturally, these are more expensive than other pearl bead options. However, their beauty and durability is definitely worth the extra cost. Pearl beads can give your handmade jewelry a sophisticated look and the classic beauty that only comes from pearls. Real pearl beads can last for generations.

Save Money with Wholesale Beads

Just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean that you are doomed to work with cheap, low-quality beads. Buying quality beads wholesale can save you money while still allowing you to work with decent materials. When compared to what you will pay for good-quality beads at a retail craft store, wholesalers are a real bargain. Thanks to the powers of the almighty internet, even crafters who only do beadwork as a hobby can benefit from the lower prices offered by wholesale sellers.

Here are a few websites that offer quality beads at wholesale prices:

  1. Fire Mountain Gems
  2. The Bead Factory
  3. Beads in Bulk

Both Amazon and eBay are also good places to check for beads on sale in bulk at wholesale prices. While you should be wary of buying beads that are cheap, keep in mind that price doesn’t always mean quality. Do your research before buying.

Start Creating with Beads Today

Beadwork and jewelry making are fascinating and rewarding hobbies. Nothing beats the feeling of creating something beautiful with your own two hands. However, you need to make sure you are buying quality beads if you want your finished products to last for years to come and don’t want them to look cheap. With a little bit of shopping around, you can buy high-quality beads without breaking the bank.

When buying quality beads, don’t feel like you have to buy all your beads from one store. Try different sellers and realize that different stores specialize in different types of beads. The store with the best crystal beads may not be the best place to buy wooden beads and vice versa. And always, always, always start off with a small order when you try a new seller or item for the first time. This will prevent you from making a purchase that you will regret later.

Now that you know what beads are available and some affordable places to buy them, you are ready to start creating. Go buy some beads and start on a new project today!


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