Guide to Buying Bead
There is an overwhelming selection of bead varieties to select when purchasing or making jewelry.
Understanding or having a guide to buying bead jewelry is a helpful place to start when making a
There are many forms from expensive to cheap in this category so knowing the level of quality and craftsmanship
is useful as beads are made in several different ways with varying types of materials.
Base Metals and Precious Metals
These are beads made from iron, nickel, copper, zinc or lead. They are considered to be non-precious metals.
Most often these beads are plated to resemble a precious metal such as silver or gold in an effort to give them
durability so they won’t corrode as easily. Some beads are often antiqued or finished to appear like a vintage or
Thus an antiqued gold or silver is simply a finish of that particular hue but not necessarily a true precious
metal. An established and reputable jeweler can establish the difference. These beads are popular because they
retain the appearance of a precious metal but are relatively inexpensive. They also come in many forms and
Gold and Silver beads can also be found and are especially elegant in jewelry. Gold is more expensive than
silver. These beautiful beads in gold come in 9-14 karats. Another method is utilizing a mix of binder with water
into the gold or silver. This creates a clay-like material which is pliable and can be fired, glazed or colored.
Gemstones can also be added increasing the value.
These beads derived from the Native Americans were made from animal bones and used in tribes to enhance
authority or showcase esteem. The most common animals used were bears, snakes, cows and buffalo. The beads are
usually bleached and then hand painted with wax.
The beads are then dyed and the wax design remains free of the dye allowing for a beautiful pattern. African
tribes used this process and the term was referred to as “mud” beads. These are a popular choice if you want to
celebrate a tribal heritage or have an appreciation for the technique implemented to create these beads.
A guide to buying bead jewelry could exist all by itself to encompass crystal beads. These are a more refined
version of glass beads and considered to be a step up on the jewelry ladder. Crystal beads contain a lead content
which allows them to retain an especially sparkly appearance. They also come in various sizes and cuts which help
contribute to their multi-faceted sparkle.
They are generally more expensive than glass beads since they offer brilliant flashes of light and you can also
find them in the chandelier industry as they make lovely statements in the home. Czech and Swarovski crystal are
among the most popular and prestigious of these beads. Known for their fine craftsmanship and technology, they
outshine other beads in this category.
Since glass is a raw material that is fairly accessible and easy to use, this is a commonly used material for
beaded jewelry. Glass beads can be mixed with colors, other materials and therefore offer a wide selection of
designs. Many artists hand paint beads and use a kiln to fuse the beads while others are crafted by machine.
Another popular trend is the lampworking technique which twists the hot glass around a mandrel.
There are also mosaic style glass beads, multi faceted beads which are designed to mimic crystal and glass pearl
beads. Since these beads come with such variety they are relatively inexpensive unless you are purchasing a
significant “piece” handcrafted by an artist, in which case your jewelry will be one of a kind and worth the
These are a favorite among jewelry makers because of the color variations.
The list of these types of stones is quite long. Since rubies, diamonds, emeralds and
other precious stones are so costly, semi precious stones are used much more frequently.
Agate, Amethyst, Garnet, Jade, Lapis, Onyx, Opal and Turquoise are some of the most
popular semi-precious beads used.
Using this guide to buying bead jewelry should help you better understand how jewelry is
made and the popularity of the beads vs. the value. Most often hand crafted beads are the most
expensive as well as certain crystals and semi-precious stones.