What are Seed Beads?

Mary McMahon

Seed beads are very small glass beads used in a variety of crafts. Their small size makes them ideal for a range of projects, from beaded garments to necklaces. The beads range greatly in color and configuration, and a number of companies specialize in making seed beads. Most craft stores sell seed beads, and they can also be ordered directly if mass quantities or rare configurations are desired.

Seed beads are used in the creation of artisan jewelry.
Seed beads are used in the creation of artisan jewelry.

Typically, seed beads are roughly spherical in shape, and they do strongly resemble seeds, since they are so small. Some seed beads have slightly flattened ends, so that they will create a smoother line when they are strung together, and some are elongated to various degrees. Specialty seed beads may also have facets, so that they appear to wink and sparkle in the light.

Seed beads are colorful glass beads that are typically a millimeter to several millimeters big.
Seed beads are colorful glass beads that are typically a millimeter to several millimeters big.

The tone of the glass also varies, from transparent seed beads to opaque varieties. In some cases, the beads may be lined with metal so that they acquire a metallic cast, or they may have a lustrous or opalescent finish. A wide range of colors are also available, with some beads being formed from multicolored glass while others are uniform in color.

The quality of seed beads varies widely. Some companies use very precise glass blowing methods, so that their seed beads are very even in size and shape. These seed beads tend to be more expensive, since they represent more effort. Other companies have less exacting manufacturing methods, and they produce irregularly shaped products which may sometimes arrive fused together due to careless handling.

There are a number of ways to purchase seed beads. Many craft stores sell them strung in hanks of one hundred or more, since the beads are so small that a large number are needed for most craft projects. The beads may also be sold in small containers or tins so that they are not as easy to lose, or they may be loose and sold by weight, so that crafters can pick out as many as they please.

Many people use seed beads as spacers in necklaces, to accent garments and craft projects, or in woven beaded projects like belts. The small beads are also common in vintage clothing, and many companies make reproduction beads designed specifically for repairing vintage garments. Crafters who want to start beading may want to consider the purchase of a tackle box to keep their beads in, so that the colors will be separated while the beads are also confined, as they are very easy to lose.

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Discussion Comments


Seed beads can be used to make very ornate and elaborate pieces of jewelry and artwork. I saw a very intricate beaded diary cover that was made with size 15 seed beads.

The colors of the beads and the design were just beautiful. I don't know how long it took them to make this, but I know that I would not have the patience to complete a project like that even though it was stunning to look at and quite practical too.


When I first began beading I used seed beads to make several projects. I followed a pattern using the 8 0 seed beads to make a bookmark with a floral design on it. The bottom of the bookmark had attached strings with matching seed beads on it.

I still have that bookmark, but don't use the seed beads as much as I did in the past. You can also purchase pre-strung seed beads which are great if you want to incorporate them in some fringe with knitting or crochet projects.


Seed beads do come in different sizes, but most of them are still pretty small compared to some of the other beads I use. They are not my favorite bead to work with just because they are so small.

I did one project one time that used 11 0 seed beads to make an ornate cell phone holder. It did turn out very nice, but I have not undertaken a big seed bead project since then. I don't have the patience or eyesight for it any more.


How are seed beads made that are so small that a needle won't go through, and it takes 50 to make one inch?

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