What is a bead?
Technically, a bead can be defined as ‘an object’ with a hole through it that enables it to be worn as adornment or used for decoration’. This is a pretty broad definition which is good if you’re a designer – it opens up huge possibilities. If you find a shell on a beach with a hole through it, you have a ‘bead’ and that is just what our ancestors did. Alternatively, create your own object, using as creative a material as you like, perforate it so you can string it and you have manufactured a bead – how about a paper bead or fabric beads, or even a polo mint?!
Archaeological evidence suggests that humans may have been ‘manufacturing’ and using simple beads as long ago as 100,000BC. In this case, natural beads would have been shells or stones with a naturally made hole. Manufactured beads would have been things like seeds, leaves or animal teeth and bones through which humans perforated a hole.
Beads have always been used for human adornment, perhaps to indicate the status or wealth of the wearer. Today this is no different, but the variety to which we have access is now huge and the manufacturing processes are of course far more complex. Still, beads remain materials that we use to create adornment, perhaps to satisfy the magpie in us, perhaps to demonstrate how fashionable or wealthy we are, or possibly just to express our individuality. It is the vastness of possibility that they give which makes them so fascinating for me and for thousands of people like me and you.
In this category I hope you will receive some enlightenment as to the many, many types of beads you can buy and also gain some idea of when to use them. If you are looking for instructions on how to use them, try the techniques pages. Just to give you a quick overview: seed beads are tiny glass beads that come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colours. These are the staple of bead-weaving, bead embroidery and French beading. Crystals are man-made and have all the sparkle of expensive jewels, but are available in lots of different forms. Semi-precious covers beads made from materials like natural gemstones or pearls. In ‘large beads’ I look at other varieties including wooden, lampwork and beaded beads – the sort of materials that you would use for simple stringing.
Use the sub-menu to navigate through all these different types of bead, or just head straight to what you’re looking for by using the search bar.