Delica Bead Codes

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There are many reasons why I love Delicas… The colour range. How easy they are to use. That beautiful ‘click’ you get as they slot into place on a project… And the Delica bead codes. But do you understand these codes? I meet a lot of beaders who don’t fully realise how much information that little combination of numbers and letters is giving them. So, let me explain…

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What are Delica Bead Codes?

Let me just back-track briefly. If you’re totally new to beading, then you might be wondering what Delica beads are, never mind their codes.

Basically, they are a brand of cylinder beads, manufactured in Japan by the Miyuki bead company. You can get other brands of cylinder beads, but the Delicas are so well-used that most people refer to Delicas when they might actually mean ‘cylinders’. In fact, you could be forgiven for not realising that you can get other brands.

That probably leads you to another question. What are cylinder beads?

They are small seed beads, but are incredibly regular in shape. So, their sides and ends are much ‘flatter’ (less rounded). This means they clip together more uniformly. So, that creates a beautiful look in techniques like Peyote stitch or brick stitch. It also means the beading ‘fabric’ you create will be a lot stiffer. This makes them ideal for using in dimensional beadwork, like beaded boxes.

So, now you know what the beads are, what about those codes?

Well, you will find a little code made up of two or three letters and up to four numbers. This is the precise label for your beads. It is set by the factory and used universally by bead shops and sellers.

Why does that matter? Well, when you come to buy beads, if you purchase using the bead code, you can be certain you are getting exactly the right bead. That could mean the same bead as the designer used in their tutorial. Or, it could mean the same bead as some in your existing stash, if you’re looking to restock a tube that you’ve finished.

By buying the exact match, you can be sure you’re getting the colour and size that you want.

Seed bead size and brands, delica bead codes

How do the Delica bead codes work?

I’ve just told you that your code is made up of letters and numbers. So, what might that look like?

These are actual delica bead code examples:

  • DBS205
  • DB1371
  • DBM10
  • DBL0035

So, what information are you getting from that code?

The letters

Let’s begin with the letter portion of your code. Delica beads are available in four sizes. The most commonly used size (and I believe the original size) is size 11.

So, this size of bead has the letter prefix DB. It literally stands for ‘Delica Bead’.

Then, we have one smaller size – size 15. These beads have the letter prefix DBS, which stands for ‘Delica Bead Small’.

Next, we move up in size. Slightly larger than the 11s is the size 10. Those beads have the DBM prefix. Can you guess what that might stand for…? It’s ‘Delica Bead Medium’.

Then, we have the largest size – size 8. Now, by process of elimination, this must be the DBL prefix. Short for ‘Delica Bead Large’. However, as you write DBL, it can look like short-hand for ‘double’. So, you may hear some people refer to these as ‘double delicas’. If you’re looking for some kind of reference to their size, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. They’re not really double the size of the basic delicas. So, I’m pretty confident the term comes from the code lettering, but it can be confusing.

Now, that’s brilliant, because, even if the bead retailer hasn’t labelled the bead size, you will know what size you are buying based on the letters in the code. Incredibly helpful!

The numbers

Now we’ll come on to the numbers. These are the colour codes.

I don’t have a list of these, and I haven’t worked out the ‘logic’ behind them. (By which I mean, knowing that all green beads start with a 1, or something…they don’t!). I suspect the colour codes have evolved as Miyuki has developed a wider range of colours.

However, there is one thing you should know. Technically, the colour code should be a 4-digit number. But you will have noticed in my samples list that the numbers ranged from two to four digits.

Well, different bead shops or wholesalers treat the digits slightly differently. Some will change all the digits to a 4-digit code. For example, DB10 would be DB0010. Some change the 2-digit numbers to 3-digit. Again, in that example, DB10 would become DB010. Others just leave the numbers literally as they are.

It’s not always possible to know who will take any particular strategy with this. So, what I would say is, just be aware. If, for example, you’re searching for DB10 (which is black, so a fairly standard colour), but it’s not coming up in search results, then try searching on DB010 or DB0010.

There’s no need for you to get to ‘learn’ the colour codes. But you may be surprised how you become familiar with some of them over time. When it comes to the bead colours that I use regularly, I do find I just ‘know’ the colour code.

Bead storage jars with labels

What does this mean for storage?

Given that the Delica bead codes are so helpful (I would argue, essential) when it comes to ordering your beads, you need to preserve those codes when you store them.

By doing that, when you run out of a colour – or run low – you will know exactly which code to re-order.

So, if you are storing your beads in the packets or tubes in which they arrived, just make sure the code is written on the packaging. If it’s not, then add it.

If you’re transferring your beads into a custom-made storage unit, then you will need to label them. So, find some way of writing the bead code on the storage space. That way, you will always know what you need to buy. (And, if you need some ideas for bead storage, check out this section).

You will also be able to avoid ‘double-purchasing’. By that, I mean buying a bead colour that you already have. We all do it! We’re all drawn to certain colours, so find ourselves buying them over and over. But if you have your colour codes on your storage, you’ll be able to check whether you already have those beads in your stash.

Over to you…

I hope that has helped you understand more about the brilliant Delica beads. If you have any tips to add, just leave a comment down below. And, if that leaves you itching to buy a few more Delicas, check out this link.

Finally, if you would like to receive more beading tips, delivered straight to your inbox once a month, I can help. Just sign up to my ‘Better Beader’ mailing list for a range of helpful articles and beading advice. I cover everything from materials, to techniques, to selling your work, to plain old ‘bead trivia’. So, if that sounds good, use this link to join the list now.

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17 Responses

  1. Katie, you offered some great advice. I would like to add….even though the color numbers go up the the 2500’s, there are only appx. 1265 Delica colors. Miyuki skips numbers, which is what I can’t figure. Other then the fact that they plan on adding more later. However, there are certain number groups that offer a particular finish. The 400’s offer mostly metallic finishes. The 800’s are mostly the satin line, but there are also some in the 1800’s. Thanks for what you are doing, for Planet Bead. Stay Safe, my Friend.

  2. Linda says:

    Great information Katie, thank you. When I first began beading, I remember being quite confused by all the Delica lettering and numbering. I’m sure this will help many beaders understand.

    • beadflowers says:

      Thank you Linda – I’m glad that is helpful. Yes, like you, it all seemed very confusing when I first started out! But once you figure it out, it’s such a helpful system.

  3. DKendra says:

    Thank you. I immediately went to look at what I, and yep! Found the code! Thank you.

  4. Janine says:

    I’ve noticed some sites just use D and not DB too. I use a Dymo machine to label my packets or fliptop boxes and just use D and then the 4 digit number for my own labelling as that takes up less room on the label.

    • beadflowers says:

      That’s great…until you need to indicate other sizes of delica! I guess in that case, you can use DM, DS and DL. Certainly, as you say, it helps with space on the labels! Thanks for sharing that tip, Janine.

  5. Bonney Gold says:

    Thank you so much for the information a rank amateur was looking for.

    • beadflowers says:

      You are very welcome, Bonney! We’ve all been there in the early days (I still remember how confused I felt at just about everything when I started). So, I’m glad this has helped. Happy beading!
      Katie

  6. Margaret says:

    Great explanation about the 4 digits. I get so frustrated trying to order Delicas because the number I put in seems to rarely find anything, so now I need to try all possible digits. That’s why I like kits.

  7. Marianne says:

    Also inventory your beads as they come in …just a basic chart…number, color name, qty and name of supplier
    so you dont over order or know who to reorder. This helps if you have multiple projects going and not all the tubes are put away.

  8. Kim says:

    When/if you do inventory, send a copy to your phone. Then, no matter where or how you’re shopping, you can check to see if you really need that cool color.

  9. Rebecca M Hahn says:

    Thank you for the great information. I now know more about the diffierent lettering in the delica beads. Never knew that before.

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