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Guide to seed beads

Seed beads

Seed beads are small beads of a few millimeters in size. They are usually cylindrical / spherical in shape. Seed beads are most commonly used for bead embroidery and jewellery making.

Bugle beads

Bugle beads have a similar use to seed beads. They're often used in beaded fringe, bead embroidery and jewellery making.

Bugle beads are narrow, cut-glass tubes. Bugle beads can be cylindrically round, cylindrically squared, squared and twisted, hex-cut (with six sides), or twisted hex-cut.

Seed bead sizes

The aught system of classifying seed beads is widely used but is only an approximate guide. This is because different manufacturers interpret the aught sizes differently. Seed beads with the same aught size made by different manufacturers may vary in size.

The smaller the aught number the larger the bead. In the aught system, the largest size of a bead is 1/0 ("one-aught") and the smallest is 24/0.

Seed beads are usually 10/0, 11/0, 12/0 and 13/0
The very small holes in the centers of most seed beads means that stringing them usually requires the use of a specialized long narrow needle called a beading needle.

The largest beads, including 1/0, 2/0, 3/0 and anything larger, are usually referred to as "crow beads."

Beads that are size 4/0, 5/0 or 6/0 are usually called "pony beads" (or E beads).

Below is a table of aught sizes and the diameter of the beads in mm.

Aught size
Diameter (mm)
4.0 - 4.3
3.4 - 4.0
Aught size
Diameter (mm)
2.5 - 3.1
2.2 - 2.7
2.0 - 2.3
1.8 - 2.1
1.7 - 1.9
1.5 - 1.7

Colours and finishes

Seed beads can have a variety of finishes (coatings). Different finishes gives seed beads a different effect. Below are some of main coatings used.

  • Colour lined - a color coating is applied inside the beads.
  • Silver-lined - a silvery coating which reflects light is applied to the inside of the seed bead.
  • Copper-lined - a coppery coating which reflects a reddish light is applied to the inside of the seed bead.
  • Bronze-lined - a bronzy coating which reflects a brown light is applied to the inside of the seed bead
  • Transparent - the glass is see-through.
  • Translucent - you can see light through the bead, although the light is diffused.
  • Opaque - the solid color prevents light from passing through the bead.
  • Matte - the bead is textured on a microscopic level to result in a matte finish.
  • Luster or lustre - a transparent "pearl" effect applied to the surface of the seed bead.
  • Celon - A type of finish (coating) for seed and bugle beads. Ceylon is an adjective used before a colour name; for example, Ceylon red, Ceylon yellow, Ceylon white. The word Ceylon indicates that the beads have additional lustre due to the application of the ceylon coating.


Seed beads comes in a variety of shapes. Below are some the main shapes

  • Round / rocailles - round seed beads where the diameter of the bead is greater than the height.
  • Cylindrical seed beads - the diameter of the seed bead is less than the height.
  • Square - cube shaped seed beads with a relatively large hole.
  • Triangle - triangular shaped seed beads.
  • Charlotte cut - each seed bead has a single facet to give it more shine.

Example seed and bugle beads

Below are some examples of seed and bugle beads.

shop Glass Seed beadsMatt

These glass seed beads are matt (non-shiny).

shopGlass Seed beadsMetallic

These glass seed beads have a metallic sheen.

shopGlass Seed beadsColour core

These glass seed beads have a coloured core.

shopGlass Seed beadsLustre

These glass seed beads have a lustrous style.

shopGlass Seed beadsRainbow

These glass seed beads have a rainbow of colours.

shopGlass Seed beadsResplendent

These glass seed beads are resplendent.

shopGlass Seed beadsTransparent

These glass seed beads are transparent.

shopGlass Seed beadsTwin colour

These glass seed beads have two colours.

shopBugle beads

Glass bugle beads
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