Types of Beads

There are hundreds of different types of beads available to purchase, you can make your own or recycle other things to use for beads. I’ve listed a few of the different types of beads here and included links to my tutorials on how to make your own.

You will also find ideas on items you can recycle as beads.

As you become more familiar with beading crafts and start looking at supplies you will gain a better idea of which type of bead is suitable for your project.

This guide will  help you with a brief overview of the most common types of beads available.

There are many things that can be used as beads such as buttons, macaroni, plastic tubing or even drinking straws. You can make your own beads using paper or card, wire or string wrapped around a pencil to mold it into a bead shape. Salt dough and polymer clay are great for making gorgeous beads with pretty patterns. 

If you can thread it onto a length of cord or wire then you can use it as a bead, the only limit is your imagination.

Click on one of the images below to take you directly to that type of bead or scroll down to find out a bit more about each craft before you decide. There's a button under each entry to bring you back here to the quick links menu. 

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Types of Beads

Glass Beads

There are many different types of glass beads available in lots of different styles, colors and sizes.

There are far too many to list them all but here are a few that give some idea of the range available.

Venetian glass beads – various sizes and shapes they are highly decorated and get their name from where they are made.

glass beads in different shapes, sizes and colors

Seed Beads

These are small beads that look a bit like seeds, they are sometimes called rocailles.

They are mostly made of glass but there are some plastic/acrylic ones available.

They come in huge variety of colors and finishes and are usually bought by weight.

lots of seed beads in different colors


These are narrow glass tubes they also come in a wide range of colors and styles.

bugle beads in different colors

Millefiori Beads

Milli is Italian for a thousand and fiori means flower. These beads look like they are covered in lots of tiny flowers.

They are usually made from glass by fusing glass rods around a central core.

They can also be made using polymer clay by joining long strings of clay together around a central string. 

They come in lots of different shapes and colors.

millefiori beads in different shapes and sizes

Crackle Glass Beads

These glass beads look like they have cracks all over the inside but are smooth and unbroken on the surface.

round crackle glass beads in different colors

Natural Materials

There are a whole range of beads made from seeds, bone, shell, mother of pearl, wood or horn.

These natural materials have been used for hundreds of years to make jewellery and look great with natural cord.

mother of pearl and shell beads

Semi-Precious Stones

These come in various shapes and sizes. They can be regularly cut or irregular, left unpolished or tumbled.

They can be bought with pre-drilled holes or without.

Those without holes can be put into cages, wire-wrapped or you can glue them to your desired finding such as a bail.

They can be expensive but are great as a central stone or pendant in a necklace.

unpolished semi-precious stones

Gem Chips

Chips of semi precious stones usually already drilled with a hole for stringing.

They are not regular in shape and come in different sizes though most are small.

a pile of gem chips

Shell Beads

As the name suggests these are made from bits of shell.

They can be dyed or polished or just left natural.

You can use a whole shell or bits of a shell.

shell beads in various colors

Mother Of Pearl

This is the shiny inner shell that you find in some molluscs.

It's proper name is nacre but it is known as mother of pearl (MOP) because it is also the substance that is found on the outer layer of pearls.

shiny mother of pearl beads in different colors

Wooden Beads

Wood makes great beads and it is light weight and feels warm to touch.

Any wood can be used and the beads can be finished with paints and varnish or left natural.

wooden beads in different shapes and sizes

Pearl Beads

Real pearl beads are expensive but there is a wide range of artificial ones that are much cheaper.

They come in a range of sizes and as well as the round ones you can get oval or drop shapes with a lovely pearly sheen to them.

a selection of artificial pearl beads

Metal Beads

There are a wide range of metal beads available in various shapes, sizes and styles. From plain to highly decorated, cheaper alloys or expensive gold plate there is something for everyone. They are also useful at the ends of cord or tiger-tail designs as the holes are large enough to tuck the ends into leaving a nice finish.

These beads usually have large holes and are often used as spacers between other beads.

Make sure you know the metal content of any beads you purchase.

Many people are allergic to nickel and it's use is regulated in many countries. 

various metal beads

Cloisonne Beads

This type of bead is usually made from metal that is then decorated with wire and enamels.

Each bead has thin metal wire soldered in place to create an outline pattern.

Vibrant enamels are painted in between the wire sections then the bead is fired. 

cloisonne beads in different shapes, sizes and colors

Other Types of Beads

You can use anything that can be threaded on to cord as a bead. Pasta shapes such as macaroni make great beads. Cut up drinking straws, buttons or rolled up paper all make gorgeous and unusual beads.

I have several tutorials on this site on how to make beads, you will find links to these below along with a photo and image of the finished product.

Pasta Beads

These beads are easy to make and are great for kids to play with.

They make cheap and cheerful beads that can be used for lots of different craft ideas.

Paint them in different colors to use as counting beads or you can use them to make a pretty bracelet or pasta necklace.

pasta beads painted in different colors

Drinking Straws

Drinking straws beads are great for kids to use to make their own jewelry. 

Cut them into various sizes to make brightly colored jewelry that won't break the bank.

Paper Beads

Paper beads are easy to make and the kids will love making them into bracelets or necklaces.

Plain or patterned paper can be tightly rolled around a knitting needle or thin metal bar to create beads.

A little varnish will keep them bright and long lasting.

Polymer Clay Beads

Polymer clay is great for making beads.

The colors of the clay stay vibrant even after baking and you can get really intricate detail on a bead made with clay canes. 

These beads are made using layers of clay rolled together and formed into round or tube shaped beads.

Learn how to make your own polymer beads with this easy to follow tutorial.

This type of bead was made from clay canes.

Similar to how the millifiori beads are made.

Learn how to make your own polymer clay beads from canes.

Salt Dough Beads

Salt dough beads
are easy to make and cost very little. 

You can add color by mixing paint or food coloring into the dough or by painting the beads after they have been baked.

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Go to  How to Make Jewelry for ideas on how to use these different beads.

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