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Beadwork Glossary

Occasionally you may run into a term or two that you are not familiar with on our web site, or when consulting other jewelry design references. Here is a handy list of terms to help you with your jewelry design quest. The images link to examples of the listed item.

Acrylic Beads - Acrylic beads are made through a process called suspension polymerization, which produces a material with a low enough molecular weight to allow a typical melt processing. It can then be cast, molded or pressure formed. Often transparent and easily dyed, acrylic beads come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Adhesives - Adhesives are bonding agents. There are several different kinds for jewelry making. Zap-a-Gap is like a super glue that works well on licorice leather and its findings while Hypo Cement is better used for tying knots in monofilament cording or creating floating/illusion necklaces.
Alloy - An alloy is an amalgamation of several metals that create a new metal. The presence of other metals, especially when combined, will make for a harder and more durable metal.
Antique Copper - Antique Copper is a plating that is applied to base metal, typically pewter. It is called antique because the plating itself looks rustic and slightly weather. Antique copper is typically oxidized in places to darken certain areas which adds to the antique look of the finish.
Antique Gold - Antique Gold is a finish that is applied to base metal. It is called antique gold because the base metal is plated in gold that is often darkened, or oxidized, to give the metal a more antique look..
Antique Silver - Antique Silver is a finish that is applied to base metal, typically pewter. Antique silver has a softer, more gray appearance than bright silver and is usually oxidized for an aged look.
Aurora Borealis - An aurora borealis (AB) coating, usually on only one side of a bead, gives off a rainbow-like array of colors. The colors are most apparent when a clear crystal has an AB effect. AB is most common in crystals, seed beads and czech glass.
Bail - A bail is what connects a pendant to a necklace design. Most bails have prongs that go inside the hole of the pendant so the pendant appears to be suspended. To use some bails, you will need an open jump ring to attach the pendant to the bail.
Base Metal - Base metals, as opposed to gold and silver, are non-precious metals including tin, zinc, nickel, iron,and copper. One of the most common base metals in the bead world is pewter, which is a tin based alloy. Most base metals today are lead and nickel free.
Bead - A bead is an object that has a hole drilled in it, generally for stringing, weaving or wire wrapping. Beads come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials from metal to glass to acrylic.
Bead Caps - Bead caps can be placed on either side of a bead to help hold it in place, put they are most commonly used to decorate beads. Generally speaking, you pick a bead cap that is similar in size to the bead you wish to adorn.
Bead Cones - Bead cones are typically used in multi-strand jewelry designs to help hide the ends of all the strands. They can also be used in much the same way bead caps are used. Cones have a wide mouth and a smaller hole on the other end.
Bead Reamer - A bead reamer is a useful tool to have when you want to enlarge, clean or round out holes in your beads. Bead reamers are most commonly used on freshwater pearls, which are notorious for having very small bead holes.
Bead Tips - Also known as clam shell tips, bead tips are used to conceal knots and attach clasps or jump rings. String or wire is inserted in the hole located at the bend between the two cups. The cups are then clamped together over a knot to hide it and the hook on the end can be clamped onto a finding like a clasp, toggle or jump ring that finishes off a bracelet or necklace.
Bead Weaving - Bead weaving is a technique that uses seed beads and thread to create structured yet flexible pieces of jewelry. Bead weaving can be done on a loom or off loom and by hand.
Beading Loom - Bead looms typically have a wood frame. The frame holds multiple strands of threads running parallel to one another. A piece of thread is strung with seed beads and run through the threads on the loom to quickly create woven jewelry pieces.
Beading Wire - Beading wire is made of strands of wire twisted together and coated in nylon. It usually has a number of strands and a diameter in inches. (For example, 49-strand .018" wire has 49 tiny twisted wire strands coated in nylon; its outer diameter measures .018 inches.) Beading wires with smaller diameters should be used on small hole beads, such as freshwater pearls, while beads with larger holes or more weight, such as large gemstones, should be strung on beading wire with a larger diameter. Beading wire is a must have item for every beader, whether a beginner or a seasoned pro.
Bezel - A bezel is a setting typically used for a cabochon. Bezels can also be used in mixed media and DIY design projects. You can adhere images to bezels and layer a glass dome on top or you can simply glue beads into bezels.
Bicone - A shape combining two cones with their bases together. Bicones are most commonly found in Swarovski crystals and czech glass beads. Bicones make great spacers between larger beads and are also great when used in woven work.
Cabochons - A cabochon is a small domed focal piece that has a flat back. Cabochons do not have drilled holes and they are usually smooth rather than faceted. Although they come in many different materials, gemstones are the most popular cabochons. Cabochons can be glued to surfaces or embellished using a needle and thread with seed beads.
Ceramic Beads - A mixture of clay and other chemicals that are fired at very high temperatures. Clay beads date back to as early as 1000 BC. Some are hand painted whereas some have colored decals glazed onto the surface. Ceramic beads are often glazed giving it a fine shine. There are different qualities of clay used leading to varying degrees of hardness and color. Most ceramic beads come from Peru, Greece and India.
Chain - Chain is made of interlocking links of metal. The links can be soldered or open, patterned or plain, large or small. Jewelry making chain will come in customizable lengths (sold by the foot) or will come finished with rings and a clasp attached.
Chain Nose Pliers - Chain nose pliers have flat tapered jaws that can reach things in tight places. Chain nose pliers are used for everything from opening and closing jump rings to working with wire; they can even be used to secure crimp beads.
Chandelier Earring Findings - Chandelier findings can be used to make your own dangle earrings with ease, having multiple holes for multiple dangles. Headpins are used to attach your drops or beads, the most common of which are Swarovski crystals.
Charms - Charms are like mini-pendants. They typically come in metals such as silver, gold or pewter and are shapes such as hearts, flowers and animals. Charms make great drops from earrings, bracelets and even dainty necklaces. Charms typically measure about 25mm (1 inch) in diameter or less.
Clasp - A clasp is used to attach pieces of jewelry work - whether they be made of chain, beading wire or woven out of thread. There are a variety of different types of clasps; the most common and popular for us are lobster and/or trigger, toggle and hook and eye.
Composite - Composite beads are those that consist of part stone and part inorganic resin. The resin is used to harden and strengthen the stone itself. Most composite beads are a turquoise/resin combination.
Crimp Beads - Crimp beads, also known as "crimping beads", are used to secure two or more pieces of wire. Crimp beads are typically used in beaded bracelet and necklace designs. Wire is looped through a clasp and then back through the crimp bead. If using a Designer Bead Crimper, you press the crimp bead with the inner groove of the Crimper and fold it with the outer groove to hold the two pieces of wire together. If using the Magical Crimp Forming Tool, a crimp bead is turned into a 2mm round. It is flattened by the tool and then the tool twists around the crimp bead to make it form a round. The flattening action of either tool is what secures the crimp bead to the strands of wire.
Crimping Tools - Crimping tools are used with crimp beads and beading wire. They are essential for securing beaded jewelry. The most standard kind of crimp tool is the Beadalon Designer Crimper Tool, which secures a crimp bead in 2 quick and easy steps. The BeadSmith Magical Crimp Forming Tool transforms crimp tubes into round beads that hold the beading wire in place.
Crystal - Crystal is, by definition, leaded glass. Most crystal manufactured today contains traces of lead that are added to molten glass; this addition of lead gives the glass more brilliance.
Czech Glass Beads - Prior to 1918, before the country was named Czechoslovakia, these beads were known as Bohemian glass. These colorful glass beads from the Czech Republic are made from a thick rod that is heated to extremely hot temperatures and is used to stamp or press the glass. This increased the pace of production compared to the earliest form of making Czech glass, which involved wrapping molten glass around a form, then allowing it to cool. They are softer in appearance than Swarovski crystal beads and are a bit more affordable.
Delicas - Delicas are made by Miyuki in Japan. They are perfectly uniform cylindrical seed beads most commonly used for weaving but, due to their uniformity are also great for stringing projects as well. They come in three sizes: 11/0, 10/0 and 8/0, the smallest of which is the 11/0.
Druzy - Druzy (or drusy) typically occurs in agate stones. Druzy is when tiny crystals form on or within the surface of the gemstone itself.
Ear Wire - Ear wires can come in different shapes, sizes and finishes, but they typically consist of a piece of wire that has a coil or ball at the opposite end to balance them out.
Enamel - Enamel is a powdered glass that is melted at extremely high temperatures and is fused to metal, glass or ceramic after cooling. Enamel gives beads and findings bright pops of color.
End Cap - End caps are findings that hold cording or wire or some other component in place. There are end caps for Kumihimo designs, for example, where you glue your work into the cap. Then there are end caps for memory wire; resembling beads, these ball shaped ends can be glued to the end of the memory wire.
Extender Chain - Extender chain allows you to adjust the length of your necklace or bracelet as desired. Most premade extender chains are about 3 inches in length. You can also use scrap pieces of chain to create your own extender.
Eye Pins - Eye pins are lengths of wire with a round, open loop at one end. They can be used to connect pieces of chain or bead work. Eye pins can also be used to create drop beaded earrings.
Facet - A flat face on a three-dimensional geometric shape. Facets are used to form a bead or stone to improve their appearance. The aim of faceting is to maximize the visible internal reflections of the stone. The most common examples of how facets enhance beads are gemstones and crystals.
Filigree - Filigree beads and findings are those that have open, airy spaces, often in a leafy or floral motif. Filigree pieces are often easy to manipulate with pliers so they can be turned into bead and pendant caps. As a general rule, filigrees often come in antique finishes and therefore look good in more vintage inspired designs.
Finding - Findings are the components, or building blocks, of jewelry design. Clasps and toggles, headpins and eye pins, pendant bails - these things are all considered findings. These components are offered in a variety of sizes, shapes and finishes, from affordable base metal to sterling silver.
Fire Polish - Almost exclusively applied to Czech glass beads, fire polishing is when glass beads are exposed to heat or flame. By exposing the surface of the bead to flame or heat, the surface is heated to a point where it is melted until smooth.
Flat Nose Pliers - Flat nose pliers have smooth, flat jaws. They are typically used for straightening out craft wire.
Focal Bead - A focal bead is the centerpiece of a beaded necklace, bracelet or earring design. Some beads are chosen as focal beads because they are large while others are chosen because they are intricate or interesting.
Freshwater Pearl - Freshwater pearls are created when a mother-of-pearl is inserted into a freshwater oyster. Freshwater pearls, like gemstones, can range in grade and quality. They are notorious for having very small bead holes. Freshwater pearls can be knotted or strung on beading wire.
Galvanized - Galvanized beads are those that have a layer of a metal coating on top. This term is typically used to describe glass seed beads that have a metallic coating.
Gauge - Gauge is the thickness in the diameter of wire. Thickness decreases as the gauge number increases. The American Wire Gauge(AWG) system scale is as follows:
Gemstones - Also known as semi-precious stones, a gemstone is usually a mineral (can be a rock, like lapis lazuli, or some other organic material such as amber) and is used in jewelry making after being cut and polished. A large factor involved in the pricing of gemstones is rarity. Common gemstones include turquoise, onyx, amethyst, rose quartz and hematite.
Gold Filled - Gold filled beads are created when heat and pressure fuses a layer of gold (usually 14 karat) to a base metal. This infusion of gold with a base metal creates a more solid metal bead that goes beyond a single layer of plating.
Gold Plated - Gold plating occurs when a base metal has a thin layer of gold bonded to the top after the metal has been formed. Whereas the creation of gold filled beads includes the incorporation of gold at the creation level, gold plating is applied at the end of the production process.
Gunmetal - Gunmetal is a plating also known as black oxide. It is usually very deep gray and can either be shiny (think hematite) or matte in finish. Gunmetal plating is typically applied to base metal such as brass or pewter.
Head Pins - Headpins are lengths of wire with a pinhead on one end. The head on the pin helps to hold beads in place. You can use headpins to make dangles and drops from bracelets, necklaces and - most commonly - earrings.
Heat Treated - Heat treated stones are those that have gone through a heating and cooling process to alter physical properties of the stone. Heat treating stones is a very natural way to harden and strengthen the stone itself.
Hook and Eye Clasp - A hook and eye clasp consists of a side that has a hook and a side that has a round loop (or eye). Sometimes adjustable, hook and eye clasps are perfect for bracelets that one has to take off and put on by oneself.
Jig - A jig is a tool used for wire working. Jigs typically have a base with pegs that may or may not be moveable. The pegs allow you to bend and shape wire for perfectly formed wire creations.
Jump Rings - Jump rings are small jewelry findings used to link jewelry elements such as a charms to chain. Jump rings typically have an opening so that, using chain nose pliers, you can open them and use them to attach pieces of bead work or sections of chain. You then use pliers to make sure they are closed. When closed, jump rings look like simple round loops.
Karat - Karat is the measure of how fine gold is. 24 karat gold is 100% gold and is the finest while 10 karat gold is about 40% pure gold. 14 karat gold is the most common in the United States and is about 60% pure gold. Karat is usually designated with a k behind a number and should be included in the description of all gold and gold filled beads and components.
Lampwork - Lampwork beads are made when a source of heat is applied to glass. When the glass is melted, it is reshaped using tools, hand movements and air. Because lampwork glass beads are typically handmade, it is hard to find 2 that are exactly alike.
Link - Also called connectors, links function in much the way they sound: they link (or connect) pieces of chain and/or beadwork. Some links have a hole at each end, while others may not have a drilled hole, but may have a large hole in the center; some links are designed to hold and connect multiple strands. Smaller links make great earring findings while larger links are good for necklace and bracelet designs.
Lobster Clasp - Lobster clasps are one of the most popular clasps. Resembling a lobster claw, there is a small lever that pokes out is pushed/pulled to open the mouth of the clasp and released to catch the ring or loop. Lobster clasps come in a variety of sizes and finishes. They are great for creating necklaces and bracelets that are adjustable in length, especially when extender chain is used as the other half of this clasp.
Luster - Luster (or lustre) is a pearlescent effect that is often applied to glass beads, and especially to seed beads. A luster effect gives beads a shiny, radiant glow. When applied to transparent beads, it helps light reflect many different colors.
Mandrel - A mandrel is a tapered cylindrical tool that helps shape and form wire. Most mandrels have marking with ring sizes on them to help create wire wrapped rings. Some mandrels are unmarked, which is useful for advanced wire working.
Matte - Matte is a finish that is soft, dull or lusterless. Matte beads are sometimes also referred to as frosted beads. The most common type of beads with a matte finish are seed beads.
Miracle Beads - Miracle beads have a Lucite core surrounded by a mirrored silver plating covered in lacquer. This production process gives miracle beads the illusion of glowing from within.
Memory Wire - Memory wire is a tempered steel that comes in a continuous coil. It will retain its shape after being bent or stretched. Memory wire comes in necklace, bracelet and ring size. Most people use it for jewelry making, but it can also be used for other crafts as well. For example, the ring size memory wire can be used to create unique wine glass charms.
Mood Beads - Mood beads, also known as mirage beads, are made of a heat sensitive polymer material. The color of mood beads changes as the wearer’s body temperature fluctuates.
Mosaic - A mosaic is a piece that consists of many smaller pieces that make up a cohesive image or pattern. In jewelry making terms, mosaic pieces are typically gemstones or shell pieces where various fragments are adhered together, giving the bead or pendant a speckled or spotted appearance.
Nipper Tool - A type of cutting tool, the Nipper tool is designed to cut beading wire and softer craft wires. The Nipper tool has an angled blade, allowing it to get into tight spaces.
Multi-Strand Clasp - A multi-strand clasp allows you to attach several strands of beadwork, chain or stitched work to one closure. Multi-strand clasps can be slide lock clasps, toggles or push-pull clasps. They often have interesting designs and make wonderful centerpieces for multi-stranded bracelet and necklace designs.
Needle - A needle is a long metal object with a hole for holding materials such as thread, beading wire, and elastic to name a few. Needles can be used for off-loom bead work as well as for making leather wrap bracelets, netted elastic pieces and simply stringing beads onto beading wire.
Nugget - A nugget bead is a bead that is freeform and tumbled. It looks like a raw gemstone and will vary in shape and size. Nugget beads often have a lot of matrix or veining in them adding to their natural appearance.
Nylon Jaw Pliers - Nylon jaw pliers are designed for wire work. They smoothly grip wire and metal without marring, dinging, denting or scratching the surface.
Oxidized - An oxidized metal bead is one that has been exposed to oxygen – or air – which darkens the metal and leaves it with a patina of sorts. Many plated beads, and a lot of pewter beads as well, undergo an oxidization process during production. Oxidization gives beads an antique look.
Pendant - A pendant is a focal point of a necklace design. Typically, a focal piece has to be 25mm (about 1 inch) or larger to be considered a pendant. Pendants can be vertically drilled from top to bottom, drilled from front to back or horizontally drilled through the top. A pendant may or may not include a bail for incorporation into a necklace design.
Pewter - A metal alloy consisting mostly of tin. Lead used to be used in the production of pewter but, due to safety concerns, is no longer used. Pewter is often oxidized to make it look antique. It can also be plated in a variety of finishes including antique copper, antique brass, antique gold and gunmetal.
Pressed Glass - Pressed glass is a common form of Czech glass. This glass is made when a metal mold presses down on the molten glass to form shape and design simultaneously.
Rat Tail - Rat tail is a 2mm satin cording. Rat tail can be used with crimp ends to create simple cording for necklace designs. It can also be used for macramé and Kumihimo jewelry projects.
Recycled Glass - Recycled glass, also called cultured sea glass, is made from glass that has been recycled. Recycled glass beads have a semi-opaque, frosted finish.
Resin - Resin is a carbon based material that can be organic (as in the case with amber) or non-organic. Though it often looks carved, resin is actually poured and molded to create various shapes and sizes of beads and components.
Rivoli - Rivolis are Swarovski crystal elements that have a pointed back and a pointed front. They are faceted and are often foil-backed. The foil backing and faceting enhance color, brilliance and shine.
Rondelle - A rondelle is a flattened round bead. Rondelle metal beads are typically completely flat and make excellent spacers between crystals, gemstones and more. Crystal rondelles are more three-dimensional and can be focal beads or spacers, depending on their size.
Round Nose Pliers - Round nose pliers have tapered circular jaws that are used to form loops in metal. Use to round ends of memory wire or to loop craft wire for beading and wire wrapping. The small tips can reach into tight spaces that other pliers cannot reach.
S Hook Clasp - An S hook is a clasp that is shaped like the letter S. It opens on both ends, allowing for easy on and off jewelry. S hook clasps are most commonly used on chain designs and, because of their open design, can allow the user to adjust the length of her jewelry.
Seed Beads - Seed beads are small glass beads that are usually round in shape. Though they are primarily used in woven and stitched designs, they also work well in beaded pieces as well as a variety of mixed media craft projects. Seed beads have interesting sizing: the smaller the number, the larger the bead.
Separators - Separators are jewelry components or findings that are used to separate multiple strands of beading wire. Also called spacer bars, these will help add structure to multi-stranded designs
Silver Filled - Silver filled beads and components are created when 92.5% silver is bonded with an alloy during the production process. To be considered silver filled, the silver must constitute at least 1/20 of the metal in the bead or finding.
Silver Plated - Silver plated beads and findings are those that have a thin layer of silver coated on top of a base metal. The silver is in fine film and is not bonded to the metal as it is in silver filled beads and components.
Slide Lock Clasp - A slide lock clasp is one that has 2 tubular pieces that slide into one another and click into place. Slide lock clasps are almost always multi-stranded in their design. Because they are fairly easy to take on and off by oneself, they are often used in multi-stranded bracelet designs.
Split Rings - Split rings are jewelry findings resembling key rings in the sense that they are a continuous double loop. Their construction makes them sturdy for holding charms in place on charm bracelets, for example.
Split Ring Pliers - Split ring pliers have a thin hook at one end for opening the end of a split ring plier to easily slide it onto a charm or finding without misshaping the ring.
Stabilized - The term stabilized means that a gemstone has had an inorganic material, such as resin, applied to it during its production process. Stabilization actually helps harden gemstones like turquoise that are naturally very soft.
Sterling Silver - Sterling silver is silver that is 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% of another metal, usually copper. (Other metals are added because silver on its own is very soft).
Thread - Thread is very fine material used primarily for bead weaving and stitching. It is comprised of several small layers of fiber twisted or braided together to form one stringing unit.
Toggle - A type of clasp, a toggle consists of a bar and a ring. The bar is longer than the ring and slips through it and then rests on top of it. Toggles are secure closures for necklace and bracelet designs and allow the wearer to take her jewelry off easily by herself.
Vitrail - Vitrail is an effect that is applied to the underside of glass or crystal beads. This effect makes the bead itself appear to radiate flashes of color, often metallic in nature.
Wire Guardian - A wire guardian is a C-shaped curved tube that fits on beading wire. It is thin enough to go through the loop on a clasp and is just the right length to reach between a clasp and a crimp bead. Wire guardians help prevent fraying, stretching and pulling of beading wire on beaded bracelet and necklace designs.
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