How hard can it be, buying beads? Check out a bead store sometime; there are more beads than you would have imagined! So if a beader is on your Holiday Gift List, check here before you buy!
Seed Beads - Size 11/0
Ranging widely in shape and size, the most common seed beads are Czech, Japanese and the Delica brand cylindrical beads. Czech beads are very traditional, sold on hanks, are mostly round and can be uneven. Japanese seed beads are more uniform, come in many different colors and are usually sold loose in bags or tubes. Delica and Antique brand beads are the choice of many beaders as their uniform cylindrical shape lend them to many projects, especially loom work and Peyote stitch projects.
Charlotte and True Cut Beads
The traditional Charlotte bead is a Czech made, size 13/0 bead with a single flat side to it, causing it to sparkle and shine. These beads are often found in Native American beadwork, are available in a variety of colors and finishes, and are most often sold on short hanks with 12 stands per hank. Some older Charlotte beads are sold on long hanks, and can get pricey. They are also available in gold, silver and copper plate. True cut beads simply other size beads with one or more flat cuts.
Metal beads come in all shapes and sizes - silver, gold, copper, round, square, bicone, etc. Popular metal beads include the Balinese Beads, which are made in Bali and are usually of sterling silver, gold or vemeil (gold plated sterling). Beware of "Bali Style" beads - these are often base metal imitations. Best bet is to stick to reputable dealers. Also popular are the "liquid silver" and "liquid gold" beads: tiny tubes made of metal, usually strung together which drape beautifully.
An art form unto themselves, lampwork beads are most often used as jewelry centerpieces.! Made with a torch or in a kiln, these are painstakingly developed and executed by glassmaking professional. Be sure any lampwork bead you buy is kiln annealed; this will insure stability of the glass. Judge the price of lampwork according to the complexity of the finished bead. Don't be afraid to ask the maker questions - they are usually happy to tell you about the process of making these lovelies!
Semi Precious Stone Beads and Pearls
Study before you buy. A good book on minerals and semi-precious stones will be worth the investment if you are buying a lot of these beads. Beads should be labeled as to treatment, but many dyed beads are sold. Some treatments are perfectly acceptable such as heating the stone to change or enhance its color. Pearl dying is considered acceptable, as long as you are informed that they are indeed treated. Advance study and a reputable dealer are your best insurance.