The term seed bead encompasses to two different types of beads: beads made of nature’s seeds and beads produced in a factory, we will be speaking of the factory made bead. Most seed beads are made of glass; however, other materials have been used.
Seed beads are made of drawn glass; first compressed air is blown into molten glass, forming the hole in the beads. The molten glass is then stretched and lasers measure the diameter of the drawn glass cane, to get the correct size. The cane is cut into yard long lengths and tied into bunches by hand.
The cane bunches are then put onto a vibrating platform which slides them down to be cut in the correct sizes. Next, they are then sent to heat processing to be rounded and smoothed. The beads are mixed with clay like compound to coat their surface, heated in a kiln, rotated to prevent them from sticking together, and their holes from closing. They are then cleaned, sorted by quality control; finally they will be strung and/or bagged for sale. They come in an almost overwhelming variety of colors and sizes. They can be transparent, opaque, metal finished, color lined, and metal lined, frosted or AB finished (); round, square or hex-cut (faceted).
It can be difficult to make sense of the sizes, as they are listed in xx/o sizes, from 6/o down to 22/o. The larger the number, the smaller the size; still, even the largest seed beads is tiny at 3.3mm. The smallest seed bead is less than 1mm long (.9mm).
The Italians began to make seed beads in the 15th century, but seed beads have been found in graves not only in Egypt, but in Nigeria and Spain, dating 4000 years back.
Seed beads have been around for almost 500 years. They are very popular because of their versatility, variety of sizes, finishes, shapes and, price. They are used for jewelry, clothing, purses, and so much more.
Today there are four major seed bead producers, Preciosa Ornela in the Czech Republic (former Bohemia), Miyuki, Toho and Matsu no in Japan. You can also get seed beads from China (Ming tree), India and Taiwan, but they are of lesser quality and are less uniform in size, hole and finish.
No matter where you purchase your beads from, remember children should always be supervised when doing bead work as they present a chocking hazard. Also the patterns you can create are only limited by your imagination.
Keep crafting Montana!