When we're handling beads all day everyday, we sometimes forget that the terms and abbreviations we apply to beads can be a bit confusing, especially if it's the first time you've come across them! Below we have summarised the most common bead finishes you'll come across.

  • AB - This is the abbreviation for Aurora Borealis. This is a coating added to the finished bead that creates a multicoloured surface on top of the base colour when viewed from different directions, similar to light refracted through glass crystals and prisms

  • Colour lined or Inside colour - When a transparent bead has a coloured core where the hold runs through, we call this colour lined or inside colour. This colour is added post-production of the bead, so is a surface coating. Strong friction can potentially remove this coating, but we have never experienced this ourselves

  • Iris - Iridescent finishes are abbreviated to iris in the beading world. Iridescent finishes tend to be bulit into the colour of the bead itself, and produces a similar effect to AB but on a more subtle scale. For example, 6R83 "Metallic Iris Brown" Size 6 Seed Bead has the iridescence built in to the colour rather than being coated on the top.

  • Lustre - Lustered beads have a lovely glossy, very slightly iridescent coating to their surface. When lustres are applied to opaque beads you'll often see them reffered to as pearl or pearlescent, whereas translucent and transparent beads are referred to as ceylon.

  • Matt/Matte or Frosted - The opposite to shiny or glossy! To attain this finish, manufacturers will acid etch or sand blast the surface of the beads to create a smooth matt or frosted finish

  • Metallic - Metallic effect beads have a metallic particulate (whoah, big word alert!) suspended in their outer coating. This can be suspended in laquer as with car paint which results in a semi-premanent coating that can be removed with high abrasion of impacts, or can be suspended in the glass itself, resulting in a truly permanant finish. Toho and Miyuki seed beads usually feature the latter for a higher quality finish.

  • Opal - As the name suggests, beads with opalescent finishes are manufactured to resemble the natural opal gemstones. Instead of having an external AB coating, opalescence actually emanates from the interior structure of the glass bead, creating a very expensive look!

  • Opaque - Simply a bead with a surface that does not let light travel through it's main structure.

  • Painted/Baked - Beads that have this finish are often glass based beads that have had a vitreous laquer applied to the surface and then heated to form a solid opaque coating that is very hardwearing but can be susceptible to high impact. Glass pearls are often treated this way.

  • Pave/Shamballa style - These are a relative newcomer to the bead scene (at least in major fashion terms). These beads are composed of acrylic, resin or polymer clay (and sometimes metal) and then covered in flat or pointed back rhinestones to form a multifaceted sphere. Shamballa style jewellery has brought the beads to the forefront of fashion in recent years.

  • Silver Lined or Foil Lined - Lining a transparent bead with a foil hugely intensifies the reflected colour of the glass. Silver or coloured alloy foils are bonded to the hole of the bead. You will also find glass beads that have foils encapsulated within the structure of the glass, and these are simply called foil glass beads.

  • Transparent - See-through beads of any colour are called transparent, often abbreviated to trans. Silver lined, AB, lustres and frosts can all be applied to transparent beads, sometimes completely transforming their appearance to the point you wouldn't even consider them transparent anymore! The main colour of the bead is encapsulated within the glass, so you'll never lose colour quality!

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