Bead Speak

This is a page full of useful terminology that can be found in beading and jewellery making.

AB finish: AB stands for Auroa Borealis which is another name for Northern Lights. The finish is an iridescent coating applied to glass inspired by the exciting colours of the Northern Lights. Some also describe it as an “oil slick” effect.
Adhesive:  a generic term that includes, glue and cements. It is a sticky substance that binds two surfaces together, usually permanently.
Alabaster: a coating for seed beads which gives a marble effect.
Alloy: a combination of metals or metals plus elements to create a new stronger metal. Examples are: silver combined with copper becomes sterling silver and silver combined with gold becomes white gold.
Artistic Wire: a copper based craft wire produced by Beadalon. Available in many colours and diameters.
Bail: is a jewellery finding used to attach a pendant to a necklace.
Baroque pearls: are pearls that are irregular in shape and size with uneven surfaces.
Bead: usually made of a hard substance with a hole through which a stringing material can pass.
Bead embroidery: is the application of beads to fabric.
Bead Oracle: a small plastic card the size of a business card which has a lot of basic useful information on it ie how many beads do I need, a bead size reference, short ruler. Wire thickness information.
Bead reamer: a tool with a diamond coated point to enlarge holes in gemstone beads.
Bead spinner: a tool to help one string seed beads quickly. Useful if you are wanting to string a number of beads of the same size and colour.
Bead stopper: a spring gadget which easily clips onto the end of thread or bead wire to temporarily prevent beads from falling off as you are working. Particularly useful when you are uncertain about what finished length you want or when constructing multi-strand necklaces and need to check how the strands would work together before attaching a clasp.
Bead tips: metal findings used when using thread as a stringing material. The beginning and ending knot sits in the cup of the bead tip so the knot is hidden and the thread is protected from wear at the clasp.
Beading awl: is like a darning needle with a handle. It is usually used when knotting pearl and gemstone necklaces with silk thread. It can also be used to untie knots. Awls have fine sharp points so need to be handles and stored carefully.
Beading Foundation:  the base upon which you bead. Usually a fibre product but some use paper. Whatever you use, it needs to be stiff enough to support the weight of the beads you will be using, porous enough to stitch through, easy to cut and something that does not fray.
Beading wire: is the term used for multiple strands of wire encased in nylon and is available in three different qualities and several diameters. Once beads are strung, it is attached to a clasp with crimps. It does not hold its shape so should not be confused with craft wire used for wire wrapping.
Beeswax: is used to strengthen thread. It also smooths the surface and prevents tangling and fraying.
Bent nose pliers: the jaws of chain nose pliers are slightly bent to help getting into tight spaces. Many find that the bent jaws makes it easier to see what you are doing.
Bezel: is a setting similar to a frame for a cabochon. While often made of metal, a bezel can also be made with seed beads.
Bi-cone: describes a bead shape that looks like two cones attached at base to base.
Big Eye Needle: two pieces of wire are soldered together at each end leaving the length in between open thus making threading the needle much easier.
Brick stitch: is a stitch used in off-loom bead weaving. Individual beads are stacked horizontally in patterns echoing the appearance of a brick wall.
Briolette: refers to faceted pear shape stones. 
Bugle beads: are tubes of glass cut into various lengths. Even though they are tumbled to smooth the cut edges, it is usually advisable to place a seed bead at either end of the tube to reduce the risk of the thread getting cut during use. Made by manufacturers of seed beads so it is usually possible to have matching colours.
Bumpers: very small silicone beads used in between small delicate beads to prevent scratching. Can also be used with wire to hold beads in place. Available in clear and black.
Butterfly: a metal device used to hold an earring stud in place at the back of the ear.
Cable chain: has symmetrical links, usually round or oval.
Cabochon: describes a gemstone with a smooth, slightly rounded top and a flat back. It is neither faceted nor drilled.
Cap: a small decorative metal finding used at either end of a bead’s drill hole.
Carat: (not to be confused with Karat) is the unit of weight used for precious stones. One carat equals one-fifth of a gram. The higher the carat count, the more expensive the stone.
Ceylon: a pearlized finish for seed beads.
Chain: a series of metal links which are connected.
Chain tab: a small, flat metal finding that is usually stamped with information about the metal used in precious metal jewellery and placed near the clasp.
Chain-nose pliers: have narrow flat jaws for gripping. They are useful to reach into tight places to grip components, to open and close jump rings, and to bend wire.
Charm: a small decorative metal piece, sometimes worn alone on a chain or on a bracelet near the clasp. Sometimes many charms are added to a chain bracelet which is then called a charm bracelet.
Clasp: a two piece finding, usually of metal used at either end of strung beads to act as a fastener.
Clamshells: a metal finding that looks like two shallow saucers hinged together with a hook. It is an alternative to a bead tip when stringing gemstones and pearls having the advantage of hiding knots or crimps at the clasp and looking like a 4mm bead when the saucers are folded together.
Component: usually refers to a metal finding that is one part of a piece of jewellery.
Cone: a metal finding used in earrings or necklaces to hide a grouping of threads or wires at their terminal point. Often used with an eye pin.
Connector: a “joining” component,  usually a decorative metal finding used to link two sections of chain or to bring together several stands of beads near the clasp.
Copper: is a soft, malleable metal used in jewellery to make findings or wire. The word also describes the pinkish orange colour of the base metal for instance in seed beads.
Cord: fibres twisted together to create a long, flexible strand.
Craft wire: inexpensive wire usually copper based.
Crimp: describes the technique of flattening a metal finding to grip wire, leather or ribbon.
Crimp bead: a round bead used with beading wire. The bead is flattened to hold together 2 strands of wire.
Crimp tube: Similar to a crimp bead in purpose, but tubular in shape.
Crimping pliers: special pliers designed with grooved jaws to easily flatten, fold and roll the crimp bead or tube for a more professional finish than one could get with chain nose pliers.
Crow beads: are similar to seed beads but much larger, are more squarish and have a large hole. They are cut from tubes of glass, then and polished.  They are 6- 9mm in diameter and are most frequently used in native designs and hair braiding.
Cultured pearls: are created by a person inserting a tiny irritant into an oyster. The oyster then coats the irritant with layers of nacre to form a pearl. The oysters are raised in a controlled environment in either freshwater or saltwater.
Cup Bur: are cup-shaped files, sometimes battery operated, that quickly and neatly round the ends of cut wire. If you make your own ear wires, these are worth their weight in gold.
Curb chain: flattened links which are regular in size and shape and are connected. The resulting chain lies flat.
Curved Needles: enable beaders to get into awkward spaces that one can’t reach easily with a straight needle.
Dead soft: describes wire (sterling silver, gold-filled or gold wire) that has not been hardened. It is very malleable so is useful when making loops and bends but should be hardened if the end use requires the shape to be maintained. The wire becomes harder with hammering or it can be hardened with heat followed by a cold bath.
Donut: describes the shape of a flat, usually circular gemstone pendant that has a large hole in the centre like a donut you would eat.
Druzy: describes a naturally occurring accumulation of small crystals in a void on a foundation stone.
Duracoat: used by Miyuki to describe a finish that is permanent. TOHO uses the term “permanent”. The finish is put on top of other finishes for better durability.
Ear stud: a finding, usually metal, for earrings. There is a post which goes through the ear and is secured at the back with a butterfly (aka an earnut). At the front, there could be a ball, a ball with a loop, a flat surface with or without a loop or a pin to hold half-drilled beads.
Earnut: also known as a butterfly, it is a small metal or plastic finding that hols an ear stud in place behind the ear.
Ear wire:  is the term used to describe jewellery earring findings made with wire. There is a variety of styles available. Consider using plastic or rubber safety sleeves backings to minimize loss when wearing.
Elasticity: the brand name of a soft stretchy bead stringing material made by Beadalon, 
Electroplating: describes the electrolytic coating process of a metal base. It is usually used with gold, silver, rhodium, copper, nickel and chromium.
Elonga: a stretchy bead stringing product made by Beadalon.
Eyepin: A length of straight wire with a pre-formed loop at one end.
Facet: describes a flat surface on a cut gemstone which gives the gemstone added sparkle.
Figaro chain: a sequence 3 circular links followed by an elongated oval link.
Filigree: Lace-like ornamental work of fine gold or silver wire/
Finding: the term used in the jewellery industry for any metal component required to complete a piece of jewellery. Findings include clasps, jumprings, split rings, headpins, eyepins, earwires, bails, crimps, crimp covers, etc.
Finish: refers to surface treatments on precious metals 
Fish hook clasp: Usually an oval box clasp which has a hook that is shaped like a fishhook which catches onto a crossbar in the clasp box when inserted in the box. .
Flat nose pliers: have smooth, flat jaws and therefore have more gripping surface.
Flush cutters: have special cutting blades which cut metal wire straight across rather than at an angle.
French hook: also known as a shepherd’s hook, it is a metal earwire that fits through a pierced ear. Many designs are on the market. Use a safety sleeve for security when wearing.
French wire: is tightly coiled, very fine wire, like a mini slinky toy, that fits like a sleeve over stringing materials. A small piece is used where the stringing material attaches to the clasp to help prevent abrasion.
Fresh water pearls: are produced by oysters in fresh water environments. Most are matured in pearl farms, most of which are in China.
Galvanized:  a chemically plated metal effect on seed beads.
Gauge: there are two uses in jewellery. It is the measurement of the thickness of wire where higher numbers indicate a thinner wire. For instance 22g headpins are thicker than 24g headpins. There is also a measuring tool called a gauge.
Gemstone: there is no commonly accepted definition. The term refers to hundreds of minerals, rocks or organic materials each of which has something special which makes it attractive for jewellery or other adornments.
Glue: a substance which will permanently join two separate pieces so that they can be treated as one.
Gun Metal: describes a lovely near black colour which was originally associated with the manufacture of guns. In jewellery, some metal findings are given a gunmetal finish and some man-made glass beads are made in a gunmetal colour.
Half-hard: one of three designations to describe the malleability of metal wire, the other two being dead soft and hard. Half hard wire is malleable but will maintain shapes under moderate stress. Half hard wire can become hard as you work it and can be intentionally made hard for items which would be subject to a lot of stress. 
Hank: multiple strands of beads tied together form a hank. The number of beads in a hank depends on the size of the beads, the length of the strand and the number of strands in the hank.
Headpin: is a piece of straight wire with one end flattened or decorated to prevent beads from falling off. Available in a variety of metals, lengths and gauges.
Heishi: traditionally, heishi beads were made of shell and used by Pueblo Indians when trading. Each bead is a flat disc with straight sides and a centred hole. When strung, all beads would be the same diameter with the resulting strand having a serpentine effect. Today gemstones can be formed to resemble traditional heishi.
Hemostat: is a clamping tool that helps to hold wire or threads in place or helps to stop beads from sliding off stringing material. They look and operate like scissors but there is a locking mechanism at the finger hold end so that they can remain clamped. The long taper of the jaws helps to get into difficult places. 
Iris: describes a many hued iridescent finish on a man-made glass bead.  Usually the finish is applied to dark beads.
Jeweller’s loupe: a magnifying tool used very close to the eye to reveal characteristics of stones.
Jig: A hard plate, usually metal or plastic, with holes to hold pegs when creating designs for wire based jewellery. It enables you to repeat the design easily.
Jump ring: a circle of metal wire usually round or oval in shape used to connect jewellery components.
Jump ring opener:  is like a ring with slots and worn on a finger. The slots hold the jump ring firmly to make it easier to open and close jump rings while working.
Karat: indicates the purity measure of gold products. 24Kt is pure gold whereas 14Kt gold would be 14 parts pure gold and the rest an alloy.  The amount of gold in a product and the metals used in the alloy can affect the colour of the final product.
Kidney wire: is an earring finding for pierced ears which, for security, has a locking latch that would sit behind the ear.
KO thread: is a pre-waxed thread, made in Japan, and is ideal for seed bead embroidery and weaving.
Knot cutter: a cutting tool with short sharp blades which can be used to get between beads to cut knots if the beads need to be re-strung.
Knotting: a technique used to string beads. It is usually used with expensive beads: in case the strand breaks, one only has to look for 1 or 2 beads instead of many. It also helps protect the finish on soft stones and pearls from scratching. Finally, it can serve as a design feature.
Kumihimo: a traditional Japanese braiding technique, using a disk which is popular in jewellery making.
Kumihimo weight: is useful when doing kumohimo braiding to help achieve regular tension by weighing down the developing rope at the centre of the kumihimo disk.
Labrador finish: a half-coat finish in silver colour applied to seed beads and similar products.
Ladder stitch: is used with seed beads. It is often used to create the first row for other techniques such as brick stitch or herringbone
Leverback: an earwire for pierced ears which has a hinged lock at the bottom, which makes it more secure when being worn.
Liquid silver/liquid gold: describes a group of strands of silver or gold small tube beads as the resulting necklace looks like flowing metal.
Linen thread: a plied thread and a useful option when stringing beads with large holes. Has a rustic look.
Lobster clasp: resembles a lobster claw and has a lever and spring mechanism to open and close the clasp. It is a secure clasp useful for both bracelets and necklaces.
Loom: a tool for bead weaving. Many options are available.
Lustre: describes the glossy radiance associated with pearls. Seed bead manufacturers imitate this effect with special coatings. 
Macramé: a decorative knotting technique.
Magnetic clasps: Clasp sections are held together by small very strong magnets. They are easy to use and don’t come apart easily. People with pacemakers should not use magnetic clasps.
Mala: a string of 108 beads with one head bead so that it is easy to count mantras when meditating or doing yoga. Malas are also significant in several religions.
Magatama beads: elongated teardrop shape beads with the hole located at the top. They can add interesting texture to your designs. Particularly effective in Kumihimo constructions.
Marera finish: a metallic finish applied to one side of a bead that usually gives gold or orange highlights.
Matte: describes a soft finish to either gemstone beads or seed beads. This is achieved either by tumbling the beads or dipping the beads in an acid solution.
Memory Wire: is hard tempered stainless steel, preformed into coils suitable for rings, bracelets (2 sizes) and necklaces (2 sizes). It is easy to use although some larger beads with a long drill hole may not work given the curvature of the wire. The wire is hard on cutting tools so either buy special Memory wire cutters or use inexpensive ones recognizing that these may be damaged.  Ends can be finished with a loop or with special half drilled beads made especially for Memory Wire.
Monofilament: describes thread made of a single continuous strand of a synthetic fibre.
MOH’s hardness scale: used to indicate the scratch hardness of minerals. The scale was developed about 200 years ago using 10 minerals with talc being the softest and diamonds being the hardest. Each mineral in the scale can scratch the one below it and be scratched by the one above it. Minerals of similar hardness do not scratch each other. Minerals not used in the development of the scale are compared to the original 10 to determine their relative hardness.
Multi-strand clasp: commonly available for 2,3,4 or 5 strands of beads incorporated in a necklace design.
Needle: a thin round piece of steel wire, pointed at one end and with a hole to accommodate a stringing material at the other.
Needle threader: a gadget to make needle threading easier.
Nickel silver: contains no silver, being an alloy typically made of copper (60%), nickel (20%) and zinc (20%). The zinc gives the metal a silver colour. Nickel silver products are less expensive than sterling silver. Other names used are German Silver or Argentan silver.
Nuggets: describes a rough looking shape for gemstones as compared to the more regular rounds and shapes that are machine produced.
Nylon jaw pliers: have a nylon jaw covers to prevent the metal jaws from scratching wire finishes.
Nymo: a brand of lightly waxed monofilament thread used with seed beads.
Paper clip chain: a style of chain with links looking like paperclips.
Pearlized:  a coating to resemble the look of natural pearls.
Peyote: a popular and versatile bead weaving technique.
Picasso finish: a speckled coating on seed beads to give the effect of pottery or stones.
Pliers: a category of specialty tools which have jaws. In jewellery, there are ones to help hold items securely; others help to bend or turn wire, and others to flatten or crimp small beads.  
Polishing: is usually the final step in finishing metal jewellery or forming gemstone beads. It also describes the cleaning process for metal elements in jewellery.
Pony bead: is a term used for large seed beads from size 5/0 to 8/0. Sometimes also called E beads.
Precious gems: diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires are considered the precious stones. They have in common transparent colours and are usually cut by faceting to enhance their sparkle. The terms precious and semi-precious were coined in the mid 1800’s when these 4 stones were considered rare, of exceptional beauty, therefore desirable and very expensive. While the term is still in use today, there is some debate as to its usefulness.
Precious metal: Gold, silver and platinum
Rattail: satin wrapped cord often used in Kumihimo braiding.
Reamer: a tool with a diamond coated point to enlarge holes in gemstone beads.
Rhinestone: a sparkling imitation stone resembling diamonds usually made of glass and facetted.
Rocaille: the term used to refer to square-holed silver lined seed beads but now it refers to all round seed beads.
Rollo chain: Rollo chain is typically found in round symmetrical links, and may also be called belcher chain. ... Rollo chain links are typically made with half-round wire, meaning that the outside of the chain is rounded, but the inside is flat or even hollowed.
Rondelle: describes a flattened shape given to beads. The beads are centre drilled and usually round, with rounded edges but are sometimes square.
Rosary pliers:  specialty pliers which combine cutters with round nose jaws.
Round nose pliers: pliers with tapered round jaws for making circular loops in wire.
Safety Sleeves: small rubber or plastic pieces used with earwires to minimize loss when wearing.
Satin finish: opaque glass with a glossy sheen
Scoop: a small shovel-like tool with a short handle to help pick up beads especially small ones.
Seed bead: small uniform glass beads.
Semi-precious: all stones used for adornment but not considered precious stones. (See above). The use of the term is being discouraged by many in the jewellery industry as there is no definition for it and suggests that the product is somehow inferior. Use instead gemstone.
S hook: a type of clasp shaped in the form of the letter S with jump rings at each end. Best used in necklaces rather than bracelets.
Side cutter: a cutting tool for wire or Beadalon which cuts close to the edge of the work or in hard to reach places. The blades cut at an angle.
Silver-filled: a layer of sterling silver bonded to a base metal. The silver coating must be at least 1/20th of the total weight of the metal in the product.
Silver-plated: a very thin film of silver is applied to a base metal such as copper, brass or nickel.
Sinew: a waxed thread that imitates natural sinew that had been made from tendons.
S-Lon: a brand of applied nylon thread available in three thicknesses and many fabulous colours.
Snake chain: They are made of lightly curved plates tightly woven with thin links to form a continuous chain. The surface is smooth, and although it seems closed, the chain is very flexible making it an option at a variety of lengths with or without a pendant.
Spacer: a small bead used between larger beads to protect the beads from rubbing against each other and/or to provide a design element.
Split ring: a double circle of metal like a key ring which is used instead of jump rings for a more secure join.
Split ring pliers: specialty pliers with a pick on one jaw which is inserted into the split ring to open the rings slightly so that the ring can be attached to a clasp.
Spring ring: a small round inexpensive clasp with a latch mechanism which when depressed opens the ring so that it can connect to a jump ring or a split ring to complete the join.
Square stitch: an off-loom weaving technique used with seed beads.
Stainless steel: is an alloy of base metals which mimics the look of silver and is more affordable. It is corrosion resistant as well as resisting rust, oxidation and discoloration.
Sterling silver: items are made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper or another alloy, proportions fixed by law. Sterling silver will "patina" in time, that is, its color will take on an "antique" look.
Super Duo: a pressed glass bead made in the Czech Republic with two holes.
Tambour hook: a special tool like a crochet hook used for tambour embroidery and most often associated with couturier clothing. Beads and sequins are frequently incorporated in the embroidery.
Tassel: a grouping of fine, usually silky threads secured at one end and having a loop. Sometimes tassels are made with fine metal chain. They can be used as a decorative finish to a Mala and sometimes are used for earrings.
Thread: a long thin stand made of one fibre or several fibres which are twisted together. Fibres used include silk, nylon, cotton or linen. Thread is used in jewellery making to string beads together or to attach beads to a foundation.
Thread conditioner: a substance applied to threads to help improve durability and to minimize tangling.
Threader: a small special tool to make it easier to thread a needle.
Thread Heaven: a type of conditioner to coat thread.
Thread zapper: a tool with an extra fine tip which melts the ends of synthetic thread to cut the thread and secure the knot.
Tila: a 5mm flat square bead with two holes made by Miyuki.
Toggle clasp: A combination of a loop and a bar. The loop is usually circular in shape but can be oval, heart or star shaped. The bar is inserted through the loop to close the necklace or bracelet.
Torsade: describes multiple strands of strung beads twisted together into a necklace or bracelet before the clasp is latched.
Treasure beads: made by Toho, they are high quality tubular shaped seed beads having thin walls and large holes. They are comparable to Miyuki Delica beads in the consistency of size and shape but the larger hole makes it easier to pass several strands of thread when working with more complicated off loom or loomed projects.
Triplet magnifier: has three separate lenses which are bonded together to provide a sharper magnified image.
Tumbled stone: rough stones which have been polished in a tumbler to give a shine without distorting the original shape.
Tweezers: useful tools for picking up or holding small items and especially useful when using the knotting technique.
Twisted steel needles: long and flexible, made from fine wire twisted together with a large loop at one end to make the needle easy to thread. Used when stringing gemstone beads and pearls which do not always have a uniform size drill hole. The loop of the needle will collapse if necessary to get through the drill hole.
Two cut seed beads: are small tubular seed beads, hexagonal in shape due to 5 vertical facets on the tubes made to enhance the sparkle. They are finished by tumbling to remove sharp bits.
U pins: metal wire shaped in a U with both ends having sharp points. Used in displays.
Vermeil: Gold plating on top of sterling silver. The gold plating is thicker than what is applied to gold plated products.
Vitral finish: a coating that is applied to half a clear bead which gives several hues.
Wire bender: a tool to help bend wire into shapes.
Wire guardian: is a small u-shaped metal finding with a groove that is used with beading wire at the clasp. The guardian protects the wire from abrasion and hides the grayness of the beading wire.
Wire rounder: is used after cutting wire to remove burs. The wire end is placed in the cup end and the tool is turned a few times to remove bits of metal.
Wire straightener: a tool to help straighten craft wire easily by passing the wire through nylon rollers. The nylon rollers minimize damage to any enamel coatings.