Are All Beads Created Equal? (Differences in quality between Japanese, Czech and Chinese beads)

Bead Quality

CC Image courtesy of balanced crafts on Flickr

Bead Quality

If you are a beginner to the hobby of beading, you may be confused by the choices in beads and their origins. Are all beads created equal?-the answer is no! There are differences in price, quality and production techniques, when comparing the largest manufacturing countries of glass beads.

Obvious bead quality differences can be found after you have started using the beads.

While it’s true that cheaper beads give less quality, you don’t want to complete a project, only to notice that the beads start breaking, flaking or fading. When it comes to seed beads, you need to be sure that holes are large enough to get your needle and thread through them, but uniformity in bead size is only part of the deciding factor.

Japanese beads include the newer classes of precision-cut cylinders, which are perfect for bead-weaving. Manufactured with state-of-the-art machinery, the consistency in shape and size make them attractive for a number of beadwork projects. Delicas, Aiko and Treasure beads are Japanese beads known for higher-quality and consistency.

Czech glass beads are known for being fire-polished, which gives them unique appearances, but they may also be cut, faceted or machine-polished. While there aren’t as many styles available, they are unique and could be handmade for uniqueness. Czech seed beads are shaped like donuts-being wider than they are tall. Japanese seed beads are taller and skinnier, but they have a bigger hole in comparison to Czech beads.

If you are looking for more variety in color, Japanese beads offer more advantage to Czech beads, but the nicely rounded edges of Czech beads make them perfect for beaded embroidery projects. They also make it easier to use thinner beads in gaps where a bigger bead won’t fit. Because they lack uniformity, you can search through your beads and find an ideal fit for tight spots.

Chinese beads are mass produced, just like those from India and because of this manufacturing process- they are more difficult to work with. The lack of uniformity can be noticeable in bead-weaving or loom projects, but they are cheaper than Japanese or Czech beads, making them perfect for beginners or kids that are learning the hobby of beading.

Other differences in bead quality in Japanese, Czech or China beads could be in the way they are sold.

Czech beads are sold in hanks, which are strands hanging on pegs in the store, besides being much cheaper than Japanese beads. Japanese beads always come in smaller quantities, because they are more expensive and commonly found in little packages or tubes. China and India beads may have bead separator dust inside the bag and they may be dyed or painted with inferior coatings.

Are all beads created equal? The answer is obviously no, but there are certain cases where one bead is better than another, depending on the project. Most expert beading hobbyists recommend sticking with one or the other on your project, for consistency, regardless.

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  1. This is very informative, I had no idea beads had so specific qualities, thanks for this I will take into consideration the origin of my beads for my next projects.

    • Thx for your comment Alaine. There are so many different types of beads that it is important readers are aware of the differences to make sure theur finished piece is the quality that they want.

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