What are seed beads
Seed beads are small beads made of glass. They are typically round, but do come in other shapes, such as cubes, drops and triangles.
Where do they come from
Todays seed beads predominantly come from four countries. Japan, Czech Republic, India and China
Japan produces the highest quality seed beads. They are a uniform size and tend to have a larger hole that other seed beads. There are three major manufacturers of seed beads in Japan and they offer the greatest range of colour, size, shape and finish possible.
The Czech Republic have been making seed beads for many years and produce a good range of colours, sizes and finishes. The sizes tend to be fairly regular, although the holes size can be on the small size.
India and China produce seed beads in a limited number of colours and finishes and the sizes tend to be irregular. The irregularity suits some types of beading well giving your work an organic look.
Who makes them and what are the differences
Japanese seed beads are made by three manufacturers, Matsuno, Toho and Muykui, and are typically sold loose by weight or volume. The Japanese manufacturers produce similar, but slightly different ranges of seed beads. Each manufacturer promote their beads with different attributes, such as thinner walls or square holes.
Czech seed beads are made by many companies, they are often sold strung in hanks.
How are they made
Seed beads are made by extruding out long tubes of hot glass and chopping them to size. Colour and special finishes a
re added either to the hot glass or after the glass has cooled. They go through many processes to ensure they are smooth and durable.
If you are interested in the manufacturing process please read this blog from my visit to the Toho factory in Japan.