The Comprehensive Guide To Different Bead Sizes

There’s no end to the creative possibilities when it comes to beads. There are so many creative endeavors that you can undertake!

Everything can seem a bit overwhelming if you’ve never tried beading before, with all the beads being different sizes.

It can be really confusing knowing which beads to choose for which beading project, and even what cord goes with which beads.

The Comprehensive Guide To Different Bead Sizes

Firstly, there are just so many types of beads to decide from! There are all manner of different sized beads to select from, not to mention different shapes, textures, different materials, and a whole range of different colors for you to use with different projects.

Part of the challenge will of course be to select the right color or shaped bead for your beading project. But how can you know which size is the right one for your needs?

And is bead hole size all that important when it comes to beading? This can be a tricky task – even for veteran beaders.

But this is a crucial part of the beading process, and could even make or break a project if you pick the wrong sized bead.

So where do you even get started with bead sizes? It will be crucial to look at the bead sizing, which will determine what the global standard is for different sizes of bead hole.

This is typically measured in millimeters for the vast majority of beads. However, there are also many other types of beads such as seed beads, which use a completely alternative measuring guide to determine their size.

When faced with all these different types of numbers it can be very confusing when trying to work out which beads would be best for your creative project. But it’s all much simpler than you first think.

Today, we’re going to cover everything that you could possibly need to know about bead sizing in our comprehensive guide.

We’re going to cover the standard millimeter scale for the vast majority of beads, as well as even cover the sizing guide to seed beads to make things even easier for you.

So at the end of this comprehensive guide, you will be an absolute expert when it comes to bead sizing! Let’s get stuck in so that you can be armed with all the information that you need to know.

So What Determines The Size Of Beads?

With beading being such a popular hobby around the world, it’s hardly surprising that the industry would come up with a standard for everyone to follow.

Just think about all the different people around the world that would have to deal with beads – stockists, the manufacturers, and of course the beaders themselves.

It made sense to create a standard sizing that absolutely everyone could use and understand. There are lots of different beads sizes, ranging from 2 millimeters all the way up to 20 millimeters and sometimes even higher.

There are loads of different types of beads around the world, so in order to find the best one for a particular project, they need to meet a set scale so that beaders can easily work out what beads they require.

This helps you to easily determine what beads you need when you purchase them from different places. If you can’t easily tell just by eyesight what size bead you are looking at, you can use a digital vernier caliper to help you.

Another factor to consider is that the better the quality of the bead, the higher the price will be to buy them.

So it would be an absolute nightmare to have purchased a set of beads that you discover are far too small or far too large for your needs.

Make sure to double-check the size of the beads before you purchase them, especially if you are doing so online.

So basically there are two scales that you need to look out for – the aught scale for seed beads, and the millimeter scale for the vast majority of other beads.

Let’s take a closer look at these scales, so we can better understand what they are, and what you need to be looking out for when you buy your next set of beads.

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Using The Millimeter Scale To Measure Standard Bead Sizes

The most common method that is used to size beads is by using the millimeter scale. The size of the bead is typically measured in terms of the length across the bead hole in the center, otherwise known as the diameter of the bead in question.

So pretty much all the most common types of beads make use of this scale, including crystal beads, gemstones, Swarovski beads, glass beads, wooden beads, bone beads, as well as metallic beads.

This means that a 2 millimeter bead will have a hold that measures exactly 2 millimeters in length. So the diameter of the bead hole decides where the bead will fall on the millimeter scale, making it much easier for beaders to know which size bead they need for their projects.

Beads that are measured using the millimeter scale typically start with 2 millimeters as the smallest measurement, and keep on increasing in size.

There are some 40 millimeter beads that you can find on the market, and sometimes even larger beads are available depending on the beading project that you are working on.

However, the most common sizes of beads that are used by the vast majority of beaders tend to be between 2 millimeters and 20 millimeters.

Interestingly, this measurement scale is used for pretty much all shapes of bead. So even though not every single bead in the world is circular, they are still measured using the diameter of the bead hole.

No matter whether you have picked up oval beads, cube beads, or other funky shapes, you can still determine what size they are from their bead hole.

The only thing to bear in mind is that if the bead is of different shapes, then there will be other measurements to consider.

Let’s take an oval bead as an example. This will measure around 7 millimeters in terms of bead size, but will have a height measurement to take into consideration, such as 9 millimeters.

This height factor may affect how much cord you need to use for your project, so it’s still worth bearing in mind.

Seed Beads Are Measured Using The Aught Scale

Due to their much smaller size than standard beads, seed beads have to use an entirely different measurement scale.

This is known as the aught scale, which basically tells you how many of this size bead are needed to fill up an inch of cord.

Seed beads are usually sized with a degree symbol, or with a number slash zero. So a seed bead that was classed as a size 6 would be represented as 6° or as 6/0. This tells us that you will need 6 of these seed beads in order to cover an inch of your beading wire or cord.

The larger the number that the seed bead is sized with, the more seed beads you will need to cover this inch of beading wire.

So this will mean that the larger the number on the aught scale, the smaller the seed bead will be. Which of course means more seed beads will be needed for your project!

The most popular sizes of seed beads that are typically kept in stock are 5°, 6°, 8°, 11°, and 15°. As we have discussed above, these could also be noted as 5/0, 6/0, 8/0, 11/0, and 15/0.

Another thing for you to consider is that much like the standard beads that we have covered above, seed beads will also come in lots of different shapes and designs.

The sizing can often vary from brand to brand, too, so if you have chosen a particular brand for a particular project, it’s best to stick with those beads.

Some popular shapes for seed beads include circular, cubes, triangles, tubes, as well as many more.

Just as we have mentioned above, certain manufacturers will work to their very own scale.

So if you have a particular brand recommended to you for a certain project, it will be best to stick with that brand so that you get the right amount of beads on your beading wire.

How To Select The Ideal Bead Size For Your Bead Project

How To Select The Ideal Bead Size For Your Bead Project

So now that we know the basics of bead sizes, now comes the time for working out how to choose the best bead size for your beading project.

This will help you to put the finishing touches to your project, and ensure that it’s the best quality it can possibly be. Deciding the right bead can make or break a beading project, after all!

The first thing to note is that even though the vast majority of beads are measured using the metric scale in millimeters, some manufacturers will give the bead sizing in inches.

This can understandably make things very tricky if you’re trying to work out how many beads you need to finish your project.

So to help you work out what your beads would be in both inches and millimeters, we’ve put together the handy chart below to keep things simple.

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Know How Many Beads Per Inch You Will Need

If you are using a mix of different beads, you will need to know how many beads per inch you require for your project. The below chart can help you to work out exactly what you need.

Average Bead Size Iin MillimetersHow Many Beads Are Required Per InchHow Many Beads Are Required Per 16 InchesHow Many Beads Are Required By 24 Inches

But what about all of these different sized beads? We’re going to take a closer look at the most common sizes of beads to help understand what types of projects they would be best used for.

We’re also going to cover what their stringing requirements will be and what their bead hole size is.

The below measurements are of course a rough guide, as they can sometimes differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.

2 millimeter Beads

The smallest type of standard bead, the 2 millimeter bead can be measured in the same diameter across the bead hole.

These can often be used instead of an 8° seed bead. The standard 2 millimeter beads is roughly a comparable size to the tip of a new crayon.

The diameter of the bead hole is typically between 0.6 millimeters up to 0.9 millimeters. So this means the best size beading wire or cord to use is around 0.024 inches or 0.8 millimeters.

Thanks to their delicate size, the 2 millimeter beads are ideal for those beautiful little details, or even for adding more dimension to your current beading project.

They are perfect for making loom bracelets or fringe earrings, or you can even use them for bead embroidery.

4 Millimeter Beads

Next up along the bead size scale is the 4 millimeter bead. This is comparable to the thickness of two nickels placed side by side.

Thanks to their smaller size, they can be used to replace a 6° seed bead for the vast majority of projects.

In terms of the bead hole diameter, this is measured at around 0.8 millimeters up to 1 millimeter, which makes them the perfect fit for beading wire or cord that is around 0.6 millimeters to 0.8 millimeters.

Because these beads are one of the smaller variants, it makes them wonderfully lightweight.

This lightweight nature lends itself well to more delicate items that you are trying to create, such as jewelry items. They will also be perfect for clustered and braided beading designs.

6 Millimeter Beads

Another popular bead for beading, the 6 millimeter bead is next up in line of size.

The bead hole diameter for the 6 millimeter bead is around 0.8 millimeters to 1.2 millimeters, which makes it ideal for beading wire or cord that is roughly between 0.024 inches or 21g to 23g.

Thanks to their greater size than the 2 millimeter and 4 millimeter beads, 6 millimeter beads will be ideal to use as spacers in between larger beads.

They will make the perfect addition for jewelry that you don’t want to be too chunky, as well as all manner of other accessories.

8 Millimeter Beads

Next in line is the 8 millimeter bead, which is of course double the size of a smaller 4 millimeter beads.

In terms of the diameter of the bead hole for the 8 millimeter bead, this will be around 0.8 millimeters to 1.2 millimeters. This will make your 8 millimeter beads the ideal fit for beading wire or cord that is around 0.024 inches or between 21g to 24g.

Due to their slightly shunkier nature, the 8 millimeter beads are a popular choice when it comes to making bracelets for men, or men’s necklaces.

These beads are also an excellent fit for beading projects such as medium-sized necklaces, bracelets, or even dangly earrings.

10 Millimeter Beads

When we get to the 10 millimeter beads, things start to get a bit chunkier. If you want to get a better idea of how large these beads would be, take a look at the diameter of an AAA battery.

It is also comparable in size to a green pea.

The bead hole diameter of this sized bead is around 1 millimeter to 1.2 millimeters. This makes it ideal for beading wire or cord that is around 17g to 20g, or 0.024 inches thick.

Just like the 8 millimeter bead, the 10 millimeter bead is wonderfully versatile and can be used for a whole range of beading projects.

They are a particular favorite for making tasseled jewelry such as malas, or other types of jewelry for both men and women.

12 Millimeter Beads

Getting larger in terms of bead size, the 12 millimeter beads are around 0.5 inches in diameter. This is comparable to the diameter of the tip of an adult’s index finger.

In terms of the bead hole diameter, this is around 1 millimeter to 1.5 millimeters. So this makes them the perfect fit for beading wire or cord that is around 16g to 19g.

Due to their larger size, these 12 millimeter beads will be perfect for all manner of applications. They can be used for chunkier jewelry, for making chandeliers, for crafting your very own dreamcatchers, or even creating your very own snazzy Christmas tree decorations.

14 Millimeter Beads

Next up is the 14 millimeter bead, which is roughly a similar diameter to either an aspirin tablet or an AA battery.

The average bead hole diameter of a 14 millimeter bead is around 1.5 millimeters to 2 millimeters. This makes them the perfect fit for beading wire or cord that is around 16g to 17g or 0.024 inches.

Thanks to their larger stature, these 14 millimeter beads will be perfect for highlighting any smaller beads that you have selected for your beading project.

So they will work very well for jewelry purposes, but be aware that opting for gemstone beads can make the jewelry rather heavy.

16 Millimeter Beads

If you have selected a 16 millimeter bead, you’re into the super chunky bead territory! These beads have a very similar diameter to that of a jeans button.

In terms of the bead hole diameter, the 16 millimeter beads will measure around 3 millimeters to 5 millimeters for the vast majority of beads available from different manufacturers.

This larger bead hole makes these beads perfect for use with beading wire or cord that measures 2.5 millimeters or is 14g to 16g in gauge.

So because these beads are much larger than the others that we have covered so far in our comprehensive guide, this means they will be better suited to beading projects where you want to make a statement. This could include statement necklaces, earrings, anklets, or bracelets.

The only thing to bear in mind is that depending on the material that you opt for, the beading project could become very heavy to wear, particularly if you opt for gemstone beads.

If you opt for paper, plastic, or wooden 16 millimeter beads, these will be much lighter.

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18 Millimeter Beads

Next up in our list of the most popular bead sizes is the 18 millimeter bead, which is around a similar stature to a dime.

In terms of the bead hole diameter, this will range around 3 millimeters to 5 millimeters. Thanks to this larger bead hole, you will be best off using beading wire or cord that measures 2.5 millimeters in length or 14g to 16g gauge.

Similar to the 16 millimeter beads, 18 millimeter beads are best used for statement pieces because of their larger size.

So you can use them to make things such as garlands, chandelier beads, wreaths, or decorations for curtains.

20 Millimeter Beads

Last but not least are the 20 millimeter beads! These are by no means the largest type of bead on the market, however, these are the largest type of the most popular beads that tend to be used for beading projects.

Anything larger than this would need to be used for a specific project.

The average bead hole diameter tends to be around 5 millimeters. So it will be best to stick with beading wire that is around 16g in gauge, or 2.5 millimeters in length.

Seeing as these are some larger beads available on the market, this makes them a better fit for items such as keychains, charms for bags or other items of this nature, garlands, or other similar large beading projects.

What Are Seed Beads?

What Are Seed Beads

So now that we’ve covered all the different sizes of the most popular standard beads which are used for projects, it’s time to discuss seed beads in more detail.

These are very intricate beads that are of a much smaller size than the types of beads that we discussed in more detail above.

Because of their delicate nature, these seed beads are usually used for more delicate projects. They can be used to create embellishments for larger items such as cushions, belts, clothes, or bags.

In terms of jewelry, seed beads are typically used for more intricate works like anklets.

Seed beads are also excellent for helping to create more space along a beading project so that you can highlight some larger beads.

It’s also important to note that the general sizing of seed beads can differ between manufacturers.

So when it comes to choosing the right seed beads for your chosen beading project, it will be just as essential to select the best sized beads for your needs.

Let’s take a look at the most common types of seed beads as well as which types of projects they will be best suited for.

5° Or 5/0

One of the most popular types of seed beads that are used for beading projects, these types of beads are also known as E beads.

If you were to use 5° beads for your beading project, you would need to use around 5 beads to cover an inch of beading wire.

The typical bead hole diameter of 5° seed beads is around 1.6 millimeters. This makes them super easy to handle and place onto beading wire, which should be around 0.024 inches in length or 0.08 millimeter gauge.

So these seed beads are actually one of the larger sizes. Whereas standard beads increase in size, seed beads actually decrease in size.

As we covered in a little more detail above, the aught scale refers to how many beads would be needed to fill an inch with wire.

5° are larger than other seed beads, so this makes them the perfect starting place for those who don’t have much experience with beading.

They can also be a great way to introduce children to beading. This size of bead can be used for making intricate pieces of jewelry such as earrings or anklets.

6° Or 6/0

Next up are the 6°or 6/0 seed beads. These are slightly smaller than 5° beads, but are still relatively easy to handle.

This makes them ideal for beginners and children who want to take up beading. 6° seed beads tend to measure around 3.3 millimeters on a ruler.

Just as their name suggests, you will get around 6 of these seed beads per inch on a length of beading wire.

These seed beads will work best with beading wire that is around 0.06 millimeters in gauge. They have an average bead hole diameter of around 1.3 millimeters.

You can use 6° seed beads for crocheting or knitting projects to add more detail. You can also use them for creating delicate items of jewelry.

8° Or 8/0

The 8° or 8/0 seed beads are smaller again, and you will need around 8 of these beads to cover an inch’s worth of wire.

In terms of bead hole diameter, 8° seed beads typically measure around 1 millimeter. So you will need a slightly more delicate beading wire for these, with a gauge of around 0.06 millimeters.

Because of their smaller nature, 8° beads are a fantastic choice for making delicate items of jewelry such as earrings, anklets, or necklaces.

You could even use quite a lot of them to make more interesting items of jewelry such as a cuff bracelet.

11° Or 11/0

Smaller again is the 11° or 11/0 seed beads. These are getting on the more delicate side of seed beads, and you will need around 11 of them to cover an inch’s worth of beading wire.

In terms of bead hole diameter, 11° seed beads tend to measure around 0.8 millimeters. It will be best to use beading wire that is around 0.064 millimeters in gauge.

Thanks to their more delicate size, 11° seed beads can be used for embroidery purposes, for bead weaving, or even loom weaving.

Or if you wanted to highlight any particular larger glass beads that you are using for your project, 11° seed beads will make the perfect spacers.

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15° Or 15/0

And last up is the 15°or 15/0 seed beads! These are the smallest types of seed beads which are commonly used for a variety of beading projects.

As their name suggests, you will need around 15 of these beads to cover an inch of beading wire.

As for the bead hole diameter, 15° seed beads typically measure around 0.7 millimeters. So you will need to use an even more delicate beading wire for them – we would suggest using beading wire that is around 0.048 millimeters in gauge.

These seed beads are best used for a variety of delicate jewelry projects. They are ideal for those beading projects that need a little more detail added to them to really make them pop.

Measuring The Size Of Your Bead Hole For Your Bead Project

Measuring The Size Of Your Bead Hole For Your Bead Project

So now that we’ve covered the vast majority of bead sizes in a little more detail, we now know that it will be crucial to choose the right sized beads for your chosen beading project.

You will need to think about the overall diameter of your chosen bead, as well as the diameter of the bead hole. This can help you to select the best beads for the project that you have in mind.

Now comes the tricky bit. Even though we’ve gone into a lot of detail above about the sizes of beads, these are rough estimates. This is because some beads won’t actually be true to the size that we think they are.

Some manufacturers will tweak things slightly. This is especially true of seed beads, and why it’s important to stick with one brand rather than use lots of different seed beads from other brands.

It can also apply to standard beads, too. Even though a 2 millimeter bead should have a standard bead hole size, this can vary by as much as 0.5 millimeters from brand to brand.

So even though you think you’ve got the right amount of beads for your project, you may find that this differs slightly if you choose to follow a beading pattern.

If you tend to keep a hold of all manner of beads that you have bought over the years, or that some kind people have given you as gifts, this can make it trickier to know the true size of each bead.

So how can we cut out this confusion when it comes to working out what the size of each bead is?

We’re going to show you some of the best ways to measure your beads so that you won’t ever get caught out unexpectedly again.

Measure The Size Of The Bead Hole Using Digital Vernier Calipers

The best way to measure the size of your beads is to use a digital vernier caliper. This is a piece of kit that has been designed to accurately measure the diameter of your bead. It is super easy to use, so will be perfect for both beginners and more experienced beaders.

First you will need to ensure that your digital vernier caliper has a battery installed. When you turn it on, you will then need to select the millimeter format, which you can then reset to zero.

Using your index finger and thumb, pick up the bead that you wish to measure. You will then gently need to slide it between the jaws of the digital vernier caliper until the tips are touching the bead. Make sure to keep the bead holes touching the jaws of the caliper.

The device should then tell you what the measurement of your mystery bead is.

You can also opt for a pair of digital calipers instead of digital vernier calipers, which will work in much the same way. A digital caliper will typically measure the bead hole diameter rather than the bead itself.

Measure The Size Of The Bead Hole Using A Ruler

Don’t have a set of digital vernier calipers to hand? Then a ruler will be your next best bet. You will need to ensure that it has a centimeter and millimeter measurement for you to use.

The vast majority of rulers come with a millimeter scale included, so this should be a fairly easy way of working out what size beads you have in front of you.

The only thing that you will need to bear in mind when using the ruler method is that you won’t be able to measure the bead hole diameter. This is where the vernier calipers would come in handy, as they will be able to do this.

You can, however, create your own reference kit to work out what gauge of wire will be best with which bead.

Make sure to keep track of what gauge wire you have to hand, and try to slide your bead onto this. If the bead easily slides on, you will have the perfect gauge of wire to use with these beads.

What Are The Other Methods You Can Use To Measure Bead Hole Sizes?

Using either a rule or a set of digital vernier calipers is the most common way to measure the size of your beads. However, you can also opt for different methods if you don’t have either of these around the home.

If you’re a keen beader, you can create your very own reference using a beaded keychain. Simply line up beads of different sizes – preferably in size order – along the length of wire, and then you can use this to work out what size future beads are.

You can try to use other household items to help you determine the size of your beads. These could include different types of small change such as pennies and nickels, or anything else you have around the home that could be comparable to the beads you like to use.

Another option is to download your very own bead size chart. This should help you to determine the size of any beads that you wish to use fairly quickly.

The last option is to purchase a reference card that will show you all the different types of bead sizes.

What Is The Average Bead Size For Different Types Of Beads?

We know how confusing it can be when it comes to trying to find the different sizes of different types of beads online.

Even though the above information is pretty accurate across most types of beads, there can be variations across different materials or other factors.

So let’s take a closer look at what the typical bead hole size will be for different variations of beads.

Precious Stone Beads, Semi-Precious Stone Beads, And Gemstone Beads

These types of beads tend to have more varying bead hole sizes. It’s important to note that the diameter of the bead itself may vary as well, thanks to the softness of the stone that you are using.

The average bead hole size tends to be between 0.5 millimeters and 2 millimeters. This will obviously become larger as the size of the gemstone bead increases.

Crystal Beads And Czech Glass Beads

If you’re looking for more consistent beads to use in terms of bead hole diameter, then these are the two types of beads that you should opt for.

This is because they are typically manufactured using a mold, which makes them more uniform in terms of size and diameter.

The average bead hole size tends to be around 0.8 millimeters.

Swarovski Crystal Beads

These types of beads tend to come in large (10 millimeters), medium (6 millimeters to 8 millimeters), and small (3 millimeters to 5 millimeters). Because of this, they will typically have 3 different bead holes sizes.

The bead hole sizes for Swarovski crystal beads tend to be around 1 millimeter to 1.5 millimeters in diameter for large beads, 0.8 millimeters in diameter for medium beads, and 0.6 millimeters in diameter for small beads.

Pearl Beads

Even though natural pearls can be a bit of a rare find, they are still popular for a variety of beading projects.

These tend to have much smaller bead hole diameters, which can vary between 0.6 millimeters to 0.3 millimeters.

The average bead hole diameter of pearl beads tends to be around 0.5 millimeters.

How To Choose The Right Size Cord To String Your Beads

So you’ve gotten the hard part over and done with – determining the size of your beads, their bead hole diameter, as well as which type of beads you wish to use with your beading project.

Now comes the equally hard part – choosing what cord size to use with your selected beads!

The most popular choices in terms of materials include metallic wire, elastic cord, leather cord, or monofilament cord. There are of course other types of material that you can opt for, but these are the most popular.

In terms of selecting a size, you will need to pay close attention to the manufacturer’s guidelines. This is because they can denote them as either millimeters, gauge, or inches.

Ultimately it will be down to you to pick the right sized cord or beading wire for your project. You will need to ensure that it is small enough to fit through the bead hole of your chosen beads.

If you choose to follow a certain pattern, this will usually suggest what type of beading cord or wire to use.

Not feeling sure about where to start? Take a look at our top tips down below.

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Top Tips For Choosing The Right Size Cord

So the first rule that you will need to bear in mind when it comes to picking the right size cord for your needs is that the heavier your chosen bead, the thicker the cord that you will require. If you have smaller or lighter beads, a thinner cord will suffice.

If you decide to use several beads that have different bead hole diameters, you will ultimately need to select a cord that will be able to fit through all of these bead hole sizes. There’s no point in selecting a cord that is too large to fit through your smallest beads!

When in doubt, you should always opt for a smaller cord or beading wire size. This will give you more legroom in terms of fitting your beads onto the wire or cord.

Rather than just purchasing one gauge of wire, it will be best to have a selection to hand. There will be nothing worse than getting home and finding out that you have the wrong size for your chosen beads!

When it comes to slotting your beads onto the cord or wire, they can often be smaller in the middle of the bead.

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to buy your chosen beads before you select what cord or wire to use.

In Summary

So there you have it! You now know everything that there is to know about bead sizes. You now know what each size of standard bead can be used for, as well as what the general diameters tend to be.

We have also covered the different seed bead sizes that are available, and which types of projects these will be the best fit for.

Ultimately, you will want to select your chosen beads before you choose which wire or cord to use with them. This will help you to create the type of beading project that you wish to, rather than have to adapt it as you go along.

We hope that you now feel more confident when it comes time to pick out the beads for your next beading project!

Amanda Brown

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