After 20+ years in the jewelry making industry and 12+ years since the launch of Potomacbeads, there is one thing that holds constant for me at the start of every project. Every jewelry designer needs to know the hole size of the bead in the design. Like everything in the beading world, there are countless options when designing and knowing the hole size of your bead will indicate which thread, wire, cable, cording, or stringing materialis best for or can be used in your creation.
The variety in the hole sizes of beads is most often directly related to the method used in their production. Many glass beads are made from molds which include the hole for the bead.
Because of this, many shapes and sizes of glass beads, especially Czech glass beads will have a very consistent hole size around .8mm.
The following Potomac Exclusives are all manufactured in the Czech Republic and have a .8mm : Ava Beads, RounDuo Beads, RoundTrio Beads, IrisDuo, cup buttons, StormDuo, DiscDuo, RounDuo Mini, & Eva Beads (Coming soon!). To further understand the production of these glass beads, check out Lindsay’s blog on Czech glass production.
Additionally, there are other shapes and sizes of Czech beads that have larger holes
such as O Beads and Rings. Because of the larger holes, I recommend these to other jewelry makers to use in conjunction with leather or thicker wire projects. There are also Czech seed beads manufactured by Matubo which have a larger hole and work really well with leather and linen cording. I used both the O beads and Matubo beads in the Maui Bracelet which is one of my “go to” jewelry pieces.
Like Czech glass, crystals which are also glass, have a similar production method. Crystals, like glass, have vary consistent and similar hole sizes that vary insignificantly based on shape and size. Both Swarvoski & Potomac Crystals have similar size holes which will accommodate 22 gauge wire or 0.018 beading cable.
Like the Czech & crystal beads, Japanese Seed beads like Miyuki & Tohoalso have very consistent holes. However, based on the size of the beads, the hole size will vary. If you want to delve into this further you can see the differences in an earlier blog of mine on the seed bead brands and their differences.
Here is a chart to help you navigate some of the differences in sizes I have discussed so far as well as others!
When it comes to gemstones there is a huge variety of hole sizes. Gemstones have different properties which determines how hard or soft a stone may be. This hardness is measured by a standard called the Mohl scale. This property allows some gemstones to be drilled straight by machine while softer stones may need to be drilled by hand. Very small and or brittle stones sometimes need to be drilled from both sides and meet in the middle. All of these factors contribute the to hole size of gemstone beads. In the chart above, I listed the average hole size for 4-6mm round gemstones and the maximum width of the materials to be used with them. But again, with gemstones, I can not stress enough how varied the hole sizes can be! Keep on hand a variety of sizes of cording, thread, and various string materials so you are not frustrated by your beads.
Like many gemstones, freshwater pearls, which are soft and porous, have very small holes. However, there are “large hole pearls” available which can be used nicely with thicker materials. The jewelry and fashion trend of using natural stringing materials like leather, has also lead to an increase in the availability of other large hole options such as lampwork beads and “large hole” gemstones. When using natural cording like leather and linen, metal beads which generally have larger holes, are also a great option to use in your designs.
In jewelry making, many patterns will tell you exactly what size cording or wire is required. However, if you are designing on your own, it is often a good idea to be flexible with your materials. I like to have on hand a range of 20-26g wire as well as .010-.024″ beading cable. When in comes to cording, my two go to materials are Greek leather in 1-2mm and also linen thread. Having these materials on hand allows my creativity to continue even if I am thrown a wrench by having a small or large hole bead!
PS. For more on the hole size of beads check out my “Better Beader” episode on Youtube!
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