The Future of Swarovski and Crystals for Jewelry-Making

Rumors have abounded in recent weeks about the potential elimination of many Swarovski Crystals, colors, or product lines. Manufactured in Austria since 1895, the Swarovski name has become symbolic for beautifully crafted, high-end crystal elements.

Over the past 125 years, the Swarovski Group has grown from producing just leaded-glass crystals (in 2012, the company ceased using lead in its production) and has expanded into various other markets. These include lighting and chandeliers, optics (binoculars and scopes), museum art, jewelry, road safety products, retail stores, and direct-to-consumer high-end jewelry.

Swarovski Crystal Round Beads Shape #5001

What is happening to Swarovski in 2021?

Bloomberg article from August 25, 2020, cites significant changes in the Swarovski Group as they go through a total business re-organization. From Swarovski’s perspective, these measures will allow the company to focus on its premium and more profitable markets.

Currently, Swarovski struggles with the relics of its tiered distribution system while facing competition from direct-to-consumer competitors. This multi-layered system of distributors costs more to maintain – which drives up the end price to the consumer – while also allowing many non-premium players to cloud Swarovski’s brand.

The restructuring of Swarovski will take several years, and many details have yet to be disclosed. However, various international distributors in the bead markets have cited announcements directly from the company.

The announcements indicate a significant reduction in the distribution and production of crystal beads and components. At a minimum, Swarovski will likely limit the scope of its crystal distribution through current channels

What Does This Mean For Me?

At PotomacBeads, we don’t know what will happen to Swarovski crystals and Swarovski elements in the coming years. Industry insiders have been predicting a significant change in Swarovski’s business model for several years. For that reason, we have chosen to invest in alternative lines of crystals for beading and jewelry-making.

Chantilly Lace Pendant with Potomac Crystals

Swarovski Alternatives in 2021

Swarovski has had global rivals in crystal production for many years. Today, that competition comes from crystal manufacturers in the Czech Republic, China, United States, Egypt, and more. So which crystal brands and Swarovski alternatives should you be investigating in 2021?

Potomac Crystal

PotomacBeads began producing Potomac Crystals as an affordable yet premium alternative to the high Swarovski component prices. Each Potomac Crystal shape’s dimensions perfectly match jewelry-making patterns that call for Swarovski crystals.

Potomac Crystals come in dozens of different Potomac Crystal shapes and sizes and produced hundreds of free jewelry-making tutorials using top-rated Potomac Crystals.

If you love crystal bicones, round beads, rondelles, Rivoli, ovals, drops, cylinders, or cushions, then you will love Potomac Crystals.

Potomac Crystal Bicones 6mm

While the future of popular crystal shapes like Swarovski Bicones and Rounds seems to be murky, our goal is to continually produce more Potomac Crystal styles and colors for you each year. As Swarovski potentially phases out some of their shapes and color selection, Potomac Crystals will add more.

Already, you can find a growing number of new Potomac Crystal colors in the most popular crystal shapes — Bicones (Shape #5328), Round Beads (Shape #5000), and Rondelle Beads (Shape #5040).

Potomac Crystal Rounds in various sizes with the New Creation Bracelet

Currently AVailable Potomac Crystals

ShapeSizes:Swarovski Shape #:
Potomac Crystal 4-Leaf Clover14mm5752
Potomac Crystal Baguettes8x25mm, 10x30mm, 5x10mm, 5x15mm4547
Potomac Crystal Bicones3mm, 4mm, 6mm, 8mm5328
Potomac Crystal Briolettes5x8mm, 6x12mm6010
Potomac Crystal Buttons14mm
Potomac Crystal Chatons3mm, 5.4mm, 8mm
(more coming soon)
Potomac Crystal Cosmic Rings8mm, 14mm, 20mm4139
Potomac Crystal Cosmic Square Rings14mm4439
Potomac Crystal Cubes2mm, 3mm, 4mm, 6mm5601
Potomac Crystal Cushions12mm & 18mm4470
Potomac Crystal Cylinders2.5x4mm
Potomac Crystal Disco Balls6mm, 8mm5005
Potomac Crystal Fancy Round Stones27mm1201
Potomac Crystal Flatbacks4mm, 5mm2088
Potomac Crystal Galactic9x14mm6656
Potomac Crystal Hearts10mm, 14mm5741
Potomac Crystal Helix4mm, 6mm5020
Potomac Crystal Ingots4x8mm
Potomac Crystal Lemons19x12mm4230
Potomac Crystal LinksVariousVarious
Potomac Crystal Long Ovals5x15mm, 9x27mm4161
Potomac Crystal Navettes5x10mm, 4x15mm, 13x27mm, 18x32mm4228
Potomac Crystal Olives3x5mm
Potomac Crystal Ovals13x18mm, 18x25mm, 20x30mm4120
Potomac Crystal Pear Drops13x18mm, 18x25mm4320
Potomac Crystal Rectangles13x18mm4627
Potomac Crystal Rivoli8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 14mm, 18mm1122
Potomac Crystal Rondelles1.5x2mm, 2x3mm, 3x4mm5040
Potomac Crystal Rounds2mm, 3mm, 4mm5000
Potomac Crystal Squares14mm4447
Potomac Crystal Step Rectangles13x18mm4527
Potomac Crystal Sunflowers8mm
Potomac Crystal Teardrops3x5mm, 6x8mm5500
Potomac Crystal Tilted Dice18x20mm4933
Potomac Crystal Triangles18mm, 23mm4727
Potomac Crystal Trillion12mm
Potomac Crystal Shapes 2020

Potomac Crystal Step Rectangles 13x18mm

Preciosa Crystal

Preciosa crystals have been produced for many years and have been a leading competitor of Swarovski. Like Potomac Crystal, Preciosa crystals offer a very high-quality glass while also representing a lower price point to consumers.

Unfortunately, Preciosa doesn’t offer anywhere near the same variety of shapes and cuts. Some of Preciosa’s products, like the rivoli, also differ ever so slightly in size. This can sometimes mean modifying patterns to accommodate those differences. Also, Preciosa offers fewer base crystal colors than Swarovski, but they do offer hundreds of varieties of colors, including many vacuum coatings.

Preciosa Chatons

Chinese Crystal

There are several Chinese factories producing crystals in a wide range of quality. The crystals’ caliber can vary significantly from substandard and seriously flawed crystals to a quality steadily approaching high-end, famous crystal makers like Swarovski. Since a majority of Chinese crystals are manufactured for mass markets, like chain craft and big-box stores, they tend to be the lowest quality and usually come with significant flaws. So, if you choose to use mass-market Chinese crystals, be careful! You never quite know what quality you will get, and they can take months to arrive, barring they don’t get lost in transit!

The higher-end Chinese crystals are generally sold through private companies who travel to Asia to scour the country for the best quality and develop a personal relationship with makers. Developing personal relationships with the factories cuts out the middleman – which means lower prices for you and ensures the highest quality.


In conclusion, which crystals will you be using in the future? It’s hard to tell with the ever-evolving jewelry-making market. Hopefully, all Swarovski crystal shapes & cuts will not be disappearing forever. Still, we want to prepare you with information that can help you make an informed choice on alternative crystals for your creations.

We are here to support you and your designs, help you grow creatively, and keep you well stocked with all things beads and jewelry-making in the ever-changing world.

Gift the Gift of Jewelry Making this Holiday Season!

With the holidays right around the corner, you may be racking your brain for the perfect gift for a dear friend or family member. Holiday shopping can be stressful and some individuals can be difficult to buy for.  Have you considered giving someone (or even yourself!) the gift of a craft, providing them with basic materials to create something beautiful?  Beading and jewelry making is an enjoyable hobby for all ages and it can be the perfect gift for someone in your life who enjoys being creative.  Potomac Bead has everything you need to give the gift of jewelry making to someone and I’d like to share those with you! Whether it’s basic stringing, wireworking, or beadweaving, the Potomac Bead Company has everything you need- tools, supplies, tutorials, and patterns – to give someone the gift of jewelry making this holiday season.


Perhaps the simplest form of jewelry making, basic jewelry stringing materials are the perfect gift for individuals of all ages.  Stringing projects are usually quick, uncomplicated, and you don’t need more than a handful of supplies to create beautiful jewelry.  Stringing includes single strand jewelry, but also multi strand projects, and pearl-knotting as well. The Potomac Bead Company actually sells pre-assembled kits for stringing, containing everything you need, making your shopping for supplies much easier!  The kit does only contain 4 strands of beads, but you can always purchase additional beads like gemstones, freshwater pearls, Czech fire-polished beads, and more to add to your gift..


2241-2THere is a list of everything you need for basic stringing.  Like I said, you can purchase them in a convenient kit, or separately if you want other options.

Be sure to check out this video below on how to use these basic tools for stringing jewelry.


You may think that beadweaving is too ambitious, and not an easy craft to adopt.  The truth is, every seasoned beadweaver started out as a beginner. You can give the gift of beadweaving to a seasoned and highly experienced beader, but you can also gift it to someone with no experience at all!  The Potomac Bead company carries a number of kits for various levels of ability, including a basic starter kit for those with zero experience.


Essential Starter Beadweaving Kit

For your convenience, Potomac Bead sells an Essential Starter Beadweaving Kit for beginners that includes all of the basic beadweaving supplies and materials you need, along with three printed beadweaving patterns.  It really is the perfect gift for yourself or someone else who is looking to dabble in a new craft.  You can choose to purchase the starter kit, or pick and choose exactly what you want using the supply list below!


Potomac Bead carries a number of pre-assembled project kits that include everything you need for a specific design including a pattern and all beads and findings.  This is a great grab-and-go gift option since the pattern and color selection are already done for you. You can find the projects below and so many more at  Click here to check them out!


Have you heard about Potomac Bead’s Subscription Boxes?  The subscription boxes are the next best thing and a great gift for yourself or someone you know!  Subscription boxes are sent out monthly and are available in two sizes. Depending on the size, the boxes come with one or two patterns and all the beads and findings you would need to complete those projects, plus more!  You can purchase a 1-month subscription, 3-month, 6-month, or if you’re feeling super generous, a full year of beadweaving projects delivered to your door each month. Click here for more details on Subscription Boxes and check out the video below.


Last but certainly not least are the wireworking projects you can gift to yourself or someone else.  There are endless things you can do with wire, but I’m going to point out some basics that would make great gifts.

Before getting started with any wire jewelry project, you want to make sure you have a good set of tools incuding needlenose pliers, flat or chain nose pliers, and cutters.  These are essential for wireworking and you can buy all three here!


Cabochon or stone wrapping is a great starter project for jewelry making with wire.  Potomac bead has a number of Youtube videos on how to wrap cabchons, sea glass, donut stones, and more.  Each video gives detailed instructions on how to create these beautiful pieces of jewelry and provides with you a list of all materials you need.  Perhaps you have a stone or a shell you found and you’ve been holding on to – why not turn it into a piece of jewelry?



Potomac Bead has a number of beautiful and adorable Christmas and Holiday earring kits that contain everything needed to create them (except for the pliers!).  They are a thoughtful and inexpensive kits that are perfect for the upcoming holiday season.  Here is a list of all the adorable earring kits.  Grab yours before they’re gone!


If you’re picking up a new craft or gifting it to someone, be sure to remember to use Potomac Bead’s Youtube channel to find tutorials on how to do pretty much EVERYTHING!  If you’re stuck on how to do a specific stitch, or need a reminder on how to coil eye-pins for earrings, be sure to utilize all that Potomac Bead’s channel has to offer.

I hope you  have an amazing holiday season and enjoy gifting to others!  If you’re stuck on what to get someone, try giving them the gift of jewelry making!







Potomac Bead’s Best Bead Storage and Handling Tips!

A question we get quite often at The Potomac Bead Company and in our Facebook Beading and Jewelry Making Group is – What is the best way to store beads and jewelry making supplies?  You’ve probably asked yourself this very question as you’ve rummaged through a box of bead supplies looking for that small bag of crimp beads.

As you do more and more beading work, you can expect to accumulate supplies quickly you’ll soon be looking for bead storage solutions to keep you organized.  It’s important to find a solution that allows you to find the beads and beading tools you’re looking for quickly, but also so that you can easily take inventory of the products you do have and don’t make unnecessary re-purchases of things you can’t find.

I’d like to share with you some recommended tips and bead storage ideas from The Potomac Bead Company and what has worked best for us!



You may have noticed that the Potomac Bead Company sells a large majority of beads, both seed beads and many others, in clear plastic bead storage tubes.  This is because WE LOVE TUBES and they are a great seed bead storage solution for a number of reasons.

  • They Are Clear – Using clear storage is a big advantage because you can see exactly what bead and what color bead is inside.  Although things like old film canisters or pill bottles are great storage options, you can’t see what is inside without popping the lid off and that can be cumbersome when it has to be done repeatedly.
  • The Lid Is Secure – Unlike plastic bags that can tear and are sometimes difficult to close, the tubes we use at Potomac Bead have secure, well-fitting lids that keep your beads safe and reduce the risk of accidental spillage. For extra security, you can store your tubes in plastic bags just in case a tube breaks.
  • Storage Hook for Hanging – If you’re workspace allows for hanging storage, the hook on the lid makes this a great option.  This keeps the beads up and off your workspace with easy visibility.
  • Easily Repurposed – Probably the best thing about tubes is that they are SO easy to repurpose!  Don’t throw tubes away! They make great storage solutions for beading needles or for beads that are sold in strands.
  • Informational Label – Labeling is a key factor when it comes to storage of beads.  At Potomac Bead our tube labels provide all necessary information; bead names, bead type, price, color, item number, weight, and more!



When plastic tubes aren’t large enough, or don’t make sense, stick to CLEAR containers with secure lids and separate compartments when the beads you are storing are tiny.  In some cases, plastic bags ARE a good option, for things like cabochons, cup buttons, and other large products, but when it comes to small beads or findings, stick to something more secure.  At Potomac Bead we love the Bead Smith Storage Circle and the Bead Smith Storage Stack Jars as storage options for beads and accessories.  These will keep your beads and accessories separate and give you easy visibility and access to them. We especially prefer this solutions for metals and findings and we recommend keeping metals of one kind together.  Therefore we suggest using a separate container for all your sterling, gold plated, pewter, and so on and labeling it as such  This will ensure your metals stay separate and you will only need to access one container when working with a specific metal type.  



While working on a project, it’s important to stay organized.  While we don’t recommend this for storing beads, we do recommend using plastic trays or cups to hold beads while you’re in the middle of a project.  This will prevent your beads from sliding around and mixing up on your bead mat, especially if you’re working with a large number of different beads.  When you’re ready for a specific bead, you can grab your cup or tray and dump what you need onto your bead mat!


If you’re on the go a lot and prefer to take your beading projects with you so that you can continue working, you may have wrestled with different ideas on how to transport them.  After trying many things out, we’ve discovered a pretty inexpensive solution that works well! Simply take a bead mat, cut it in half, place it on a plastic tray or in a plastic shoe box and place your project on top. You can then layer the other half of the bead mat on top to help prevent the project from moving around.  From there you can even continue layering more projects on top, each project sitting on it’s own bead mat. When you’re ready to work on your project, you simply lift out the mats and grab the project you need!



If you don’t have a bead scoop, you should get one!  Although this basic metal tool may seem pointless, I assure you it is not and it makes bead project clean-up a breeze.  After you’re finished up with a project, the bead scoop is great for separating out beads that may have been mixed together, gathering them up to put back in storage tubes or bags, and even getting them out of the edge cracks of Bead On It Boards.  A Scoop Eez makes bead clean-up quick and easy and is worth every cent!


Our last and final recommendation for storing beads is all about how to organize and categorize them, and what we use to accomplish that!  When storing the actual tubes of beads, we prefer to use CLEAR, plastic shoe boxes that stack together with bold, visible labels on the end.  Again the clear plastic allows for good visibility and the labels eliminate the headache of rummaging through boxes to figure out what’s inside. We recommend organizing beads by brand, and then by size in the plastic boxes.  After all, it’s how we do it at the Potomac Bead Warehouse! So for instance Miyuki 11/0 seed beads would be stored in one plastic bin, Miyuki 15/0s in another, 4mm Potomac Crystal rounds in one, RoundDuos in one, and so on.  It’s not important to separate and organize beads by colors, but it is by brand and size. You don’t want to mix Miyuki 11/0s in with Toho 11/0s because although they are technically the same “size”, they do have their differences.  In the same way, you do not want to organize purple 11/0s with purple 15/0s, purple crystals, purple delicas, and more. You will spend a lot of time digging through your box of purple beads looking for the 15/0 size you need. Keep beads together that can be interchangeable and when you’re selecting beads for a new project, you’ll have all the sizes and types organized ahead of time for easy selection.

I hope these 6 tips are helpful to you when storing, organizing, and handling your beads.  If you have a solution that you love, please SHARE YOUR IDEAS with us! We are always looking for new and better ways to do things and love input from fellow beaders!

Happy Beading!


Five Common Beadweaving Mistakes

Raindrops Necklace - Design your own-2

Designing and creating beautiful beaded jewerly is a great source of fun and relaxation for many and its a great way to express one’s creativity. While beadweaving is enjoyable MOST of the time, it can also be the source of some serious frustration! I want to highlight for you the five most common mistakes in beading that designers face and solutions for you to avoid them.

1.) Too Much Thread

Some beading designs require a LOT of thread, especially more advanced projects. Many attempt to start off a project with more than enough beading thread to complete their project, thinking this will save them time in adding new thread. While this sounds ideal, it is not, and can give you quite the headache during the beading process! There are a number of things that can go wrong with this scenario. Extra long sections of thread are more prone to knotting and tangling and you’ll spend ample time undoing knots. In addition, when you use a lot of thread, you will spend a LOT of time pulling the thread through each bead before you can sticth the next bead. Thread that is constantly subjected to being pulled, untangled and unknotted will lose its integrity, weaken, and wear out faster.

How much thread should I use?

The main solution for using too much thread is to use less! Using shorter lengths of thread will be less likely tangle and knot, require less time pulling, and will help avoid wearing out your thread. The idea of adding more thread during a project may seem like an unwanted interruption and a waste of time, but its actually simple and the best solution for all the problems associated with using too much beading thread to begin with. Adding more thread throughout your project is simple and effective. Check out this video for simple instructions to accomplish this and avoid one of the most common mistakes in beadweaving!

2.) Splitting The Thread

Another common error in bead weaving is accidentally splitting your thread. This split-scaled-2560-e1572630487262-scaled-2560.jpghappens when your beading needle passes through the fibers that make up your thread. Many threads are available – Hana 100% Nylon Beading Thread, Wildfire, Fireline, and so on. All of these threads are comprised of tiny fibers that are woven together to create the actual thread. When a needle passes through those fibers, separating and splitting your thread, it can lead to some unwanted problems! Splitting thread weakens the overall strength and integrity of the beading thread, and therefore weakening the project. In addition, split threads can also cause the beads to lay incorrectly and not flush with the rest of the project. And lastly, sewing through thread can make it difficult to go back and undo bead stitches to correct any issues you find in a row of beads.

How do you avoid splitting beading thread?

Thread splitting happens most often when a beader is trying to correct a beading error and attempts to stitch backwards through a project. Whatever you do, DON’T STITCH BACKWARDS! The correct way to fix an error in a beading project is to first, REMOVE THE NEEDLE and then pull out the thread to remove the beading. Stitching backward almost always end with you sewing through your thread. In addition, when making multiple passes through a bead, try to keep your needle flush to the inside edge of your bead to avoid going through previous stitches. If you do split your thread, tie on a new piece and continue on.

unnamed3.) Incorrect Thread Tension

Thread tension plays a big role in the end result of your beaded project. How tight you are pulling the beading thread will directly affect how your project will lay and drape. Incorrect tension, whether it is too tight or too lose, can leave you with a finished project that doesn’t meet your expectations. Too tight thread tension will cause your project to buckle and curl and not lay as desired whereas loose thread tension will bring about gaps and inconsistencies in your work. You will also see more thread between beads and rows of beads.

How do you make sure thread tension is correct?

Achieving correct thread tension requires lots of practice. To help avoid incorrect thread tension, as you’re creating your project be sure to stop throughout and observe how the bead stitches are appearing and how the beads are laying. After each stitch, be sure to pull and tighten the project before moving on to the next stitch. Don’t wait until the end to do this. If you tie off a project with too tight tension, unfortunately there is no way to correct this. With loose tension projects you may be able to go back and fix issues by pulling, or by reinforcing with more thread, however this is not ideal and its best to check your project as you go.  Lastly, make sure you are using the correct type of thread for your project.  If you need help deciding what to use, check out this youtube video for help!

4.) Attempting Projects that are Too Advanced

You’ve probably heard the phrase “don’t bite off more than you can chew.” This is great advice, even in beading, and your level of expertise should be taken to consideration when beginning a new beading project. You may have the necessary tools and beads for a particular project, perhaps even a pattern with instructions, but that does not mean you are ready for it. There is a good chance you’ll run into a handful of issues if you try to tackle a project thats too ambitious. Advanced stitches and maneuvers are difficult and will likely leave you frustrated and disappointed. You may spend a few hours tackling a difficult project a notice you missed key steps along the way, and then need to undo your project or start over.

How can you become proficient enough for advanced projects?

Practice makes perfect. You will not be able to master advanced beading projects without first mastering basic beading skills and stitches. It is important to be patient with yourself, take up easier projects first, and learn from them as you move on to more complex ones. Stick to your lane – most tutorials will indicate the skill level required and be sure to reference that when choosing your next project. Potomac Bead has a plethora of tutorials on Youtube to teach you everything you need to know.

5.) Not Trying New Beading Techniques or Products

There are so many beading techniques, stitches, and products available to try, leading toWildflower Reversible Flower pendant with materials-1 endless possiblilities in creativity and beading design. Trying new stitches may be intimidating and overwhelming, preventing you from trying to tackle them. However, not attempting something new will only hinder your growth as a beader and surpress your creativity. As I mentioned above, it is not in your best interest to jump ahead to advanced projects before you’re ready, but it is important to try out new tecniques as you’re ready for them. Try to avoid falling into the negative mindset of not trying something new because it appears impossible.

How should you tackle new tecniques?

Start with the basics! There are many beading stitches and you do not have to learn all of them at once. Start with basic stitches like ladder, peyote, and brick and take time to master them. Find out what you like by trying different methods to see what works for you.

Practice makes perfect, the more you get your hands on more beading projects the more familiar you will get, learn the mistakes and how to avoid them. It takes time to perfect an art, beading included.

What exactly is the difference between Wildfire and Fireline?

As you may have noticed, there are handfuls of thread choices out there to choose from when it comes to beading.  While it is important for beaders to have multiple bead style and color options, it is equally, if not more important for beaders to use a thread that is both functional and durable that will withstand the beading process and wear.

Different beading projects call for different types of thread. More intense and intricate beading patterns that require lots of thread handling and passes through beads, may require a more substantial thread, while other projects could use a more delicate thread.  For beadweaving, looming, and bead embroidery, it is important for you to select a thread that will work well for your specific beading project. As you are well aware, beading requires hours of time and patience and as beads are a vital part of all beading projects, the thread is what brings the creativity together.


There are countless threads to choose from, such as nylon thread, which is used for beadweaving and looming, threads specifically for bead crochet, Kumihomo brading, pearl knotting, stringing, soutache and more.  I will focus on those threads another time.  For now, I want to specifically highlight a type of thread that the overwhelming majority of beaders favor when creating their beaded designs and those are the thermally bonded threads.

There are two main brands or types of thermally bonded threads that we at The Potomac Bead Company offer.  Those threads are Wildfire and Fireline, and many customers ask us what the difference is between the two.  Here I want to spotlight the details and provide you with an overview of each so that you know exactly what you’re working with.  My hope is that when you’re finished reading this blog you will know everything you need to know about Wildfire and Fireline Beading Thread!


I want to start off with defining thermal bonding and what it actually means.  Thermal fusion or bonding, by definition, is the process by which synthetic fibers or materials are fused together via a heating process.  The heating of the synthetic fibers or materials allows those fibers to melt or “fuse” together to become one. In the case of Wildfire and Fireline, these two threads feature a coated polyethylene material.


The thermally bonded coating of Wildfire and Fireline gives these thin threads strength and durability and makes them an exceptional product for use in loom and off-loom beading projects and needling projects.  Because these threads have a special coating, they require no waxing or pre-conditioning prior to use. In addition, the coating provides a smooth surface that eases needle threading and allows for easy detangling and knot removal.  They are developed to be fray and stretch resistant, waterproof, and are able to withstand intense use and consistent wear. Thermally bonded threads are extremely versatile and may be used in a wide variety of beading projects, from beadweaving and looming, to wrap bracelets and more.  Many would agree that the functionality and durability of these threads make them a fan favorite.


When purchasing Wildfire or Fireline beading thread, you’ll notice on the packaging that their thickness is labeled in inches – such as .006 in.  This is the actual thickness of the thread and what you want to focus on when determining which size thread you need.  The thicker the thread, the less passes it can make through a bead. If you’re working on a project that requires multiple passes of thread through a bead, you will want to lean toward the thinner thread to ensure it fits through the diameter of the bead as many times as you need.  Sometimes thread labels also list the pound weight of the thread. This is confusing and irrelevant to beaders. Instead, focus on the diameter of the thread and the length you need and IGNORE THE POUND WEIGHT! I will explain this more later.


Wildfire and Fireline are almost virtually the same, however they do have a few differences that are important to point out.


Wildfire, perhaps the most popular of thermally bonded threads, is manufactured in the United States by Beadalon.  The Potomac Bead Company offers Wildfire beading thread in spools of 20 yards, 50 yards and 125 yards, in sizes .006 inch and .008 inches.  At first, Wildfire was only available in standard white and black colors, but Beadalon has added a handful of others to the lineup – Green, Gray, Blue and Red.  For some beaders, the color variety that Beadalon offers in their Wildfire thread is what keeps them going back for more. In particular, the green thread, although it seems odd, is very neutral and goes especially well with virtually any color bead.  Wildfire’s green thread is Allie’s go-to thread nine times out of ten when she’s working on a project and what we recommend to most beaders when they are determining which color thread to use. Unfortunately, many big box retail stores like JoAnn Fabrics and Hobby Lobby do not carry the green color, so be sure to order yours online from!

Wildfire Key Points

  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • 6 Different Colors – Black, White, Green, Gray, Blue, Red
  • .006 and .008 Inch Thicknesses
  • Spools of 20 yards, 50 yards, and 125 yards


There is often some confusion around Fireline’s branding and what company actually manufactures it.  On the label you’ll see the name Berkley, but also The BeadSmith – which lends to the confusion!  Also made in the U.S.A, Fireline thread is manufactured by Berkley, a popular fishing supply company. The BeadSmith, a beading supply distributor, purchases Fireline from Berkley and re-brands it as a “microfused braided bead thread”.  This thread, or fishing line if you will, was initially manufactured as a strong fishing line, optimized for spinning reels. It was quickly realized that this line was also great for beading which is why The BeadSmith quickly picked it up and branded it as such.

The Bead Smith’s Fireline comes in 4 main thicknesses- .005 inch, .006 inch, .007 inch, and .008 inch.  Thicker varieties are also available from Berkley, but those sizes are not generally used by the beading community, they are too thick.  In addition, you will notice the labels also list the thread weight in pounds. As I mentioned previously, this is irrelevant and refers to the break strength of the line as it relates to fishing.  Ignore the break strength!

Fireline beading thread is available from Potomac Beads in 50 yard spools, in either crystal, smoke, or black satin.  A downfall of the smoke color is that the actual color rubs off onto your hands as you’re working with it. Because of this, Fireline developed the black satin color, but the price point is higher than the crystal or smoke.

Fireline Key Points

  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • 3 Colors – Crystal, Smoke, Black Satin
  • .005, .006, .007, .008 Inch Thicknesses
  • Spools of 50 yards


When all is said and done, both Wildfire and Fireline are great threads to work with in beading and beadweaving.  They are great for virtually any beading stitch – peyote, herringbone, right angle weave, brick, ladder, and more. Their price points are similar and they both have a hefty list of advantages with only one or two downfalls.  Both threads are thin but incredibly strong, they are fray and stretch resistant, waterproof, easy to thread through a needle, and while Wildfire is available in more colors, Fireline is available in more thicknesses. If you are in the market for a strong beading thread, give Wildfire or Fireline a try! It’s impossible for me to recommend one thread over the other, I can only recommend that you work with both and test them out! You, the beader, will be the determinant of which beading thread will work best for you!

I hope I leave you better informed on thermally bonded threads and perhaps excited to try something new!  Which one is your favorite? Let us know!

Happy Beading!


How Beading is Good for Health and Happiness!

The art of beading has been around for hundreds of years, dating back to the 14th century when the first glass beads were produced. What has made the art of beading withstand centuries and what is so lovely and beautiful about it? People of all ages have enjoyed the craft of beading for generations and each day more are getting themselves involved in beading and jewelry making. This beloved hobby is not only fun for people and a way to express creativity or earn a small profit, but the best part of all is that beading is good for your health! Oh yes you read it right, beading has many health benefits too! Both adults and children can experience the many therapeutic benefits of beading and jewelry making. Beading requires skills used by your brain to think, reason, and focus, but most of all, it relaxes us and makes us happy!

Beading for our Mental Health

Did you know that approximately 1-in-5 people GLOBALLY have a mental health disorder at any given time? From anxiety and depression to eating disorders and substance abuse, the mental health of the global population is on the decline. Our fast-paced lifestyles and constant hurrying to our next commitment is in no way beneficial to our overall well-being. We strive for success but barely give ourselves time to rest and enjoy the things that truly make us happy and calm our ever-moving minds. It is so important that we take into account our brain health and overall well-being and put into practice things that bring us joy, soothe and comfort us, and provide anxiety relief.

Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas on

One of those comfort-bringing practices is art and crafting, and beading falls into that category. But you may ask, how is beading actually good for my mental health?

Encourages Mindfulness and Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Beading keeps our hands busy and our minds at ease. The time spent beading necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and embroidery requires full focus and concentration on the present moment, allowing us to practice mindfulness, and helps prevent our thoughts from wandering. The time we spend beading is spent constructively, and with purpose, and helps us escape the world around us, slow down, and focus on one task, one bead at a time. Many beading projects are done by stringing beads one-by-one, forcing the beader to take his or her time and to fixate on a singular task.

The repetitive nature of stringing beads is calming, almost like meditation. It can help to relieve stress by preventing a beader from trying to multitask, encouraging them to maintain focus on a sole task. Starting a pattern and growing with it slowly helps a person to slow their mind, be patient, and witness their creation unfold gradually. Beading allows one to abandon other life stressors and escape into an activity that will sooth and calm the mind. As Pablo Picasso famously said, “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Boosts Our Creativity and Self-Esteem

Not only does beading promote mindfulness and relieve stress, it also encourages creativity and boosts our self esteem. The art of beading and the endless design and creative possibilities that come with that, gives the beader an area to let his or her imagination work. There are thousands of beads to choose from, in hundreds of colors and finishes, all ready to be used to create something beautiful. There are endless beading materials to choose from, from seed beads and Czech pressed glass, to gemstones and freshwater pearls, giving a beader endless possibilities.

Photo by Avinash Patel on

Whether a beader is following a pattern, or developing their own design, the individual can play around with color combinations and textures and watch their design unfold. The end result of one’s imagination and creativity put to work is a finished piece that it’s creator can be proud of. After cycling through the entire creative process, the piece of jewelry can provide a person with a sense of accomplishment and bring them pride, joy, and satisfaction. Beading makes us feel happy, and when we as humans do things that make us feel good, our brains respond by releasing endorphins. Endorphins are the very chemicals in our brain that reduce stress and promote happiness. Art therapy is also proven to help alleviate anxiety by reducing the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies.

Encourages Socialization

Beading can be done is a group setting as well, allowing individuals to share ideas, stories and help one another out. In addition, it gives beaders the opportunity to provide each other with positive feedback and recommendations in design. Take Potomac Bead’s Beading and Jewelry Making Facebook Group for example. It is an online community where people can share their work, ask questions, provide feedback, and encourage one another.

Beading is Beneficial for Children Too

Imagine a situation where a child is beading, grasping the small beads one at a time and stringing them on thread. The repetitive motion of the beading process is extremely beneficial to a child’s fine motor skills as it strengthens their small, growing muscles. The act of grasping both small and large beads repeatedly for a particular pattern involves many hand movements. These repeated movements can help develop and strengthen a child’s grip and hand dexterity, which can lead to improved writing and coloring skills at school.

Encourages Creativity and Imagination

assorted color beads
Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Beading gives children the perfect outlet to use their creativity and imagination. With beading, there are no lines to color in or rules to follow, only creative freedom. Beads are available in all different shapes, colors, sizes and textures. From fun lampwork beads and colorful mixed magnesite gemstones, to wooden beads and metal charms. Children are able to play around and experiment with color combinations, patterns, or no pattern at all! A child’s unique creation is made possible by their own originality and imagination which is vital for their developing minds.


Improved Fine Motor Skills and Concentration

As children get older, they are required to concentrate more and more, whether that be in school, or doing chores, or while riding a bike. The art of beading requires a certain level of concentration from the beader. If a child is sticking with a pattern, they need to concentrate on which beads they need to pick up, how many beads to use, and in which order they need to thread the beads. In addition, the child needs to focus on threading a small thread or string through the small hole of a bead. All of these things require patience and focus while helping to fine tune visual motor skills and gross motor skills. These seemingly meaningless tasks are great tools in helping children sharpen their minds with persistence, concentration, and focus on a specific task.

Offering a Sense of Accomplishment

When the piece they are creating is finished, a child then experiences the joy and satisfaction of a job well done. In addition, children then have a tangible item, imagined and created by only them, that they can be proud of. The satisfaction and pride in their work will grant a child a sense of accomplishment and provide them with a boost of self-esteem that every child needs to feel.

Great Teamwork

Beading as a group activity will help a child create playmates and make the whole activity more fun. Forming ideas with other children teaches a child how to collaborate and work with other children. It promotes sharing and the importance of teamwork and allows children the opportunity to encourage and give compliments to one another. Being able to share ideas with peers also helps to build a child’s self confidence in their ideas and abilities.


Are you having a rough day or week? Are you experiencing anxiety symptoms, feeling lonely and uninspired, and in need of a confidence boost? It is no secret that art is therapeutic and helps relieve our stress and gives us a boost of happiness. There are many studies on this very topic. Beading will help calm your mind and anxieties, and propel you to beautiful creations that you can delight in.  Allow your imagination to run wild, grab your beading supplies, and start creating!

#Happy Beading! – No pun intended =)


How to Tell if Your Gemstones Are Real Or Fake


If you’re like me, you like a beautiful gemstone necklace, bracelet or set of earrings.  There is something about making or purchasing jewelry with genuine gemstones that makes it more unique and special.  I particularly enjoy gifting handmade jewelry to my friends, family, and my kid’s teachers around the holidays. There are thousands of affordable, semiprecious gemstones out there to choose from, in hundreds of shapes and colors.  Unfortunately, although many of these beads are labeled as gemstones, many of them are not. There are certainly 100% natural gemstone beads and cabochons available, but there are also many imitations, manmade, dyed, or altered stones as well.  Manmade gemstones are beautiful, and a great addition to any piece of jewelry, they just aren’t natural. If you do prefer authentic stones, you need to educate yourself on what to look for and how to make an informed purchase.

woman holding six polished stones
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

To be clear, there is no fool-proof way to ensure your gemstones are 100% natural other than taking them to a certified gemologist and having them examined under a microscope.  There are, however, a handful of things you can take into account when shopping for gemstones that will help you to determine if you’re purchasing natural gemstones or fake gemstones.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re shopping for gemstone beads or gemstone cabochons.



The more information that is available for the gemstones you are purchasing, the better.  Thoroughly read product descriptions and look for ones that are transparent and forthcoming with information about the gemstone beads or cabochons they are selling.  In the description, look to see if the seller lists the origin of the stones or where they are mined. Knowing where a gemstone comes from or where it was mined will help in determining whether it is an authentic gemstone.  In addition, look to see if the description of the product includes terms like “dyed” or “manmade”. There are many stones available in the market that appear to be real gemstones, but in fact they are dyed or chemically treated stones made to look like natural gemstones.

moJAVE turquose
Mojave Turquoise

Let’s take turquoise for example. You’ve probably seen many beautiful turquoise beads available for sale but would it surprise you to know that around 90% of turquoise beads and other products are not actually turquoise? They are beautiful and certainly look like the real thing, but they are actually dyed howlite or magnazite.  Howlite is a white stone that is extremely absorbent and is dyed and treated to look just like turquoise. If a seller is selling dyed howlite, the product description should be transparent and tell you that.  So again, if you want authentic stones, do your due diligence and thoroughly read up on all available information on the product you are looking to purchase. Read descriptions closely, look out for the origin of the stone, and be aware of keywords that would raise a red flag such as “manmade”, or “dyed”.

One important suggestion I want to add is, if you’re looking to make gemstone jewelry that you will then resell, be sure to offer all information in your finished piece as well.  Be clear about where the stones are from, what they are, whether you’re using sterling silver, and another other information you can provide.  Buyers appreciate the information and will be more likely to make a purchase if they know exactly what they are purchasing.


woman selecting beaded jewelry
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on

The price of a product is often a telltale sign of real or fake.  Have you ever wanted to purchase something and the price is so low that it makes you think, “this is way too good to be true”?  If you ever ask yourself that question when purchasing gemstone beads or cabochons, then it probably is too good to be true.  Authentic gemstones are unique and special and rarer than you think, causing their price points to be much higher than their imitation counterparts.   For example, real turquoise is in limited supply and only makes up about 10% of the market and therefore carries a high price. If you’re looking at a 16” strand of Kingman turquoise beads with a price of $75-$100, you are more than likely looking at real turquoise.  If you’re looking at a strand of turquoise with a price of $5, you can be pretty certain it’s not authentic but rather a dyed, altered stone. When making a gemstone purchase, do your homework and research the average prices of those stones and then some comparison shopping.


Another important factor to keep in mind when looking for gemstones is the color and overall appearance of the stone.  Truly natural gemstones like African Opal are only mined, cut, and polished and not altered in any way. They contain blemishes, flaws, and imperfections and no two beads or stones are exactly the same.  An authentic stone will have grooves and divots that you can feel when running your fingernail over the surface.

mixed agate 2
Mixed Agate

If you come across a strand of gemstone beads that are especially colorful, vibrant, smooth, and shiny, like Mixed Agate, it is very likely these beads are dyed and altered in some way.  Let’s take goldstone for example. Goldstone is a very sparkly, copper-colored stone that was made to look like Sunstone, but is not an actual stone. Goldstone is actually made up of glass that is infused with copper to give it that sparkly, sunstone look. So, as you’re looking to purchase gemstones, take into account their overall appearance and be leary of a strand that is overly colorful, and bright.



The last and possibly the most important factor in purchasing real gemstones is buying them from a trusted seller.  A reputable dealer will check all of the above boxes. They should provide a thorough description of the product and be transparent about where the stones are from. In addition, they should disclose if the stones are composite stones and whether they are chemically treated or altered in any way.  Be cautious of a seller that is not forthcoming with this information. Do some research on the seller by checking out their sales review. Consumer reviews are an excellent resource to find out information about a seller, whether that information is good or bad. Lastly, do not shy away from asking the seller for more details or information.  A good vendor should be readily available and willing to answer any additional questions you have about their products.


The market is full of gorgeous gemstone beads and cabochons with hundreds of colors, cuts, and styles to choose from.  If you’re in the market for authentic beads, do your homework and take your time with your purchase so that you can make an informed decision and make sure you’re getting exactly what you want.  If you are on the search for gemstones beads or cabochons, the Potomac Bead Company has hundreds to choose from, including natural and manmade.  If you have any questions about any of the products available, we will be happily answer those for you and make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed purchase.  We will be able to provide you with any and all information you are looking for when making your purchase.  The Potomac Bead staff can also make recommendations to you for which beads or stones to choose that fits within your budget. And lastly, check out our Better Beader Episode on Youtube titled “Are Your Gemstones Real?” for more information and examples on what to look for.

Happy Beading!


How To Price Jewelry to Sell

After watching a Youtube video on pricing handmade jewelry, I thought to myself, what if I could price and sell mine?  I dabbled with the idea of selling my jewelry creations in the past and assumed it was as simple as slapping a reasonable price on a piece and calling it a day.  Learning that there was a way to properly price my handmade jewelry so that it sells quickly and makes me a small profit, made me more inclined to give selling a try.

I imagine that there are many jewelry creators out there that have their pricing down pat, but I’m sure there are also many, like myself, who have no idea where to begin.  Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the jewelry making game and are interested in earning some extra income on what you love to do, check out these tips for pricing your jewelry.




        3. TARGET MARKET

        4. competition

How are each of these considered when pricing jewelry?  Let’s break it down.


Cost of materials may be the most important factor when pricing jewelry.  Making a profit on something requires an investment and that investment in this case are your raw materials.  When pricing jewelry you need to be sure to adequately cover the cost of the goods you are selling. This is where making a profit happens.  Materials can be expensive, especially gemstones, precious metals, freshwater pearls, crystals, etc.  The more expensive the materials, the higher the price point of the jewelry.

Let’s say you have a pair of earrings to sell and the materials to make those earrings cost approximately $8.00.  You’ll want to price those earrings for absolutely NO LESS than that amount.  Otherwise, you might as well throw some money out the window.  And who in their right mind would do that???


As you’re making a piece of jewelry, write down the costs of your materials as you go.  Be sure to include EVERYTHING. Thread, crimp beads, findings, glue, etc.  IT ALL ADDS UP!  You’d be surprised by how much you actually use.  Put the finished piece in a plastic bag or a box with the materials and cost list in it so you don’t forget.  When you’re pricing your pieces later, you’ll have all the information you need at your fingertips

In addition to the raw materials of your jewerly, there may be some additonal costs you’re not thinking about.  Don’t forget to include any packaging costs.  Perhaps you provide a nice gift box with your jewelry or a simple earring hanger.  Don’t forget to include that in your costs.  Even further, if you’re selling online, you are incurring additional costs like postal packaging and shipping/handling.  Don’t forget about these and write them down!

Here is an example:
Beads: $4  
Thread: $2  
Findings: $1.50  
Glue: $.50
Gift box: $1.00 
Postage: $4.00 
Postal Packaging: $2.00 
TOTAL: $15.00
To markup or not to markup?

It is totally acceptable to add a markup to your raw materials.  Everyone does it!  Consider adding a 30% increase on your materials cost to cover hidden overhead costs.  It will make you a few extra bucks in the end.  You be the judge.


How do you value your time?  Have you ever asked yourself how much your time is worth?  What rate would you wish to be paid?  What rate do you think is fair?  Once you’ve asked yourself those questions, decide on a rate for yourself.  For each project,  be sure to reference the time it took your in your notes.

Quick tip:

As you’re working on a project, keep accurate track of how long it takes you and take note for reference later when planning a price. 

More intricate beading projects like the Tchacka Boom Bangle may take you a few hours, while a simple wirewrapped pedant necklace may take an hour or less.  Your time is valuable and the pricing of your jewelry should reflect that. 

Here is an example:
Hourly Rate:  $10/hour
Time for project(including color section, creation, and finishing): 4 hours

Total cost of labor: $10/hr x 4 hours = $40

In time, and with experience, a beader will be able increase their speed on projects.  What used to take 4 hours may now require only 3.  Don’t feel as though you need to lower your price because you worked faster.  You can if you want, or you can keep your price on that project the same and make a larger profit.

Current PRICE: Materials $15 + Labor $40 = $55, but we aren’t done yet!

The Market

For some of your pieces, the price tag is going to climb pretty high.  What if it took you 4 hours to make a bracelet at a $20/hour rate with materials costing you about $15? Your beautiful piece of work now costs $95!   Woah!
Can the market bear that price?  Or is that going to be a hard sell to consumers?

Bead weavers know the time it takes for quality work and many recognize that and are willing to pay the price.  Others may gasp at the high price tag.  Some consumers have large amounts of disposable income and if that is your target market, then you could likely sell higher priced items to them.  If you’re targeting a market where disposable income is lower, perhaps selling lower-priced jewelry to that market would be in your best interest.

Quick Tip: 

Who doesn’t love a good sale?  Another option would be to offer a sale on items (If you can afford the sale and still be profitable) to help draw interest and sell your jewelry faster.  Some consumers don’t care about sales, while others are always looking for a deal! 

It is great to have projects that take a long time and are a bit higher in price range.   However, try and add some inexpensive projects that are a little bit more accessible to the everyday person if you are selling at small craft fairs and markets.   You can be the judge on whether or not you think the consumers you are selling to will drop $100 on your beading work.  That said, items ranging from $20-$40 are going to fetch you more money, even in high end craft fairs because buyers get a piece of your beautiful jewelry without paying an arm and a leg for it.

Competition: What Makes Your Work Special?

Ask yourself – how many people are also doing what I do? How many alternatives do my customers and potential customers have?

Suffice to say the internet is an awesome place to sell your pieces. But also put in mind that it is flooded with people who make jewelry, making the competition pretty stiff. It is a great idea to go window shopping and see what other people are selling their jewelry for.  If your price points are higher than your competition, you  need to make sure to make it clear what makes YOUR piece special.  What makes it stand out?  Did you use sterling silver instead of a coated copper wire?  Did you use freshwater pearls instead of coated glass pearls?  Are you using real turquoise and not manmade turquoise?  Educate your consumers!

Wrapping It Up

Having considered the cost of raw materials and your time, and understanding the dynamics in pricing, it is fair to say that coming up with a price that a market will bear can be quite a task.  However, once you figure out what works for you, creating and pricing will be easy.

In summary, find a way to make your niche, make good quality yet affordable pieces, and consider your target market, as well as your sales location (i.e. a trade fair, a jewelry store, etc.).

Always remember to properly value your time to make a profit, as others will not value your time as much as you.

The more you create, the more skilled and efficient you become, and the less time it takes you to make your pieces. This in turn  lowers your prices. So, in the end your trade  becomes more profitable.

Are there other factors to consider in improving profitability?   Please do share them with us!

Here’s to becoming #betterbeaders together!


Jewelry Men Will ACTUALLY Wear…

Have you ever wondered “what kind of jewelry would a man actually like?”  As a company that designs hundreds of tutorials & projects each year, we see this question pop up a lot.  Unfortunately we (as men) are REALLY bad at giving opinions or insight about some things.  Sometimes we are just bad about communication in general.   This probably surprises… nobody.  But, it also means that women/friends/spouses/partners are often left to guess what to buy/make/create/design for a man.
Often in PotomacBeads’ “Beading and Jewelry-Making” facebook group, designers try to guess what men would like, and helpfully pose many suggestions.  MOST of these suggestion though I would never wear.  This is coming from a very average red-blooded American male.  Yes, this blog is written by a man.  It is even about beads!  Having co-founded with my wife Allie many years ago, I’ve been fortunate enough to have more experience in jewelry-making than most men in the world.  And to your benefit, I’m also very opinionated :).  Note, I will use the term “most” frequently, because there always are exceptions to any rule.
So, what would most men actually be willing to wear? Here are 4 easy rules to keep in mind when creating male jewelry designs:
Blog - Men's Jewelry - metal and cork
Men’s Jewelry Design Rule #1 —-  Cording > Beads
So, this is going to sound funny coming from a guy who owns a bead company.  I don’t like a lot of beads in my jewelry.  A few is ok, a LOT is not.  I would not want to wear a delicate strip of peyote with tiny little beads and/or crystals.  But, a simple strip of leather, or multiple strips of cotton, cork, or other fibers sounds great.  Often the more simple, the better.  Unless there is a very strong emotional connection with specific beads, I would avoid using too many beads in your pieces.  Try instead to place what beads you do use between layers of fibers, or spaced between fibers and metal.  Knots are another way to create spacing, without actually using a bead.  If you still want to be fancy, try to braid, macrame, or micro-macrame thinner fibers.  This can still work as long as it is balanced well with the other elements of the design.
Blog - Men's Jewelry - matte v shiny
Men’s Jewelry Design Rule #2 —-  Matte > Shiny
Most women love glitter and sparkle.  Most men don’t.  Women’s jewelry should often be eye catching… men’s jewelry should often fade into the background.  Matte beads tend to draw less attention, and serve as an accent to a wrist, neck, hand, ankle, etc., rather than the focus of it.
Blog - Men's Jewelry - metal and leather
Men’s Jewelry Design Rule #3 —- Metal > glass/Crystal/Resin/Anything Else
Men love metal.  HERE is your opportunity to use beads, as there are LOTS of different metal beads.  Silver, copper, brass are all great choices.  Gunmetal can also work, though be careful not to overdo “black” colors in any design or it can feel forced.
Blog - Men's Jewelry - metal and leather-3
Men’s Jewelry Design Rule #4 —- Muted Colors > Bright Colors
If a man wants to find the end of a rainbow, he can eat Lucky Charms®.  He probably doesn’t want to “wear” the rainbow.  Generally, men will prefer more muted versions of each color.  Pick cool or natural colors (blues & greens, browns & grays).  A more organic look will generally be more popular.  Learn more about beading & color theory here.

These are my humble opinions, coming from one mid-30s man who has been in the fashion/bead/jewelry industry for 13+ years.  When you are done completing a project for a man, you may feel like it is too simple.  That is how you know you have done a great job!  Take that energy, and throw it into something for yourself :).

Nathan Buchman
Co-Founder, PotomacBeads


The Bead Hole Size Guide

Knowing the hole size and stringing potential of your beads!

Gemstones       fringe4.jpg     Layer Cake Allie

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 material is 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.

EU Slider - Potomac Exclusives
Potomac Exclusives

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

Maui Bracelet and Macrame’ design

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 & Toho also 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!


Bead Hole Size

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.Stringing material - 2

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!