Your Guide to Buying Acrylic Beads

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Your Guide to Buying Acrylic Beads

Acrylic beads are a staple for many crafters, valued for their versatility, light weight, durability, and low cost. And since acrylic can be shaped into nearly any form and retain any colour, acrylic beads run the gamut from alphabet squares to high-quality imitation gems. For these reasons, acrylic beads may be found in a wide variety of crafts and jewellery, be they playful, elegant, or modern.

Before shopping for acrylic beads, it is helpful to be familiar with the range of choices, and to bear in mind a few considerations. First, buyers should understand that different bead types are intended for certain roles in the crafting project. Next, they can think about what shapes, colours, and finishes they want. Finally, it is advisable to determine in advance what size or sizes they need in order to realise their project, and to pay attention to hole diameters, location, and orientation. These steps help buyers find the perfect acrylic beads for their crafts.

About Acrylic Beads

Beads have been in use for thousands of years, and until the twentieth century were made from naturally-occurring materials such stone, clay, metal, and glass. The development of synthetic polymers in the 1920's made it possible to produce acrylic beads. These were an attractive option to keep manufacturing costs down as production increased. Since then, acrylic beads have been a mainstay in both costume jewellery and as a crafting supply for a broad number of purposes.

Advantages of Acrylic Beads

In addition to being affordable to produce and purchase, acrylic beads have several other advantages. They are lightweight, so they can be used in projects where a lot of beading is required; for example, they are excellent for decorating a gown or costume. Some may prefer jewellery from acrylic because it weighs less than glass, and since acrylic tends to stay cooler to the touch than glass, it is more comfortable to wear in hot weather.

In terms of manufacturing, acrylic is a flexible material that can be plied a variety of ways, and it retains both form and colour well. This gives crafters a tremendous choice of colours and shapes at accessible prices. And, as with most plastics, acrylic beads are quite durable, making them great for children's projects, as long as the adults supervising the craft project remain aware that small beads are a choking hazard for young children.

Potential Issues with Acrylic Beads

For all of their advantages, acrylic beads may not always be the right crafting choice. They are not as shiny as their glass counterparts, and what shine they do have may dull over time.

Uses of Acrylic Beads

One of the first considerations when choosing acrylic beads is what they are to be used for. Because acrylic beads are particularly versatile, they lend themselves to a variety of crafting projects, including scrapbooking, dressmaking, sewing, and jewellery-making, and more.

Acrylic Bead Types

All beads can be classified according to their function in a crafting project. The following chart outlines the four basic types of acrylic beads.

Bead Type

Description

Spacer

The most common type of acrylic bead; used to complete the bulk of a project; generally of simple shape and solid colour; usually less expensive than other bead types

End

As the name suggests, meant to be placed at the ends of a string of beads, particularly for jewellery-making; acrylic end beads are less common than metallic

Accent

Fancier beads than spacers, and usually larger in size and more expensive; often combined with spacer beads to complete a project

Pendant

Beads meant to be the focal point; the largest and most elaborate type of acrylic bead

This is only one way to classify acrylic beads, however. They can also be defined by their shapes, colours, and finishes, as discussed in the sections below.

Acrylic Bead Shapes

Because acrylic is easy to manipulate during its production, it can be shaped into virtually any form imaginable. It is impossible to catalogue all acrylic bead shapes, but there are some which are especially popular. Geometric shapes like spheres, blocks, diamonds, ovals, and bicones (opposing cones joined at the base) are very common. There are also familiar shapes such as flowers, hearts, teardrops, spikes, and animals.

Acrylic Bead Colours and Finishes

Acrylic beads can be remarkably diverse, taking on the appearance of metals, glass, gemstones, semi-precious stones, and pearls. They can be made in any colour imaginable, and might be transparent, translucent, or opaque. Finishes also determine the overall look of the bead, regardless of colour. The following chart outlines some of the most common finishes available for acrylic beads.

Finish

Description

Silver

Shiny silvery finish for the look of silver beads; in some cases, beads are silver-plated

Antique Silver

Slightly "tarnished" appearance for the look of aged silver beads

Gold

Bright finish for look of gold beads; in some cases, beads are gold-plated

Antique Gold

Replicates look of older gold with some darker spots and less shine

Copper

Metallised for a reddish-brown copper finish

Bronze

Metallised for bronze look

Pearlised

Has the appearance of natural pearls; comes in a variety of colours

Faceted

Cut with multiple flat faces to reflect light as would a gem

Lustre

Shiny finish, may be irridescent; used with solid colours and multi-coloured beads

Matte

Shine-free finish; used with variety of colours

Rubberised

Rubber coating gives beads a smooth, velvety finish

Sugar

Granulated finish with a sugary texture

In addition to the finishes described above, there are still other types of acrylic beads with their own unique appearance.

Alphabet beads feature a single letter of the alphabet and can be combined to form names, words, and messages in a variety of crafts. They come in different shapes and finishes, including the classic white cube with black lettering, translucent rainbow cubes, and metallic discs.

Wonder beads are monochromatic spherical beads coated with several layers of clear lacquer, which creates the illusion that the colour inside is floating.

Rhinestone-embedded beads have small rhinestones embedded in their surface for added sparkle and interest.

Finally, vintage acrylic beads may have unique detailing, shapes, colours, and histories that may be of interest to collectors and crafters alike. Lucite beads, for example, were in high demand in the 1950s and 1960s.

Choosing an Acrylic Bead Size

Acrylic beads come in a range of sizes, with smaller beads measuring 2 to 3 mm, while larger beads may be 10 to 15 mm, and pendants even larger. When deciding on a size, the buyer should have their project in mind and plan accordingly, so that the work as whole is proportional.

Hole Options for Threading

Another factor when working with different beads on the same project is consistent threading. Threading is the process of passing a wire, string, or cord through the bead's holes. Since holes vary in diameter, beads may fit differently on the cord rather than lining up, resulting in an uneven appearance. Furthermore, holes may differ in location and orientation: for example, a flat disc may have a hole running diametrically, while another disc may thread through its narrow center. Buyers should pay attention not only to bead size, but to hole size and orientation as well.

How to Buy Acrylic Beads

Acrylic beads, like other beads, are sold in lots of a certain quantity, as well as individually. It is common to see spacers sold in large lots, while accent beads and pendants may be sold a few at a time, or on their own. Another way of acquiring beads, especially more unique or vintage ones, is to purchase jewellery and disassemble it, to use the beads for one's own purposes.

Acrylic beads are widely available at crafting shops and speciality bead shops, and can also be purchased online through Internet vendors and websites like eBay.

Purchasing Acrylic Beads on eBay

If shopping online for acrylic beads, you can take advantage of eBay's vast selection of acrylic beads from local and international sellers. To begin your search, go to eBay's home page and enter keywords like "blue acrylic miracle beads" or "8mm matt acrylic beads". The more specific keywords you enter, the narrower the search results are. If you would rather browse more generally, you can enter simply "acrylic beads", and the refine the original search results by selecting size, price range, and so on.

Read Product and Seller Information

Look closely at the full item listing to make sure it is what you're looking for. Note bead size, hole size, location, and orientation, and quantity. You should also note the conditions of sale, and postage fees, if any. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the seller through eBay.

You may also want to check the seller's credentials by looking at their feedback score and comments left by previous customers. This helps give you an idea of how reliable they are, so you can buy with confidence.

Conclusion

Acrylic beads are an affordable, durable, lightweight crafting material that comes in a myriad of shapes, sizes, colours, and finishes. For these reasons, acrylic beads are ideal for a wide range of crafting projects, from jewellery to scrapbooks.

There are four basic types of acrylic beads, each with their own particular function in a project: spacers, end beads, accent beads, and pendants. In terms of shape, the choice is virtually limitless, but some of the more common ones include spheres, rectangles, squares, cubes, discs, bicones, flowers, hearts, and spikes. One of the most distinguishing aspects of an acrylic bead is its finish, which is often meant to resemble precious metals, gemstones, semi-precious stones, pearls, or glass. Finally, when buying acrylic beads, crafters should pay attention to bead and hole size, as well as hole location and orientation. With the right information and advance planning, they can find just the right acrylic beads for their crafting needs.

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