Understanding Bead Sizes and Bead Size Holes

Are you just getting started with beading, and need some help understanding bead and hole sizing? There are so many shapes and sizes of beads, all which can be used for different beading ideas, designs and projects! In this article, you will find tips on how to determine which is the right size bead and bead hole for your next jewelry-making project! 

How to Calculate Bead Size

First, let's discuss how bead sizes are measured! In most cases, the measurement scale are applied to the beads, while the strand may be sold in inches. Beads are most commonly measured with a ruler or a caliper in millimeters (mm). To determine the size of the bead using a caliper, slide open the caliper against the bead, closing the tips to meet the size of the bead which will show an accurate measurement of the bead! To use a ruler to measure beads, finds ruler with centimeters (cm) and millimeters (mm).  

Here's how to measure beads with a ruler:

  1. Place the ruler with the centimeters side from left to right, with 0 on the left side. 
  2. Place a pencil perpendicular to the rule on the left side, like a T-bone shape.
  3.  Line up 10 beads at the top of the ruler, starting at 0.
  4. Press the first bead at the joint of the ruler and pencil. 
  5. Line up each bead as if stringing tightly. 
  6. Count the number of millimeters of the 10 beads to measure. 
  7. Divide this measurement by 10. 
  8. This is how you determine the size of each bead using a regular ruler

The beads that are commonly measured in millimeters are gemstones, crystals, glass, metal, and wood bead varieties. For beads that are a briolette, teardrop or melon shape - the length is used as a measurement from the top to the bottom (perpendicular to the string/cord) of the bead and the width is measured from one end of the bead hole to the other (parallel to the string) from the widest part of the bead.

Determining the Best Size Bead for a Project 

Depending on the type of jewelry you are looking to make, determining the best  bead sizes for your project can be difficult! This guide will help you understand which size bead is best for your next jewelry project! 

4mm size beads - These beads are best for creating dainty, delicate pieces of jewelry such as anklets, wrap bracelets and necklaces that are lightweight. When working with gemstones, the larger the stone the heavier the bracelet/necklace may be, so the 4mm sizes are ideal when it comes to creating very subtle jewelry pieces! 

6mm size beads - This size is great for ideal bracelets and necklaces, especially when working with gemstones! The jewelry pieces are more of a statement than the 4mm size, however is slightly larger and ideal for pieces that you want to stand out, without being too flashy. 

8mm size beads - This size is one of the best for bracelets because it creates a less bulky bracelet on the wrist, which can be heavy when working with gemstones. The ideal size for necklaces are 8mm, which create dramatic pieces without being too bulky and heavy. 

10mm size beads - This size is nice for bracelets, although can be very heavy on the wrist if only working with gemstones. Using 10mm gemstones as an accent bead in this size will prevent pieces from looking too big, and from being very heavy. 

12mm size beads - These sizes are ideal accent beads, or necklaces which work to create big bold, and statement jewelry pieces. 

14mm size beads - Most commonly used for accents in jewelry pieces, 14mm can be a large bead on a creation since they can make a design heavy, but can be used as an accent on necklace and bracelets that compliment smaller beads and different colors/textures in a jewelry piece. 

Once you have determined the best bead size for you project, refer to this bead per inch chart to determine how many beads you will need! 

Beads Per Inches Size Chart

Bead Size (Length) 1" 7" 16"
1mm 25.4 177.8 406.4
2mm 12.7 88.9 203.2
3mm 8.5 59.5 136
4mm 6.4 44.8 102.4
5mm 5.1 35.7 81.6
6mm 4.2 29.4 66
7mm 3.6 25.2 57.6
8mm 3.2 22.4 48
9mm 2.8 19.6 44.8
10mm 2.5 17.5 40
11mm 2.3 16.1 36.8
12mm 2.1 14.7 33.6
13mm 2 14 32
14mm 1.8 12.6 28.8
15mm 1.7 11.9 27.2
16mm 1.4 9.8 22.4


Bead Hole Size  

Now that we have determined which beads are best for your next project, let's look into the hole size of the bead, which will determine the stringing material needed for the beads you've chosen! The differences in the hole size of beads is often related to the method that is used in their production. For instance, glass beads are usually made from molds which include the hole size for the bead, so many shapes and sizes of glass beads will have a consistent hole size, typical around .5mm - .8mm. Like glass beads, crystals (which are also made of glass) have a similar production method that ensures a consistent and similar hole size that can vary based on the bead shape and size. 

When it comes to gemstones there is a wider range and variety of the bead hole sizes since gemstones have different properties that determines how hard or soft a stone may be. Depending on the hardness of the stone, some gemstones can be drilled from a machine while softer stones may need to be drilled by hand to ensure their structural integrity. When working with gemstones, it is best to have a wide variety of sizes of stringing cord and materials to work with the various sizes of these gemstone bead holes. 

When working with beads with larger sized holes, it is recommended to use a thicker stringing cord such as leather or wire to use on projects.  Depending on the size and weight of bead you've selected, there is an ideal stringing material that'll help your creations stand the test of time! Consider elastic cord for these various bead size holes! The available sizes are in 0.7mm clear, 0.8mm clear (our most common size), and 1mm clear! These elastic cord remains in its original shape after multiple uses, and is the best for making jewelry to sell, or wear yourself! This elastic cord works with all kinds of beads, and recommend using a surgeons knot for a secured elastic bracelet. 


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1 comment

  • Tandeer

    THANK YOU!!!!!! I have been searching for an easy to understand chart and explanation of beads and bead holes sizes for a long time. I love that you also recommend what size/kinds of material to use for making different items. I’ve only read that section. I’m going back to read the rest now!!!!

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