For any crafter, jewellery maker, interior designer or haberdashery out there, you know the importance of working with the best quality materials, to suit your market and budget. When it comes to beading and jewellery making embellishments, there are many different types of bead out there to choose from – bicone beads, seed beads, glass beads, crystal beads, ceramic beads, barrel beads – the list goes on! We’re looking at two of the most popular bead types for fine jewellery making, Swarovski & Preciosa crystal beads and glass beads.

What are Swarovski crystal beads?

Crystal is a type of highly polished glass that has been made from natural quartz sand, and offers a sparkle and shine that is similar to a diamond. Crystal is traditionally made using lead which gives it an extra hardness that glass does not have.

The original, and possibly most famous, crystal manufacturer in the world is Swarovski. Founder, Daniel Swarovski, was born in an area known for glass cutting and production. Daniel’s Father was a glass cutter who owned a small factory, and this was where Daniel Swarovski learnt the art of glass cutting himself.

Swarovski, in the late 1800’s, saw the development of a patented glass cutting machine that could cut their crystal to a fine and precise level, giving crystal beads the edge over plain glass beads. Swarovski crystal beads have facets that are cut so precisely and are consistently accurate that the sparkle and shine they produce is higher than glass beads.

What are glass beads?

Glass beads are crafted from plain glass, unlike crystal which is a glass made from quartz sand, so they do not have the same level of sparkle which comes from the reflective surface of the glass. Glass beads are commonly used in the crafting world by hobbyists and jewellery makers as they can be produced in a wide range of colours, shapes and sizes, and they are a more budget friendly option.

So what are the physical differences between crystal and glass beads?

  • Cut & quality – A Swarovski or Preciosa crystal bead generally have more facets (cuts) to the bead which offers more sparkle. These facets have been cut so precisely that they bring a sharpness and highly polished look to the bead.
  • Durability – Glass beads tend to be at risk of scratches or scuffs whereas crystal beads are made from a harder substance so will stay perfect for longer.
  • Clarity – The clarity of a crystal bead is similar to that of a diamond, whereas glass beads may contain imperfections and appear foggy in some cases.

How crystal and glass beads are used in the industry.

Crystal and glass beads are often used in the jewellery making world to create necklaces, bracelets, earrings, wedding tiaras and costume jewellery. But they are also very popular among crafters who like to sew them onto their crochet or embroidery projects, or make decorative items such as sun-catchers, keyrings, handbag charms, Christmas decorations, interior pieces, wine glass charms etc.

Beads for jewellery making

Whether you’re a fine jewellery maker, bridal designer, costume jewellery maker or a hobbyist, there is a wide variety of beads out there for creating very different styles of jewellery. You can go bold with bright colours, or elegant with Clear crystal. Bridal jewellery, headpieces and tiaras are often made using Clear and AB beads.

Beads for clothing

Crystal beads can be used to add a touch of subtle sparkle to any item of clothing, from cosy knitwear to elegant ball gowns. Crocheted and knitted garments often have bicone beads sewn into them as they are a good strong wool to hold the embellishments.

Beads for craft

Craft, DIY and upcycling is a huge trend at the moment and is only getting more popular as time goes on. Christmas crafting is a particular highlight for many creative people, and lots of small creative businesses make their living from hand-made items they sell in the run up to Christmas. Glass and crystal beads are often used in creating seasonal products such as Christmas tree decorations, ornaments, gifts etc.

What are the different types of crystal bead?

There are lots of different shapes when it comes to glass beads, but the two most popular and commonly used are the Bicone bead and Round bead. Bicone refers to the shape of the bead, two cone shapes fused together at their base. Round beads have more facets cut into them and are more spherical in shape. Other popular glass beads are the Bellatrix, which is a bit like a squashed round bead, Rivoli and Heart.

Both crystal beads and glass beads are manufactured in lots of different colours, Clear and AB being the most popular. Some crystal brands like Preciosa and Swarovski add an extra layer of effect coating to their beads to give them a completely unique look. Popular effects include matte coating, multi-tone, metallic, opal and even glitter coating.

What is the advantage of using Swarovski crystal beads?

  • Quality & shine – For a higher level of brilliance and sparkle, Swarovski and Preciosa crystal beads will always be better than glass.
  • Durability – If the beads are intended for jewellery, fashion or costume where they will get a lot of wear, the durability and hardiness of a crystal bead is better than glass, so will stay perfect for longer.
  • Famous brand name – Business owners will understand the importance of branding, if you plan to sell your creations, a brand name like Swarovski or Preciosa will be far more appealing to a potential customer.

What is the advantage of using glass beads?

  • Cost – If your project is big and you require hundreds or thousands of beads, going with your budget is important. Glass beads are less money to buy as there are fewer manufacturing processes they have to go through. Again, if you’re aiming to sell something made with glass beads, you need to make sure the profit margin is high enough to cover outgoings.


Ultimately, when it comes to choosing between crystal beads or glass beads, both types of bead have their advantages and disadvantages. The main things to consider are your budget, and what you need them to look like; are you planning on selling the item you’ve made?

You can purchase high quality Preciosa crystal beads here, in both wholesale and small quantities.

Swarovski preciosa & zodiac

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