Jewelry Design: Seed Bead Finishes And Their Interaction With Color with Margie Deeb

How well do you know your beads? Have you ever strung a necklace with your favorite beads only to realize the color scheme just did not work? Beads can be tricksters. Single beads can show us one color and then become a completely different animal when added to a piece of jewelry in numbers. Today, Margie Deeb is going to give us some tips on how to understand how your beads might change when light and other variables affect their color.

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We love Margie Deeb's intimate knowledge of colors and we wanted to re-share some of our archive articles she has written for us. Margie is an incredibly talented artist, designer, and author. Follow along on her color journey. Let's all become students of color!

Don't miss out on our beautiful collection of  gemstones and beads. We have an incredible selection of metal, glass, stone, pearl, and much more. Our everyday bead sale allows you to get our most spectacular beads at a big savings. All of our inventory was hand-selected by Soft Flex Company owner and founder Mike Sherman. Mike has a discerning eye and everything on our shelves is high quality and unique.

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Below, Margie tells us how the color of a bead can seem to change. Reflected light can be dynamic. The color of a rough surfaced bead can be vastly different from a smooth surfaced bead. Especially when strung together on a piece of jewelry.

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Seed beads are chameleons. They change their color-sometimes dramatically. When strung as a hank, seed beads will enchant you, casting a spell that sounds like "Buy me. You can't live without my color." Then when you stitch or string it alongside ten other colors (you couldn't live without) they darken or lighten, disappear or pop out jarringly.

Glass beads are the grandest of visual tricksters. The smaller the bead, the trickier the tricks. Color changes radically based on the light source, surrounding beads, thread, background, bead finish, and other factors.

Blue And Yellow Ring Of Fire Glass Belt Buckle

For example: did you know that when you look at the surface of a silver-lined bead you see about 50% reflected light and 50% reflected color? If it's a green silver-lined bead, you are not seeing all green... you are actually seeing much of the light source illuminating the bead.


A bead's color is altered by its surface finish. Depending on the bead's finish, the same hue of green can appear hard and rough or soft and smooth, iridescent as cellophane or solid as velvet.

Namibian Pietersite Simple Cut Nuggets


Admittedly, our pre-mixed medium of beads limits our color selection. However, surface finishes give us a creative playground unavailable in other mixable mediums such as paint. Red paint is altered only by another color or substance (oil, glaze, varnish). In contrast, red in the form of beads comes in a matte finish, semi-matte, opaque, transparent, iris, pearlescent, or some combination of the above.

14 Count 8-10mm Green Cubic Zirconia Faceted Long Pears


Understanding a beads' reflectivity as well as color provides a more comprehensive approach to designing with beads.

Start by thinking in terms of reflectivity first, color second when you are choosing colors. When you look at a particular bead, how much light are you seeing? How much actual color are you receiving?

In general, highly reflective, shiny surfaces advance, and cause colors to appear brighter and warmer. Rough textures of low reflectivity absorb light, and cause colors to appear flatter and more saturated. Surface finishes make a world of difference in how colors interact and what your eye perceives.

1 Count Dark Pink And Green Watermelon Tourmaline Polished Slice 'One Of A Kind'


Study how a bead's level of reflectivity causes surface finishes to behave. The best way to know how a bead will look in context is to weave sample swatches. Even then, you may not be able to accurately predict the outcome. Yet this is what makes seed bead work so much fun. How delightful when a transparent bead surprises you by adding more depth than you had anticipated. Or a ceylon buoys up an entire bracelet because of its warm glow.

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Margie Deeb

Artist and color expert Margie Deeb is the author of The Beader's Color Palette, The Beader's Guide to Color, The Beader's Guide to Jewelry Design and numerous beading and color publications. She teaches color and beading across the country and her free monthly color column, Margie's Muse, is available on her website. She writes regularly for Beadwork, Bead & Button, and Step-by-Step Beads magazines.

Visit Margie's website for her books, kits, patterns, jewelry, inspiration, and more: www.MargieDeeb.com