All About Seed Bead Finishes!

Seed beads come in an endless variety of colors and finishes, so it can be daunting to pick out the perfect beads for the jewelry you want to make. The unique look and feel of each seed bead comes not only from color, but also from the perfect combination of finishes that are applied to the seed bead. Here is a glossary of seed bead finishes that will help you pick out the exact beads you need for each project you make!

  • Color-lined: clear or colored transparent beads with an opaque color lining the inside. These beads can achieve a fantastic depth of colors.
  • Metal-lined: clear or colored transparent beads with real metal or metal color lining the inside. The beads lined with real metal are often less likely to wear than the colored lining.
  • Silver-lined: clear or colored transparent beads with a silver color lining the inside, a popular variation of metal-lined. This finish reflects light to achieve a very sparkly finish.
  • AB or Aurora Borealis: an iridescent finish applied to the surface that creates a rainbow effect. Iris, Rainbow and Rainbow-lined are effects that achieve a variety of iridescent finishes similar to the AB finish.
  • Luster: a shiny glaze applied to the surface that creates a pearly effect. This finish is at risk of wearing away or fading.
  • Gold Luster: a variation of the luster finish that creates a metallic gold pearly effect. This finish is at risk of wearing away or fading.
  • Ceylon: a finish applied to the surface to achieve a milky, pearly effect. This finish is at risk of wearing away or fading.
  • Opaque: colored glass beads that are not transparent. Most opaque seed beads are very stable and resilient to rubbing or fading.
  • Transparent: clear, colored glass that can be seen through. It is important to keep mind of the color of thread you use with transparent beads as it will show through.
  • Matte: frosted effect etched onto the surface of the bead. Matte finishes combine beautifully with metallic, AB, transparent and opaque finishes. Matte finishes are very stable and usually resilient to rubbing or fading.
  • Galvanized: Zinc plating coats the surface of the bead to create a shiny metallic look. This coating is at risk of wearing away or fading.
  • Permanent Galvanized: similar to the galvanized finish, however the coating is permanent and often shinier. This is a great alternative to galvanized seed beads when used on a piece that will have a lot of friction with skin or fabric.
  • Metal-plated: metal-plating over glass beads.
  • Metal: seed beads made of metal. These beads have sharper edges than most seed beads, so use of Fireline thread is recommended. Metal seed beads have larger holes and function well as an inexpensive alternative to spacer beads.
  • Satin: fiber-optic tubular seed bead with slight striations. Made from a different type of glass than other seed beads, satin seed beads have sharper edges, so use of Fireline thread is recommended.
  • Opal: semi-transluscent finish that is often achieved with a dye on the surface. This finish is at risk of wearing away or fading.
  • Dyed: seed beads are coated with a dye that is often impermanent. Dyed seed beads in bright pinks, purples and reds are less stable and more likely to wear and fade.

While most seed bead finishes are very permanent, you have probably found a few beads with color that rubs away against your skin or fades in the sunlight. When you shop the seed beads on, you will find the phrase “Warning: Color may rub off” for those seed beads that are more prone to wearing and fading. Some of my favorite seed beads have this warning on the label, so I make sure to find the best ways to use them! One trick that I learned from Tina in Customer Service is to spray a clear Krylon finishing seal onto my seed beads before I use them. This will help prolong the life of seed bead colors that are prone to rubbing. Another solution is to use beads on the parts of your jewelry that come in contact with skin the least. Use these seed beads on earrings, the fronts of pendants, or anywhere that generally doesn’t touch your skin and isn’t near to the clasp.  Make sure to never use seed bead colors that rub off with fabrics, as the color can bleed onto the fabric and will come off in the washing machine. The seed bead colors that are more prone to fading in sunlight should be kept in storage that isn’t exposed to sunlight, so as to prolong their life.

While you must be careful to use the different seed bead finishes properly, you’ll find that your biggest problem is choosing a color out of the hundreds of options! You may think that eighteen finishes doesn’t sound like too many, but the combination of these finishes are endless! You can find a matte opaque AB seed bead, a  color-lined transparent seed bead or even a silver-lined opal seed bead…I think it’s time for me to go shopping! Don’t forget to check out our Seed Bead FAQ for any other seed bead questions you want answered!

Have Fun Seed Beading! – Sara

27 comments to All About Seed Bead Finishes!

  • Martha

    This is incredibly thorough and helpful!

  • Appreciate the fresh look. I were pleased with the information. Bless you for a fantastic posting.

  • Sally Anderson

    This is really great! Would it be possible to post a picture like you have above only make it all one color but with the different types/finishes? I would really love to see that! Thanks!

  • Catherine Murphy

    Love Sally Andersons suggestion. “All about seed bead finishes” makes it much easier to order the color and finishes of beads because sometimes it’s difficult to choose color and/or finish, not actually seeing the beads. Sallys suggestion would make it even better!

  • Aurelia Eglantine

    Thank you very much Sara for this wonderfully concise summary of seed bead finishes! I have personally used seed beads – of various types – in my beaded jewellery making for years, but have recently gotten back into counted cross-stitch after a long time away and have started incorporating seed beads into some of my designs. Sewing them to fabric makes it especially important to be aware of the colourfastness, and I am excited to try the Krylon spray technique you mentioned. I have been limiting myself to conventional safe finishes, such as mattes and opaques, but it would be wonderful to be able to treat some of the beautiful luster and opaline finishes to make them endurable and and coloursafe for stitching use. I will definitely be sharing this practical and useful article with other stitchers. Thanks again, and Happy Beading!

  • April McCart

    I would like to know more about the technique of using Krylon to coat the beads without them all sticking together. Do you have guidelines or instructions on how to do this?


    We would love to do that, and looked into it, but there wasn’t a good color to photograph that was made in all the different finishes. But please do keep an eye on our site and blog as we are always coming out with new information. Thanks for your suggestion!

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  • I have found that coating seed beads with Krylon can seriously change the color of the bead, particularly matte or frosted beads. Also, I have had it dissolve the bead coating rather than fix it in place. Be very careful and make sure you test it before spraying a large quanity of beads. (I learned this the hard way!) If you do decide to spray them, you can place them in a plastic bag, spray into the bag, and then shake them around until they are coated. Good luck!

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  • Judy Skahl

    Thank you so much. Very helpful. Refuse to buy again withou double checkin the kind and finish.

  • Barbie

    My question is, why bother putting on shiny finishes only to have them rub off in the first place? I just finished beading an intricate necklace and matching bracelet only to have the color rub off as I am beading them.:( This has happened when I bought expensive Japanese beads and cheap ones from China. In desperation, I found your site to find some answers. I will try the Krylon shake and bake method, but use caution and hopefully not change any colors.

  • deborah ellis

    I am trying to find out what metals are annealed to the surface of AB glass in order to create that “rainbow effect”

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  • lisaowens

    How can you dye seed beads at home?

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