How To Tell Glass Beads From Plastic, Stone, Or Crystal Beads

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Beads can be made from all different materials. Some are glass, plastic, stone, or crystal. How do you tell the difference between them?  There are quite a few ways to decipher between the different materials used and there are plenty of ways to test them. We've done the research so we can let you know how it's done.

One of the easiest ways to tell if a bead is made of glass is by temperature. If it feels cool to the touch, it is most likely glass. Plastic beads will warm up quickly and adapt to room temperature. Other ways to tell if a bead is glass include:

  • Weighing the bead
  • Examining the hole 
  • Determining if it can easily break
  • The heat test
  • Sound

If you're still wondering how best to employ these methods, don't fret. In this guide, we'll go over each technique in more detail, discuss what finishes glass beads have, and we'll even provide you with some glass bead projects. So make sure to keep reading.

Multicolored beads and tools in a cardboard box, How To Tell Glass Beads From Plastic, Stone, Or Crystal Beads

Tips For Figuring Out If A Bead Is Made Of Glass

Let's take a look at each method for figuring out what materials a bead is made from. With these nifty tricks, you'll be able to differentiate between various materials.

Glass and plastic beads with other accessories on the table

Weighing The Bead

By weighing the bead, you can tell what material it is made of. Glass, crystal, and stone are going to be much heavier than a plastic bead. You can try feeling it in your hands or by using a jewelry scale. If you know for a fact that one bead is glass, you can go off its weight. Beads are weighed in the metric unit by millimeters. The only ones that are not are seed beads.

Click here to see this scale on Amazon.

Examine the Hole

The hole of the bead also has telltale signs of being glass. A transparent bead is going to have some frosting around the hole and may not feel as smooth as the rest of the bead. It will look cloudy.

Determining If It's Easily Breakable

If you have an extra bead and must know if it is glass, use a hammer. By lightly tapping on it with the hammer, it will break. Glass can break into many different pieces so please be careful when testing this. We suggest placing the bead in a towel and then tapping it.

Heat The Bead

By heating the end of a safety pin with a lighter, you can tell what material the bead is. Heat the pin until red and carefully prick the end of the bead. If the bead starts to melt and the pin goes through it, then it is definitely plastic. Stone, crystal, and glass will not be affected by the hot pin.

Remember, you can also tell if the bead is glass by a simple touch. If it is cool in your hand, it is glass.

Sound

You can also test the sound of a bead by bumping them together. If you know for a fact one bead is glass, clink it with another and listen to the sound. Glass beads will make a sound like clinking wine glasses.

Assorted Glass Beads

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Comparing Glass Beads To Other Types of Beads

Assorted of beads with different shapes

Crystal And Stone Beads Versus Glass

Crystal and stone beads are gorgeous beading options. They're relatively heavyweight and stand out in many projects.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a glass bead and a crystal or stone bead. By rubbing the bead against your teeth, you can feel the surface. A real stone or crystal will feel gritty and textured. A glass bead being rubbed on your teeth will feel smooth and have no imperfections on its surface.

A crystal bead will also create a rainbow prism when it shines. If you tap on a crystal bead, it will have a ring to it with a bit of an echo. If this does not occur, the bead is most likely glass.

Swarovski Crystal Beads

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Natural Stone Beads

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Plastic Beads Versus Glass

Plastic beads are an inexpensive glass bead alternative. They come in lots of sizes, shapes, and colors. They're lightweight and easy to work with.

To determine if a bead is glass or plastic, analyze the bead in natural light. If you see a line on the bead, it can indicate that the bead was made in a plastic mold. Another type of plastic is Bakelite which is vintage. You can test it the same way you do with regular plastic. The hot pin test will tell you all you need to know.

Pony Plastic Beads

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Seeds, Bone, And Wood Beads Versus Glass

Seeds, bone, and wood beads are all made from organic materials. So if you're looking for something very natural for your beading project, these ones are worth trying out.

The heat test can be used on the bone beads. It will not melt like plastic. Wood is going to be rigid and lighter than glass. Seeds will also be very light in weight and not be translucent. These types of beads will be easy to identify in comparison to glass beads.

Bone Beads

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Painted Wooden Beads

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Additional Questions

You may still have more questions about glass beads. In this section, we'll answer some of the most common questions associated with these types of beads.

What Can You Do With Glass Beads?

There are many crafts that use glass beads. Jewelry is the number one idea as it can produce gorgeous, unique pieces. A simple bracelet or necklace can really bring together an outfit while using glass beads. Follow along with this lampwork glass bead necklace video tutorial to create an eye-catching piece of jewelry:

Other ideas include making charms for stemware, napkin rings, and even bookmark charms. Glass beads bring a sense of class to any project. They're also fun to work with as there are many colors, shapes, and sizes.

Follow along with this video tutorial to make dazzling beaded napkin rings:

Do Glass Beads Break?

Anything made of glass can break if you do not treat it delicately. Glass beads are created using heat and this can create weak areas within the bead. The temperature change can cause them to break as well. Blown or hollow glass beads have a higher rate of breakage.

If you are using glass beads for jewelry, just be careful when wearing those pieces. As long as you are not bumping the jewelry into hard surfaces or doing rigorous work with the piece on, you should not have an issue with breakage.

What Finishes Are On Glass Beads?

Some beads have a coating to make them shine. Aurora Borealis is a coating that makes the bead look almost rainbow-like. Ceylon and Lustre are coatings to make the bead look pearlescent. There are matte finishes that make the bead look dull and frosty, and also metallic finishes to make the bead look really shiny and mirrored.

It's amazing how many different finishes can be found on glass beads. The variety of finishes ensures that you'll find the perfect glass bead finish for any project that you're working on.

In Closing

Multicolored beads inside boxes and containers

You can tell the difference between a glass bead and other materials in these four ways. Test it with a hammer to see if it easily breaks, use the temperature check, determine how heavy it is, and examine the drilled hole. Glass beads are easily identifiable and a great bead for crafters. Be sure to work carefully with them to avoid shattering.

Before you go, be sure to check out these other insightful crafting guides:

Can You Melt Glass Beads In The Oven?

What Size Beads Should You Get For Jewelry Making?

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