Miracles, Sea Urchins, and Other Unusual Beads

The Beader's Wish Book

Did you have a Sears Wishbook when you were a kid?  This was the big Sears catalog packed with toys (and other stuff).  I used to spend hours sprawled out on the floor circling all the things I wanted.  Even though I rarely received anything on my wish list, it was fun to flip through the pages and dream.

I just spent a happy morning with the beading equivalent.  The Bead Directory by Elise Mann lists 600+ beads and findings.  For each bead, it lists the hole size, recommended stringing material, weight, size (length/width/depth), color range, and the number of beads in a 10" strand.  I especially appreciate the hole size information since I often string with cord or ribbon that require large-holed beads. 

Here are 5 pieces in The Bead Directory that caught my eye:

Three-Hole Moss Agate
A bead with 3 holes?  This definitely got my attention!  Elise writes, "Three-hole beads are most commonly used in 'power' bracelets, with the two ends of the elastic cord pulled through the hole at right angles and knotted.  They can also be used at the midpoint of a Y-shaped necklace."

Who wouldn't like to make (or wear) a "miracle" necklace or bracelet?  Elise writes, "It looks like something between a colored pearl and an opaque moonstone, seeming almost to glow.  Unlike some coatings, these are as interesting in natural light as they are under bright artifical light." 

I have some of these beads in a little tube labeled "drops," so it took me a second to remember that they have another name.  These small beads with an off-center hole work well  for fringe, spacers, or bead embroidery.  I bought mine for no particular reason–I just thought they were pretty.  Isn't that usually the case?

Round Sea Urchin
Did you know that they make beads out of sea urchins?  They're beautiful, but I don't think I could ever work with these beads.  I feel ill just writing about them. 

Bead Holder
I look at these every single time I go to a bead show or bead shop.  I haven't bought one yet, but only because I am so distracted in those places (by what, I can't imagine).  Elise writes, "The bottom section unscrews so that any bead that will fit into the space and has a large enough hole can be added without removing the top part from its chain or strand of beads."  This means you can buy beautiful beads and immediately wear them home.  What could be better than that? 

So what are some of the most unusal beads or findings you've seen before?  Any beads that you can't live without–or would never buy?  Share your thoughts on the website.  And if you need 600+ ideas of more beads and findings to buy, be sure to check out The Beader's Wishbook aka The Bead Directory, currently on sale for 20% off. 

Michelle Mach shares free projects every Friday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website.

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Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at beadingdaily@interweave.com or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  www.michellemach.com.  You can also follow me on Twitter at:  http://twitter.com/beadsandbooks Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

15 thoughts on “Miracles, Sea Urchins, and Other Unusual Beads

  1. Dear Michelle,

    I’m afraid you really threw down the gauntlet to lampworkers with that sea urchin bead! I’m sure I’m not the only one who will find myself at the torch trying to recreate it in glass now. It’s beautiful.


  2. That sea urchin one is quite interesting, not sure how they make them. I don’t want to sound like a snobby beader, but I always walk right past the massed produced glass beads. It seems like they are EVERYWHERE! I have become very picky about where I get my glass beads, I really like lampwork beads, but they are hard to find without turning to the internet, and I always inspect stones to see if they’ve been dyed. Those are the two off the top of my head that I would never buy.

  3. Michelle, I appreciate that you are conscientious of the source of your beads – specifically the sea urchin bead. As a fellow beader, who also happens to be a vegetarian and an animal rights advocate, it is heartening to know there are others who are mindful of the cost to the animal in making some on the beads out on the market today. That said, I never use any material that comes from an animal – fur, leather, pearls, shell and a whole host of other things. There is no jewelry design so important to me that I need to use animal parts to make it! Thank you for being a mindful beader.

  4. This was QUITE interesting. I’m glad to know that sea urchin beads can be made of glass. But just so you don’t feel too bad, Michelle, the urchins have been harvested. IF you eat beef, pork, bass, catfish, oysters or anything other than vegetables and soy (like Susan M), those animals are also harvested. I’m not saying it’s right but I’m an Okie raised in cattle country and while I don’t eat rare meat, I do eat meat and fish. Just a little interesting info is that sea urchins still have to be harvested by hand by a diver in very adverse conditions. I think the sea urchins have a much better chance at beating us humans for instance than the deer do! Here’s a link for a very interesting article, a one up for the poor defenseless sea urchin! http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00026070.htm
    And before someone gets upset with me, I’m NOT saying deaths due to sea urchin harvesting are a good thing. Of course not. Loss of life is always a horrible thing whether it be a sea animal or a land animal including man. But perhaps you’ll feel a little better about the poor defenseless sea urchin after reading the above article.

  5. I just wanted to say that I also am glad the Sea Urchin bead is made from glass not the actual little sea creature. Our sea otters are the only ones that are supposed to hunt and eat these, not humans, but I have also heard that they have a very interesting flavour. I myself could not eat one. I am now going to read that article that Stormy wrote tomorrow (today the 30th here)

  6. I love these beads. I’m always looking for new beads and ideas on how to use them. I especially love the 3 hole agate. I will definitely be purchasing some of those for my bracelets and necklaces, especially for the “Y” in a necklace. As for the “Magatama’s”, I found those in the “Seed Bead” section of my bead store and love to use them for spiral bracelets or necklaces. If used alone, they tend to look like clusters of little grapes, but used in combintaion with 11-O seed beads, then they don’t look so much like grape clusters, but do add a little extra touch to the spiral stitch. I love these little beads. The smaller the better. I love small intricate work. Right now I’m looking for a pattern to make a “V” stitch necklace if anyone has one to share I would really love that pattern. I’m new to seed beading and still learning the stitches, but am willing to try any and all stitches. Thank you so much in advance and thank you for all the new ideas you share with all of us.

  7. i prefer the glass sea urchin but would have no problems using items such as pearls or leather in an item. my dining preferences are my own. The Bead Dictionary sounds like a very interesting book, i’ll have to check it out. i have an item similar to the bead holder and it is great for when i begin peyote stitch. thanks for the information.

  8. You are ruling out pearls, coral, shell and for that mater all other natural beads including wood with this attitude…It seems to me that if the sea urchin is already going to be used for other reasons, and is already “on the table”, it would be wasteful and disrespectful of the animal not to use it’s shell as well. This is a beautiful and unique bead.

  9. I have seen a lot of ads recently for “Crystallized” crystals. Is this a new finish? Is it applied on the bead like AB finish? I’ve looked on several web sites that sell Swarovski beads and can’t find an explanation.
    Thanks, Ruth

  10. Wow. This thread becomes really ethical! Funny to read how people feel concerned about – quite common- animal(s).
    I can’t resist adding my personal worries: what about the devastation and pollution generated by mining (stones – gems), glass-manufacturing procedures (chemicals, dyes, energy consumption, waste of water), etc. Let me dare to ask: are Miyuki / Toho / Czech Beads “innocent”??? What about the jasper I bought a few weeks ago? Has it somehow destroyed a wild animal’s habitat? Oh and by the way, what about (the very high percentage of) lead in crystal? Is it inert or will it make me (or someone else) sick one day?

    I am a beader using all kinds of materials and also the ones mentioned above (avoiding crystals generally) – feeling somethimes quite guilty in fact. It would be nice to have the answer to the previous questions – because nature – our earth and sole habitat – is a serious matter. Couldn’t we ask for some kind of “No harm” logo? No threatened species, no child labour, no miserable working conditions, no polution. To me it would be even happier beading.

    I don’t buy coral. It is alive when harvested and it is the shelter of numerous species.

    Many thanks for this article, Michelle, and appologies for the long reaction-but I had this on my heart since quiet a long while…Initially I wanted to tell you that the most unusal beads I’ve ever beaded with are true seeds, and this is what I came up with: http://www.parure.ch/index.php?showimage=14.

  11. Does anybody know WHERE to buy three-holed beads? I have found a couple of places where you can get the original guru beads (and I have ordered some) but I am also trying to find some ordinary three-holed beads for other projects…???

  12. hi,

    I came across your article totally by accident and I’ve now joined because I had to tell you that I live in the coast of western australia and last winter our beach was awash with beautiful and tiny sea urchin shells, which as a jeweller/beader I proceeded to collect. They are still sat in a box full stinking in my garage. No harm was done to them in the process of collection, they were already dead when they washed away on the beach because of the weather.

    If anyone knows how to make jewellery with them I would love to know because they are rather delicate.