Gemstone beads are typically associated with color, but gemstone shape is an important consideration. Faceted gemstone beads are cut to reflect as much light as possible whereas smooth polished gemstone beads can show gemstone color to best advantage. Interesting shapes can carry a beaded necklace on their own or add a twist to a traditional jewelry design. Browse our collection gemstone bead shapes.
Attractiveness, durability, rarity, fashion, light reflection and size, and historical rarity are factors influencing the esteem in which gemstones are held. Find birthstones or long-time favorites or discover some new.
The vocabulary of gemstone beads is complicated. Beadworks helps you find exactly the gemstone beads that you are looking for by providing this simply guide to the terms used to characterize the shape of gemstone beads.
Round: Always popular, round is the associated shape when people think of a bead. To be considered a round, the bead must be spherical in form and will almost always have its hole drilled right through the center. Round gemstone beads can be faceted, smooth, or carved. Large, high quality gemstone bead rounds can be strung on their own for a statement piece while the smaller gemstone bead rounds make wonderful spacers for bigger focal gemstone beads. Round beads naturally tend to lay nicely when strung next to one another.
Rondelle: A very popular shape for gemstones and semi precious stones alike, the rondelle is like a slice taken from the center of a round bead. It is completely round but has a flat top and bottom, similar to a donut. Rondelle gemstone beads may be faceted, smooth or carved. Some high quality gemstone beads cut into the rondelle shape may be graduated in size.
Heishi: Heishi beads are similar to the shape of a Rondelle, but much flatter. They could be called disc like, resembling the proportions of a CD. The name came from the Pueblo Native Americans, who first used this shape in shell beads for their jewelry. Now stones can be found in this shape as well. When strung side by side next to each other, the beads can take on snake-like qualities in its movement.
Briolettes: A briolette gemstone bead is a bead that has a bottom that is in larger proportion to its top and also has a hole drilled through the top of the bead as opposed to through the middle. The hole is usually drilled through the peak of the stone and care should be taken when inserting thongs into the drill hole. Most often, a briolette gemstone bead will have triangular shaped facets covering its surface on nice quality stones. The briolette shape has now been used in jewelry for over 800 years and achieved popularity during the Victorian era. It is important to note that within the Briolette family there are a couple differences in shape but they will all lay the same way when strung next to each other: in a zigzag pattern with one going off to the left, then the right, then left, etc.
Heart: This shape of briolette is called a heart since it resembles the heart shape. Unlike the other two shapes listed below, this briolette does not have an elongated body and is relatively short in comparison to them.
Heart Briolettes have dimension but are considered “flat” since they do not have a rounded bottom.
Pear: A pear briolette gets its name from sharing a resemblance with the fruit of the same name. Usually more elongated, it will be obvious to see the difference between the heart and pear shapes.
Pear Briolettes have dimension but are considered “flat” since they do not have a rounded bottom.
Teardrop: Similar to the pear briolette gemstone bead in elongation, the teardrop gemstone beadis easily recognizable for its main separation from the other two shapes: it has a round, 360 degree, bottom. It does not lay flat on a surface like the heart and pear, but will roll because of its round end.
Marquis: This briolette gemstone bead is substantially different from the others since it does not get larger at the bottom, but instead through its middle. Pointed and narrow at the top where the hole is, then wide through the middle and finally finishing with a point at the bottom, define this very characteristic shape
Nugget: This gemstone bead shape is very irregular and typically must be on the larger side to be considered a “Nugget” versus “Pebble”. It looks just like it sounds- a large, asymmetrical, tumbled stone. In some cases, the nugget can have large, spacey facets giving the gemstone bead a very geometric feel.
Pebble: Similar in all aspects to a nugget shaped gemstone bead (asymmetrical, irregular, tumbled) but much smaller. Typically once a pebbled gemstone bead becomes larger than 8 mm, it becomes defined as a nugget.
Coin: A coin shaped bead looks just how it sounds- like a coin! Coin shaped gemstone beads are flattened, disc shaped gemstone beads with a hole going across the middle of it’s long axis.
Chips: These gemstone beads are small, irregularly shaped pieces of stone. The pieces can range from looking like little flakes, to being somewhat chunky, or even very oblong shaped, which protrude outward when strung.
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