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 shapes of semi-precious beads sometimes differ from those of gemstone beads due to fashion as well as the characteristics of the stone iteself. Here are some simple definitions to help you sort out just the semi-precious bead shape you need.
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. Rounds can be faceted, smooth, or carved. Large, high quality rounds can be strung on their own for a statement piece while the smaller rounds make wonderful spacers for bigger focal 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 squashed version of a round. It is completely round but has a flattened top and bottom, similar to a donut. Rondelle semi-precious beads may be faceted, smooth or carved. Some high quality gemstone beads that have been cut into the rondelle shape may also be graduated in size along the strand.
Heishi: Heishi beads are similar to the shape of a gemstone 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 semi-precious beads can take on snake like qualities in its movement.
Briolettes: A briolette 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 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 gemstone 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 shaped gemstone 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 pair in elongation, the teardrop is 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.
Marquise: This semi-precious briolette 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 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 semi-precious bead a very geometric feel.
Pebble: Similar in all aspects to a nugget shaped semi-precious stone (asymmetrical, irregular, tumbled) but much smaller. Typically once a pebbled semi-precious stone becomes larger than 8 mm, it becomes defined as a semi-precious nugget.
Coin: A coin shaped semi-precious bead looks just how it sounds- like a coin! Coin shaped beads are flattened, disc shaped beads with a hole going across the middle of it’s long axis.
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