Demystifying Bead Finishes and Coatings

Image by Sherise-Van-Dyk

I have my hands in bags of beads regularly, divvying up new orders into tubes. There are so many different kinds these days! And bead terminology can be confusing.

Some bead terms are straightforward – the traditional solid opaque, the see-through transparent. But what is “solgel, luster, terra”?

And how useful is each? Which is colour-fast? Are they all durable around cosmetics and perfume?

Let’s see if I can make some sense of bead treatments and finishes so that it cuts through the confusion! When you realize some terms refer to the different finishes applied to alter the perception of colour, and that other terms refer to different coatings that enhance the durability of finishes, it makes more sense – trust me!

N.B. It’s important to note which finishes have lasting power and which are best used on pieces of art kept away from sun, perfume, and friction – and I tackled that specifically at the end of this blog.

Seed Bead Finishes

The basic types of beads – opaque, transparent, and silver-lined are well-known. Let’s go through the variety of finishes that can enhance these basic colour treatments:

Aurora Borealis (AB) – Applied to opaque, transparent, silver-lined, and colour-lined beads, aurora borealis is a half-coat metallic finish that scatters many colours, like a prism. One of its off-shoots is the Vitrail finish, which gives a pink/green aspect.

Colour-lined –transparent beads are treated with a coloured lining – metallic, gold, copper, and so on.

Colour Dyed – here the dye is applied to the outside of the bead.

Iris – finished beads are gently iridescent, shimmering in rainbow hues, with a predominant colour, for example, blue iris or purple iris.

Matte – these are tumbled to wear away the shine and create a subtle, dull colour. Matte beads are also available in semi-matte, iris, AB, transparent, or colour-lined. Look at this gorgeous blue!

Metallic – this finish is characterized by an extra shiny coat that gives the appearance of metal, creating bronze, gold, silver and copper toned glass beads. I love this gold 3-cut seed!

Satin or Silk – is just as it sounds – a satiny, silky bead finish.

Silver-lined – these beads themselves are transparent and have a mirrored effect in the center of the bead which renders a metallic look. These can be further enhanced with AB or dyed colourations. This Miyuki Delica, copper, silver-lined, dyed, is scrumptious!

Additional Coatings

Ceylon – is a pearlized finish applied to opalescent beads (milky white opaque or translucent effect), which can be colour-lined or dyed, and is a favourite for adding to a project using pearls.

Luster – refers to a durable, transparent, and glossy coating. It can be tinted with colour such as gold, etc., and often creates an iridescent sheen. Luster is applied to transparent, opaque, and glazed beads. An off-shoot is the Picasso coating, a speckled, earthy treatment available in a variety of colour ways.

Galvanized – beads go through a silver-plating process on the surface. These are not highly durable without the duracoat finish. To increase the durability of your favourite galvanized beads, bead wholesalers suggest spraying with Krylon or other clear fixative spray.

Duracoat – is applied to the above galvanized beads, for wearability. Please note that over time, friction, skin acid, and dry cleaning or other strong solvents may affect these beads. This Duracoat Galvanized Miyuki Pewter is stunning!

Miyuki Delicas 15/0 331



Special Plating – includes 24KT gold beads, palladium and nickel beads. These Miyuki Delicas 15/0 0331 (DBS) 24Kt Bright Gold Plated Metallic Matte have the richest colour!


Special Treatments

Solgel and Terra – are coatings/treatments that provide longer lasting, fade-resistant colours for your bead projects that are likely to be subjected to sunlight, washing, cosmetics, or perspiration. As you might expect, hand-washing in lukewarm water and mild detergent is recommended.

Solgel colours are gorgeous in pastel shades!

And Terra colourations are intense!


Something to Consider

I belong to a few FaceBook bead groups and time after time, someone will write about beads where the colour flaked or rubbed off in no time at all. Although the bag the beads came in – or the invoice – might claim a good manufacturer, such as Preciosa and Miyuki, as a bead reseller, I can vouch that the beads I stock – credibly Miyuki and Preciosa – are not knock- offs, guaranteed!

photo by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

You don’t wish to start a piece like the beadwork in this photo (thank you Eyasu Etsub and without considering durability.






Which Beads Have Lasting Power?

Good durability:

Opaque Luster
Transparent Metallic
Ceylon Metal Plated
Duracoat Solgel

Poor durability – consider friction and solvents unless otherwise indicated:

Dyed Colours Galvanized
Gold Luster Color-Lined (sensitive to solvents, not to friction)
Metal Lined Matte (somewhat susceptible to breakage, for example, forcing a needle and thread through one too many times)



Beads you can count on:

Opaque and transparent beads have stead the test of time, simply because the colour is in the glass and not applied.



I hope that you now feel a wee bit more informed about seed bead terminology! Let me know if you could use more info. In the meantime,

Here’s to bead-i-ful colours in your life,



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