About Seed Beads and Micro Seed Beads



A seed bead is a small glass bead, usually 2 mm or less in diameter. Seed bead sizes are designated by X/o, X being the variable identifier. The higher the number, the smaller the size bead.

What exactly does the 11/o or 8/o or 16/o designation mean? We're not certain, but it does NOT seem to relate directly to the number of beads per inch. The following chart is an approximation. It's important to remember that many beads, especially the antique ones which were made by hand, vary considerably even within one hank or batch.

Bead Size

Approx. number of beads per inch

6/o (pony beads)




11/o (typical modern bead)




14/o (small modern bead)








Please note: the chart is NOT all-inclusive of available sizes. We know that sizes 6/o through 15/o are fairly common; 16/o through 24/o also exist although they are fairly rare and are usually antiques. Sometimes larger beads - designated as 1/o, 2/o, 3/o, and 4/o are sold.



There is a lot of misinformation about seed bead sizes, and what exactly comprises a "micro bead." Obviously this is a matter of personal opinion! When we use this term, we are referring to any size smaller than those currently being made; i.e., smaller than a 15/o.

Prior to the 1910's, very tiny micro seed beads were manufactured in Venice. During the "reservation period" of the late 1880's, these tiny beads were used by Native Americans in producing incredibly intricate and beautiful items. Production of this size and style of tiny bead ceased just prior to WW I. There are some modern micro beads being made today , but they are quite different in shape and appearance from the antique seed beads. They are more tube-shaped, almost like delica beads. The antique beads are generally round.

The very finest made English beading needles and XXX Nymo thread will work with most 18/o beads. Although smaller beads do exist, we know of no needle manufacturer that reliably will work with the tiniest of beads. Most fine beading needles will work with the size 16/0 beads.



hank of 18/o beads


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This page updated 3/14.