A Guide to Natural Beads for Jewelry Making

Incorporating natural beads in jewelry construction results in beautiful and unique pieces. Depending on the material, jewelry made with natural beads can be worn every day or set aside for special occasions, tying every look together perfectly.

Natural beads feel good to work with and lend themselves to a variety of unique and signature creations.

This guide to natural beads will show you what's available to enhance your jewelry making.

What are natural beads?

Natural beads are those constructed of materials that occur in nature. Beads can be made of wood, stones, shells, bone, lava, pearls, and other natural substances. Beads may be used in their original state, or dyed, carved, bleached, or decorated to be used in a number of jewelry-making techniques. Leather is often used alongside natural beads.

Gemstone Beads

Gemstone beads come in a variety of colors from all over the earth and are cut into many different shapes and sizes. Whether precious or semi-precious gemstones are used in jewelry, they may help the wearer feel grounded.

common types of gemstone beads

Common types of gemstone beads and their characteristics include:

  • Citrine - a quartz crystal that ranges from pale yellow to warm gold
  • Tiger Eye - a changeable silky stone having a cat's eye effect
  • Agate - a banded mineral stone that holds color well and is often dyed in bright colors
  • Lapis - a bold, cobalt blue stone
  • Aventurine - most commonly green, it can be found in a variety of natural colors and is a translucent quartz with mineral inclusions that give it a shimmering effect called "aventurescence"
  • Carnelian - a glassy, translucent stone ranging from dark rust orange to a peachy pink color
  • Red Jasper - a rich, rusty red-colored stone tinted by high contents of iron
  • Sunstone - a spangly colored stone infused with red copper
  • Amethyst - a hard, violet-colored quartz containing iron and other minerals
  • Quartz - a mineral containing silicon and oxygen atoms having a crystal clear appearance and natural facets
  • Aquamarine - a blue or cyan variety of the mineral Beryl believed to be the treasure of mermaids
  • Fluorite - a colorful purple, green, and/or yellow stone that appears fluorescent under ultraviolet light
  • Apatite - a blue, green, yellow, or colorless stone
  • Garnet - usually a dark red stone, it can also be found in all the colors of the rainbow, brown, black, and colorless
  • Turquoise - a bluish, green gemstone highly valued for thousands of years

Gemstone beads are easy to design with and larger gemstones without holes lend themselves well to wire-wrapping and macramé techniques.

Wooden Beads

Wood beads can be carved with a knife or laser, sanded smooth, painted, stained, varnished, or left in their natural state.

Natural wooden beads can be crafted from any type of wood, but the most popular are:

Wooden jewelry components add an earthy, boho look. Wood beads and focal pieces are typically lightweight and versatile.


Leather cord comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors outside of the traditional brown, such as red, grey, and steel blue. This cord’s thicker width works best with larger hole beads.


Seashells are some of Earth's most magical creations. Intricate patterns in beautiful colors make stunning beads or pendants.

Abalone shells have a thick inner layer of mother-of-pearl which can be highly iridescent in changeable colors. Each bead has its own unique collage of colors ranging from deep cobalt blue and peacock green to purples, pinks, and cream. White shell beads come in round or square shapes and make interesting necklaces and bracelets.

Shell beads can be dyed or left natural and cut into many different sizes.


Pearls are the world's original natural bead. Seen as a symbol of purity, faith, loyalty, and truth, pearls are often used for wedding, ceremonial, and prayer jewelry. Copied in other materials for centuries, there is nothing like a pearl.

fresh water or shell pearls

Freshwater pearls are highly prized and can be as valuable as precious gemstones. They are a beautiful example of what can be created in nature.

Shell pearls are made by crushing oyster shells into a powder before shaping them into beads. They are then dyed and coated with a natural pearl nacre and protective shield for a beautiful sheen.


Lava beads are made from solidified molten volcanic rock and symbolize rebirth and renewal. These beads have a porous natural texture that makes them perfect for aromatherapy.

With just a few drops of essential oils, lava beads gently diffuse fragrances for an added benefit to your jewelry. Our lava beads come in an unwaxed or waxed finish. Waxed lava beads have a smoother finish, while natural unwaxed lava is better for absorption but has a more porous texture.

How can you tell if natural gemstone beads are real?

A natural gemstone is mined from the earth and is not man made or grown in a lab. Real gemstones tend to be a heavier weight and may have natural inclusions. All of the gemstones on our website are natural unless otherwise specified in the product description.

How can you tell the difference between quartz crystal and glass beads?

The easiest way to tell the difference between quartz crystal and glass is by the weight. Quartz crystal is much heavier than glass. Real quartz crystals may also have natural inclusions. Glass may have air bubbles.

Cherry Tree Beads

If you are looking for natural materials for your jewelry project, check out our inventory. Cherry Tree Beads carries everything you need for jewelry making with natural beads. We also offer wholesale pricing.

Jun 14th 2022 Abby Carlson

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