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Guide to Bugle Beads including History, Sizing, Shapes & Coatings

What Are Bugle Beads?

Bugle Beads belong to the Seed Bead family but are popular enough to warrant their own article to sit alongside our Guide to Seed Beads. Bugle beads are small narrow tubes of cut glass, either cylindrical or twisted. Proportionally, they are always longer than they are thick ensuring a tubular shape. They are available in sizes ranging from 1.5mm to 35mm. As with seed beads they are available in a wealth of colours, coatings and finishes all adding to the creative beading experience. They are used to great effect in bead embroidery, bead weaving, or on beaded fringes for lampshades and clothing. They can also be threaded into items of jewellery or glued to fabric for decorative pieces or clothing. Most modern high quality bugle beads are made in Japan or the Czech Republic. In Japan they are manufactured by Matsuno, the oldest of the three Japanese bead manufacturers, in Osaka, Toho in Hiroshima, and Miyuki in Fukuyama, Hiroshima. In the Czech Republic the sole manufacturer is Preciosa.

At the lower end of the market, cheap seed beads are made in India by Onam International, based in Varanasi, and in China by Ming Tree.

At Big Bead Little Bead we stock Preciosa bugle beads as well as old vintage bugle beads mostly of size 3. Follow this link to buy bugle beads from our selection.

History Of Bugle Beads

The tradition of bugle bead production dates back to the 1860s, when the beads were used primarily for embellishing evening dresses, handbags and other fashion accessories.

Bugle Bead Shapes & Styles

Bugle beads can be smooth and cylindrical, smooth and squared (with four corner ridges running lengthwise), squared and twisted (with four ridges that spiral around each bead), hex-cut (with six long facets), or twisted hex-cut. Bugles are also available with either round or square holes. Square holes are usually larger than round holes, which means that you can pass a needle through them more times. Square holes also serve as internal facets, adding extra sparkle to transparent bugle beads.


Bugle Bead Types & Shapes
Type Description
Round Bugle Beads – Round Hole
Twisted Round Bugle Beads – Square Hole
Super Twisted Round Bugle Beads – Square Hole
Hexagon Bugle Beads – Round Hole
Twisted Hexagon Bugle Beads – Round Hole
Super Twisted Hexagon Bugle Beads – Round Hole
Long Bugle Beads
twisted Long Bugle Beads
Super Twisted Long Bugle Beads

Bugle Bead Sizes

Bugle beads come in a variety of lengths from 2m up to 30mm and have a width of 1mm to 2mm. As with seed beads there is a number system that denotes their size but the Japanese and the Czechs use different systems:

Czech bugle beads have a numeric system with a hash and an incremental number denoting the sizes. As an example size #1 is 2mm long, size #2 is 4mm and size #3 is 7mm long.

The Japanese bead manufacturers uses the same hash symbol to denote size but their measurements are different, with a size #1 at 3mm, size #2 at 6mm and #3 at 9mm long. The majority of manufacturers have also introduced micro bugles and extra long bugles into their ranges.

Bugle Bead Size Conversion


Bugle Bead Size Conversion
Size Preciosa Bugle Beads Matsuno Bugle Beads Miyuki Bugle Beads Toho Bugle Beads
#0.5 1.5 mm 1.5 mm 1.5 mm
#1 2 mm 3 mm 3 mm 3 mm
#2 4 mm 6 mm 6 mm 6 mm
#3 7 mm 9 mm 9 mm 9 mm
#4 9 mm 12 mm 12 mm
#5 11 mm
2 mm 2 mm 2 mm
4.5 mm 4.5 mm 4.5 mm 4.5 mm
#20 20 mm 20 mm 20 mm
#25 25 mm 25 mm 25 mm
#30 30 mm 30 mm
#35 35 mm

Bugle Bead Coatings & Finishes


Bugle Bead Finishes
Finish Description
Alabaster Bugle Bead A dense translucent milky white or tinted finish
Aurora Borealis Bugle Bead or AB An iridescent rainbow effect finish applied to the surface of the bugle bead
Ceylon Bugle Bead A pearl lustre surface finish or inside colouring of opalescent bugle beads
Dyed Bugle Bead A bugle bead that has been surface dyed to a secondary colour
Galvanised Bugle Bead A coloured surface coating or plating with a metal appearance
Black Lined Bugle Bead A black coating applied to the inside wall of a transparent or coloured bugle bead adding depth of colour
Brass Lined Bugle Bead A brass like coating which reflects a brass light when applied to the inside wall of a transparent or coloured bugle bead
Bronze Lined Bugle Bead A bronze like coating which reflects a brown light when applied to the inside wall of a transparent or coloured bugle bead
Copper Lined Bugle Bead A copper like coating which reflects a reddish light when applied to the inside wall of a transparent or coloured bugle bead
Silver Lined Bugle Bead A silver like coating which reflects light when applied to the inside wall of a transparent or coloured bugle bead
Frost Bugle Bead Matte frosted beads typically in bronze, gold or rainbow finishes
Iris Bugle Bead An amazing iridescent coating when applied to dark opaque bugle beads
Lustre Bugle Bead A transparent bead with a subtle pearl, silver, or gold surface finish producing a soft reflected light
Marbled Bugle Bead A recent Toho bead innovation taking an opaque bugle bead and giving it a marbled surface coating. Also available as gilded marble with a surface coating of uneven gilding over the marbled surface
Matte Bugle Bead The bugle beads are etched at a microscopic level producing a matte finish that does not reflect light
Metallic Bugle Bead A shiny metal surface coating or plating over an opaque or transparent base giving the appearance of metal, typically bronze or gunmetal
Opal Bugle Bead A translucent bugle bead lined with silver or gold
Opaque Bugle Bead Bugle beads that are solid in colour
Pearl Bugle Bead An opaque bugle bead given a pearlised surface coating
Rainbow Bugle Bead An iridescent coating on the outside of either an opaque or transparent bead
Satin Bugle Bead Bugle beads made from translucent low lustre glass
Stripe Bugle Bead Bugle beads made with two or more glass colours
Translucent Bugle Bead Glass bugle beads that allow diffused light to pass through them
Transparent Bugle Bead Glass bugle beads that are see through even when coloured. With lighter colours these beads look almost clear

Buying Bugle Beads in Hanks or Grams

Bugle beads are sold either by the hank or by weight in grams. A hank is a unit bundle of bugle beads

Seed Beads Per Hank or Gram


Bugle Beads Per Hank or Gram
Bugle Bead Size Approx. Beads Per Hank Bugle Bead Size Approx. Beads Per Gram
Bugle Beads Bugle Beads
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Bugle Beads Bugle Beads
Bugle Beads Bugle Beads

Bugle Bead Precautions & Care

Bugle beads are produced as one long tube of glass and then trimmed into the correct length. This means that they can have sharp cut ends. Overtime or through tensioning this may cause stringing thread to fray or cut so care needs to be given to thread selection. If your design allows it is also worth using a seed bead, or other smooth edged bead, either side of bugle beads to protect the stringing thread. For this very reason, creative beading projects that include bugle beads often include small, round beads, such as seed beads. Pairing bugle beads with seed bead,s or other beads, also adds flexibility to your jewellery designs, as a strand of bugle beads will not move as fluidly as a strand of bugle beads and other beads combined.

Another result of the cutting process is inconsistency in sizing, so for designs that require uniform sizing it is worth checking your bugle beads for length and consistency before starting a project. Both these issues are more apparent with Czech bugle beads than their Japanese counterparts.


If you found this Bugle Beads Guide useful please provide your Feedback as it helps us to gauge the resources that matter to you most. Please feel free to reproduce this guide to glass bugle beads for personal or educational use, crediting Big Bead Little Bead as the source. To reproduce this bugle beads guide for commercial use please Contact Us to discuss your requirements.

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