Large Hole Beads

OK, settle down kids, even though when I'm saying "size matters", I'm referring to holes. In BEADS, people. Get your minds out of the gutter.

Mid 90's teenage beach chic.
My Two Decade Quest

I met large hole beads in the 90's, when I spent many a summer day slaving on hemp macramé. One of my better designs featured lovely dime store plastic fish. Don't judge me, stone snobs! Back in the day, my options were plastic pony beads, size 10 seed beads, and lampwork- I was excited to get my hands on those fishies.

In the 2000's, I got my first glimpse of large hole pearls used with leather, linen, and other thicker cording. I spent a fair amount of time investigating new large hole bead options. I found Swarovski, metal and trade beads, along with the pony beads (I upgraded to glass, thank you very much) and larger seed beads. I also developed really good taste in lampwork, all of which managed to be juuuust out of my post-collegiate budget. New options! Great!
It took longer to pick the colors than make the necklace (2016)
Using .5mm waxed linen with a .6 - .8mm hole sucks hours from your life (2009)
Unfortunately, I've always been a stone girl at heart. I couldn't find anything. Trade shows, bead stores, the interwebs... Zilch. I braced myself for a life of stone-less leather designs or hours of reaming and watching Law and Order reruns.

Is it the camcorder, the tank top,
or the choker that dates this? (1997)
Circa 2011, I started to see what I'd been craving. Stone beads with large holes. With the rise of both silver prices and boho-chic*, designers needed more options to work with thicker materials. Now it's 2016, and I'm sitting next to a showroom with a wall of large hole stone beads in assorted shapes, sizes, and finishes. Life is good.

Just for funsies, I've included some images documenting my large hole bead journey. Feel free to laugh. I did.
Mom, I don't know why you saved these for
20 years (Macrame necklaces, 1995)


Large hole stone beads present unique challenges for manufacturers. The larger the hole, the more commonly breakage occurs in drilling. This means that manufacturers spend more time inspecting and sourcing raw materials, along with inevitable loss from breakage. As a result, you'll notice that large hole beads usually cost more than their counterparts.

There are multiple ways to drill stone. The best method (and the one we use for large hole beads at Dakota Stones) uses ultrasonic technology. If you're interested in the science, it's fascinating.  The results are even more exciting. Ultrasonic drilling gives the cleanest possible hole edges, minimizing potential abrasion and damage to stringing material. It also gives a consistent hole through the entire bead, eliminating the frustrating, and often impassable, narrowing in the middle of the bead that can result from poorly executed traditional drilling methods.

*Shout out to Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson for making that a thing.

                                                                           Thanks, ladies!
- Erin, Dakota Stones 



Date 8/1/2016

Got a chuckle out of your post. If you think your choices were limited in the 90's, you would have died in the 70's. My ex and I had a retail and wholesale pet, craft and hobby store. We bought our plastic beads from a wholesaler (who is still in business) in bulk and weighed them by hand at first. In fact just about everything was re-bagged. China was cheap stuff( that hasn't changed), American beads (few) were very good quality, and the Japanese made some good pearls. There was no internet so you had to attend trade shows and use a phone book , operator, trade mags, to find suppliers. The good old days, they were a hoot. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!!!!

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