• 01 of 04

There was a time when it was believed the United States standard measurements would all move to the metric system.  That never happened, but almost all beads, except for seed beads which use aught sizes, are measured on a metric scale in millimeters.  That can make it especially difficult to order beads online or shop for them in stores when you are planning to pair up the new beads with beads you already have at home.

Beads that are measured in millimeters include gemstone, crystal, glass,... metal, wood, bone and horn.  In most cases, the measurement scale is applied to the actual bead while the strand itself may be sold in inches. Once you have determined the size bead you need, you may want to refer to this beads per inch and beads per strand chart to help you determine how many strands you need for a project or estimate the cost per bead.

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• 02 of 04

Comparing Beads to Common Items to Gauge Size

Short of having a ruler with you at all times, one of the best ways to understand relative bead sizes is to know the sizes of commonly available items in millimeters and be able to compare them.

Coins are one thing that we almost always have in our pocket or purse.  Pennies, for example, are 1.52 millimeters thick. Perfect for you to get a point of reference by stacking a couple together to estimate a 3 mm sized bead or a stack of four to estimate the size of a 6 mm bead.

If you are out of... pennies, nickels are another good reference.  Nickels, at 1.95 mm thick, are just shy of 2 mm.  This makes another great point of reference.

If you are looking a larger beads or pendants, knowing that the diameter of a penny is 19.05 mm can be helpful.  The diameter of a nickel is slightly larger at 21.21 mm.

If you don't carry a lot of loose change, look for something else that you are always sure to have with you.  A favorite pendant, a ring that you always wear, your watch - any of these can help you gauge bead size once you remember their size.

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• 03 of 04

Another clever solution to always have the bead sizing information handy is to make something using different sizes of beads that will always be with you.  Key chains are a great option.

You can buy key ring findings that range from sturdy split rings, carabiner hook, large lobster clasps and then add your own decoration with beads of the sizes that you need to reference.  Be sure to use a strong beading wire or thread to minimize the likelihood of breakage.  Keychains go through a lot of use!