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Micro Beaded Mania

So what's all the buzz about the micro bead? 

Now a days, it's become apparent that everyone is describing their purses as, "micro beaded", without giving any consideration to the actual size of the beads themselves.  This confusion or misinformation is somewhat understandable.  To the human eye, beads on vintage purses seem small, so the tendency is to refer to the purse as micro beaded even though a good amount of beaded purses are not.

There's also the wide belief that micro beaded purses often sell for higher prices.  This factor can reflect on how a purse is portrayed to a prospective buyer.  Therefore, the vintage beaded purse collector should become educated concerning the differences, types and styles of beaded bags.

So, what is the size of the micro bead?  Determining the micro bead has evolved into a straightforward equation but there are still some differences of opinion when that question is asked.  Nonetheless, the true definition of micro is: very small.

To help classify the different sizes, beads are categorized according to a number, the larger the number, the smaller the bead.  Today's more commonly found vintage beaded bags are made of  bead sizes 9/0 through 15/0 but the much rarer 1800's antique beads are sizes 16/0 through 24/0.

In order to distinguish between the various sizes, the beads have been calculated according to the approximate number of beads per inch.  For example: the size 13/0 bead measures about 23 beads per inch and the  18/0 bead computes to about


40 beads per inch.  Although not always precise, measuring the number of beads per inch is a sensible solution towards achieving clarification of the micro bead.


But other variables should be considered.  Antique micro beads were made by hand and did vary in size, even within the same batch of beads.  So the approach of qualifying the micro bead by the inch count is not always exact.  Also, the construction of the purse will influence the accuracy when determining bead size.  For instance, a looser knit purse will have a lower bead count per inch than one that is snugly knit with the same size bead.  Therefore, it would be best to measure the fringe beads, when possible, for a more acceptable bead count.  Otherwise, on a looser knit or woven bag, you will have to estimate the count per inch as if the beads were all very close together or touching one another.

There is also the factor of human error.  Counting these beads is not always easy and it can be a bit tough on the eyes.  A magnifying glass is a must have when examining the micro or the ultra micro bead.  A toothpick for use as a pointer will come in handy for keeping track of these tiny, minute beads while you're counting them.

Personally, I tend to assess beadwork as follows, basing my judgment on approximate ranges and the individual evaluation of each purse:

Ultra Micro Beaded: 27 and more beads per inch or upwards of 1000 beads per sq. in. and more
Micro Beaded: 22 - 26 beads per inch or  475 - 700 beads per sq. in.
Extra Small Beadwork: 17 - 21 beads per inch or 275 - 450 beads per sq. in. (20 - 21 beads per inch, safely
                                                considered micro by many)
Small - Medium Beading: 12 - 16 beads per inch or 150 - 250 beads per sq. in.
Medium - Larger Beading: about 10 beads per inch or 100 beads per sq. in.

I hope this article has been helpful in regard to the micro bead.  Now go and count those beads.

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