Rosary Bead Material Guide


Aurora Borealis, tin cut, Swarovski - do you really know what these terms mean when used to describe a rosary? That's why we have created this guide to help you determine the best rosary for your needs.

Metal materials are usually the same for rosaries and jewelry so be sure to read our precious metals guide.



Aurora Borealis (AB) – Named for the Northern Lights. In costume jewelry, a term for crystal stones that have a highly iridescent surface. The effect is achieved by vapor blasting the facets of the lower part of the crystals with an invisible, micro thin metal sheet. This stone was created by Swarovski® in 1955 in collaboration with Christian Dior. Also known as AB, the term now refers to any iridescent finish.

Tin Cut See Fire-Polished

Murano – These beads are made of glass and are also called millifiori (thousand flowers), Venetian or lampwork glass beads. They are made by fusing different colored glass rods or tubes to in the desired shape to create uniquely designed beads. Millifiori is usually designed with flower designs, Venetian glass is foil-lined, and the lampwork beads are usually shaped in other ways than round or oval.

Glass – These beads can be made to look like almost any material except wood. Most of the glass beads are strong enough to resist breakage while in use, bu will shatter under extreme stress.

Crystal – Leaded glass. This adds more of a sparkle than regular glass, but is more fragile.

Swarovski or Austrian CrystalSwarovski is the luxury brand name for the range of precision-cut lead crystal glass products produced by companies owned by Swarovski AG of Feldmeilen, near Zürich, Switzerland.

Swarovski crystal was born when Bohemian-born Daniel Swarovski invented an automatic cutting machine in 1892. In 1895 the Swarovski company was founded when he established a crystal cutting factory in Wattens. Here he could take advantage of local hydroelectricity for the energy-intensive grinding processes he had patented.

Swarovski crystal contains approximately 32% lead to maximize refraction. The Swarovski Crystal range includes crystal sculptures and miniatures, jewelry and couture, home decor, chandeliers, and beads and rhinestones for manufacturers and artists.

Czech or Pressed Glass – This is another variation of crystal glass, but coming from the Czech Republic. It is not as high of quality as Swarovski.

Fire-polished – Fire-polished beads are faceted glass beads from the Czech republic. They are popular in jewelry and come in sizes from 3 mm to 22 mm. The pattern of facets is always the same and the resulting bead is somewhat oval in the smaller sizes. The beads are glazed in a red hot oven after being machine faceted.

CloisonnéCloisonné beads are meticulously handcrafted by skilled artisans. First, tracts of wire are soldered on to a base bead in different designs. Then, the hollow areas are filled with enamel and fired. This process is repeated until all of the space is filled in. The bead is then polished and the exposed metal edges gold or silver plated. These beads can come in a variety of colors and are all unique.

Venetian Glass – See Murano

Semi-precious or precious stones – These can be made into beads that are of extremely high quality. Many stones can be replicated in glass or crystal, bringing down the cost, but for true stones, the price is extremely high.

Filigree – Lace-like ornamental work of fine gold or silver wire

Wood – Wood beads are natural beads. A common wood bead is cocoa beads or olive wood, although just about any type of wood can be used.

Olive Wood – These beads come from Jerusalem or Bethlehem and are carved from the bark of the Olive Tree.

Metal – as the name implies, metal beads are shaped from metals such as silver or gold. Sometimes they can be made of an inexpensive base metal and then electro-plated with a precious metal.

Rose Petal - These beads are made from pressed rose petals and have a heavy rose fragrance. Not for regular use as they will eventually disintegrate.

Rose Wood - beads made from wood that are usually dyed red and scented with a rose fragrance.

Be sure to take this guide with you as you shop our rosary selection.

Search for an Article

Gift Finder Favorites