Beads can be made of many different materials. The earliest beads were made of a variety of natural materials which, after they were gathered, could be readily drilled and shaped. As humans became capable of obtaining and working with more difficult materials, those materials were added to the range of available substances. But nowadays synthetic materials were added.
In modern manufacturing, the most common bead materials are wood, plastic , glass , metal , and stone .
Beads are still made from many naturally occurring materials, both organic (i.e., of animal – or plant-based origin) and inorganic (purely mineral origin). However, some of these materials now routinely undergo some extra processing beyond mere shaping and drilling such as color enhancement via dyes or irradiation.
The natural organics include bone , coral , horn , ivory , seeds (such as tagua nuts), animal shell , and wood . For most of human history pearls were the ultimate precious beads of natural origin because of their rarity; the modern pearl-culturing process has made them far more common. Amber and jet are also of natural organic origin although both are the result of partial fossilization .
The natural inorganics include various types of stones , ranging from gemstones to common minerals , and metals . Of the latter, only a few precious metals occur in pure forms, but other purified
base metals may as well be placed in this category along with certain naturally occurring alloys such as electrum . There are also paper beads.