Guide to Bead Cords, Beading Threads, Beading Wire & Jewellery Wires
When choosing a bead cord, thread or jewellery wire take into account the look of the piece you are designing and the beads you have selected. Do you require a wire that drapes or can hold its shape? Will it be exposed or covered? What size and weight are the beads that you are using, and what is the smallest hole size of the beads you have selected? Can you double up the thread if necessary?
The following list is not exhaustive, and only represents a small portion of what we carry. Whichever cord, thread or wire you use, remember to choose the largest diameter that will pass through the smallest bead hole in your project.
Griffin Natural Silk Bead Cord
Silk has been used as a stringing material for hundreds of years – can you imagine fine pearls strung on anything else? The silk allows a beautiful sinuous drape and is traditionally used to string pearls and other gemstones with a knot between each bead. It isn’t as strong as a man made fibre so reserve this thread for lighter beads or use fewer beads and let the natural beauty of the silk shine through. This cord comes with its own needle.
Griffin No.4 Natural Silk White Bead Cord (0.6mm by 2 metres)
A lightly waxed stranded nylon thread that was originally developed as a stitching thread in the manufacture of shoes. It is strong and slim and perfect for beading with most seed beads and light beads up to about a 6mm. Use two or more lengths of thread together for extra security when working with larger beads. It is traditionally used for intricate beadwork like peyote stitch or weaving on a loom. Use with a beading needle.
Nymo Thread Size D Cream 0.3mm diameter x 58.5 metre spool
Supplemax Illusion Cord
A soft, flexible ‘invisible’ cord for use in floating and illusion designs. It can be knotted to hold the beads in place or you can use glue or discreet crimp tubes. Best used with acrylic, wood or non-abrasive beads to protect your cord from damage, or try using seed beads either side of larger beads to give added protection. If you are simply stringing there is no need for a needle with this cord. For bead weaving use a needle.
Beadalon Supplemax Illusion Cord (0.3mm by 50 metres)
Tempered stainless steel wire with excellent ‘memory’ or shape retaining properties. It is nigh on impossible to bend it out of shape. Memory wire comes in coiled loops of different dimensions, including bracelet, necklace and ring sized rounds. It is a simple matter to cut a loop, thread on some beads, glue on some wire end beads or roll the ends over and you have a finished piece. No need to add a clasp. The wire loop you use will increase in size when you add beads so if you are making a necklace of a single round, cut at least a coil and a half length from the wire to allow for the ends to meet or overlap slightly. Don’t use your jewellery pliers with this wire as it is too tough. Use household pliers or specialist memory wire cutters. To learn more about jewellery tools read our Guide to Beading Tools
Loops of Memory Wire For Rings
Beadalon Stringing Wires
Beadalon produce a range of stringing wires to meet different requirements and to offer varied colour finishes. They are made from very thin strands of wire that are twisted together and then coated with nylon. The concept to understand when selecting a wire is that the higher the number of strands the more flexible the beading wire will be. Different jewellery pieces have different requirements, for example a bracelet needs to be quite flexible due to the amount of wear and tear it needs to withstand, whereas a simple bead necklace may not need to be as flexible. For the highest degree of flexibility 49 strand beading wire should be used, with 19 strand beading wire for designs that require good flexibility, and 7 strand beading wire used for designs that require some flexibility.
When choosing a beading wire you need to consider the diameter of your wire in relation to the beads and findings you plan to use. There are a wide variety of diameters, from 0.010 inches for seed beads up to 0.036 inches for larger hole metal and glass beads. The most popular sizes are 0.015 inches and 0.018 inches which are good general purpose wires. Judge the holes in the beads you plan to use and select a beading wire that fills as much of the hole as possible. Then consider the weight of your finished jewellery piece to ensure that the break strength of the wire is sufficient. Choose wire with a high or heavy break strength when using large or heavy beads.
- 0.25mm (0.10”) wire is extremely thin and good for stringing or weaving with seed beads, freshwater pearls and small semi-precious stones.
- 0.30mm (0.012”) and 0.33mm (0.013”) wire is very thin and good for crystals, seed beads and beads with smaller holes.
- 0.38mm (0.015”) and 0.46mm (0.018”) wire is classified as small to medium in width and is a good general purpose size. Excellent for medium to heavy weight beads.
- 0.51mm (0.020”) and 0.53mm (0.021”) wire is classified as medium to large in width and is suitable for work with heavier beads such as large semi-precious stones.
- 0.61mm (0.024”) and 0.66mm (0.026”) wire is at the larger end of the scale and accordingly is good for heavier beads.
0.76mm (0.030”) and 0.91mm (0.036”) wire is the Big Bertha of stringing wires, reporting for duty for the heaviest of your bead collection.
Seven Strand Beading Wires are made from seven strands of fine diameter stainless steel wire with a kink and abrasion resistant nylon coating. A strong general purpose wire with good drape and shape retention. Tiger Tail is the name given to a similar coated beading wire, but most wire sold with this generic name only has three strands within it. The Beadalon product fits more strands into the same diameter of wire, but by using thinner strands the Beadalon wires have superior flexibility and strength.
Beadalon 7 Strand Bright Stringing Wire 0.38mm
Nineteen Strand Beading Wire is superior to seven strand stringing wire in terms of flexibility and strength. This wire has nineteen strands of wire encased in a kink and abrasion resistant nylon coating. Very strong and near 0% stretch.
Beadalon 19 Strand Satin Copper Stringing Wire 0.38mm
Forty-Nine Strand Beading Wire is superior to both nineteen and seven strand stringing wires in terms of flexibility and drape. This knotable wire has forty-nine strands of wire encased in a kink and abrasion resistant nylon coating. Very strong with excellent kink resistance and near 0% stretch. This wire gives the most professional looking result.
Beadalon 49 Strand Bright Stringing Wire 0.46mm
As distinct from beading wire which is constructed to be like a metal thread, this is wire in its usual form. Most common metal types are available in jewellery wire form, with copper wires and aluminium wires available in a rainbow of colours. Wire is supplied in different wire gauges or thicknesses which are denoted by a number using the American system or by its diameter in mm elsewheres. It is available in four different levels of hardness: dead soft wire, soft wire, half-hard wire and full-hard wire. Memory wire is the hardest of all the wire types. Wire comes in a wide variety of cross sections such as round, triangular and square.
- Dead Soft Wire can be easily bent and broken by hand, so any shape produced is vulnerable to becoming damaged or distorted. It is good for wire wrapping of larger beads or stones as thicker wire can be used.
- Soft Wire is very similar to the above but is slightly tougher.
- Half-Hard Wire is the most versatile type of wire as it is soft enough to bend but strong enough to act as a functional component in jewellery. So for example it can be used for an earwire or eye pin. Use the correct cutters with this wire.
- Full-Hard Wire is stronger than half-hard and can be trickier to work with. Again it is suited for use where reliable strength and form is needed. Use the correct cutters with this wire.
Assorted Coloured Copper Beading Wires 0.3mm or 28 gauge
- 34 gauge wire = 0.16mm ( 0.006”) Good for wire knitting and wire twisting. Too fine for firm shaping. Will fit through the smallest seed beads and pearls.
- 32 gauge wire = 0.20mm (0.005”) Good for wire twisting and wire knitting. Will fit through smaller seed beads, pearls, smaller semi-precious stones and crystals (2-3mm).
- 28 gauge wire = 0.32mm ( 0.013”) Good for wire twisting and wire knitting. Will fit through smaller seed beads, pearls, smaller semi-precious stones and crystals (2-3mm).
- 26 gauge wire = 0.40mm ( 0.015”) Good for wire twisting and wire knitting. Use for semi-precious stones with holes too small for 24 gauge wire, pearls and smaller seed beads and crystals.
- 24 gauge wire = 0.51mm ( 0.020”) Good for wire crafts and general use including wire wrapping beads and stones. This wire should fit through slim semi-precious stone holes, seed beads, pearls, smaller crystals.
- 22 gauge wire = 0.64mm (0.0253”) Good for wire crafts and general use including wire wrapping beads and stones. This wire should fit through slim semi-precious stone holes, size 11 seed beads, 4mm and larger crystals, smaller metal 2 to 3mm beads and glass beads including Czech glass.
- 20 gauge wire = 0.81mm ( 0.032”) Good for making jewellery, clasps, jewellery findings, wire wrapping beads and stones, ear wires and jump rings. Will fit through most crystals 4mm and larger, larger seed beads size 8 plus, larger semi-precious and glass beads, including Czech glass.
18 gauge wire = 1.02mm ( 0.040”) Good for making heavy jewellery as long as the bead holes are big enough, and for clasps and findings. Use for lampwork glass beads and other large glass beads, also larger metal beads.