Choosing the right beading wire can be difficult when you first start jewellery making, there are so many choices available with each reel of wire having lots of confusing numbers on it. The 3 most popular manufacturers of beading wire are Beadalon, Soft Flex and Accu-Flex each of which has a large range of wires to suit all your jewellery making needs.
It’s important to note that beading wire is not the same as jewellery wire which is a solid strand of wire that is available in different hardnesses and thicknesses. Beading wire on the other hand comprises of a multitude of tiny wire strands that are twisted together to form a strong wire, that’s coated in a nylon sheath for protection. As a general rule of thumb the greater the number of strands the greater the flexibility and strength of the wire. So if you are looking to shape the wire in your design then choose a wire with less strands as it’s more likely to retain its shape once bent. On the flip side if you want flexibility so that the wire is more accommodating and bends smoothly or drapes elegantly choose a wire with a greater number of strands. The Beadalon range of wires comes in 7, 19 and 49 Strand.
Each of the manufacturer’s range of wires will vary slightly for instance Soft Flex is available in Very Fine, Fine, Medium and Heavy wire. The difference being that Very Fine for instance only has 7 strands and a much lower breaking strength than Heavy, which has 49 Strands. All of the wire ranges are available in different size diameters and spool lengths, the details of which are displayed on the reel.
Things to consider when starting your jewellery project
When starting your jewellery making project there are a few questions you will need to ask yourself?
- How often will the jewellery item be worn?
- What’s the smallest hole size of the beads to be used in the project?
- How flexible does the wire need to be?
- What kind of beads will be used in the design, are they light or heavy and if they are
glass or semi-precious beads do they have abrasive edges?
- What components will be used are they expensive Sterling Silver / Gold findings or
something a lot cheaper.
If the items will be frequently worn then a stronger wire with more threads will ensure that the jewellery item has a longer life.
Choosing the right wire thickness is determined by the smallest bead hole being used for the jewellery piece. Ideally the wire selected should fill as much of the hole as possible to minimise any movement so that the wire doesn’t rub against the edge’s of the bead hole and wear unnecessarily.
If your jewellery design incorporates lampwork glass beads or semi precious beads which are quite heavy it’s recommended to use a wire with more strands which is stronger. Glass and gemstone beads can sometimes have abrasive edges which can rub against the wire and cut through the strands over time, to minimise this wear and tear is there are any abrasive edges its worth removing them with a small file.
Finally try and match the quality of the wire with the jewellery components being used. There is no point using 49 strand wire if the item of jewellery is only going to be worn once or if it’s just a test piece for demonstration. At the same time if the design incorporates expensive stones and findings use a higher quality beading wire as this will help to extend the life of the jewellery, as the wire if often the first thing to fail over time through wear and tear.
Author: Crystal and Glass Beads