How to Choose the Right Beading Wire
Published January 2013
It's important for beaded jewelry to start with the right foundation. Today, I'll be explaining how to choose beading wire - what construction, what diameter. It's all about flexibility, hole size and break strength.
Flexible beading wire is made of several strands of miniature stainless steel inside a nylon coating. It combines the softness of thread with the strength of stainless steel. It's the most abrasion resistant stringing material that you can use. Use it to create durable, flexible designs. The main thing to know about jewelry beading wire is that the higher the number of strands, the more flexible the wire.
For example 49 Strand is more flexible than 7 Strand.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right beading wire for your design. The first thing to think about is how much flexibility your design will need. A bracelet, for example, needs more flexibility: it needs to wrap around the wrist in a small circle; it's likely to get caught on clothing or a corner. Bracelets have to be able to withstand a lot of wear and tear. A simple beaded necklace may not need to be as flexible. Choose 49 Strand beading wire for designs that require extreme flexibility, 19 Strand for designs that require good flexibility and 7 Strand for designs that require some flexibility.
So you've chosen a type of wire. Now it's time to consider diameter. Look at the holes on the beads you're using and choose a beading wire that fills as much of the hole as possible. Wires come in a wide variety of diameters, from .010"(.25mm) which would suite seed beads, to .036"(.91mm) for large-hole metal and glass beads. The most popular sizes are .015"(.38mm) and .018"(.46mm), good general-purpose diameters.
Consider the weight of the finished piece. The wire's packaging will list the break strength of the wire. That's how much weight it will take for the wire to break. Choose wire with heavy break strength when using large or heavy beads. It's also wise to choose a heavy break strength for pieces like bracelets that may snag.
Other things I think about when selecting a jewelry wire include:
How costly are the other materials?
How much wear and tear will the design get?
Will it be worn daily?
Just once for a special occasion?
For higher-end beads and clasps, I use 49 Strand. The superior flexibility lets those rich beads drape to their best advantage; the superior strength means I don't have to worry about breakage. For a quick, fun piece with more budget-minded materials, I might use 7 or 19 Strand instead. For designs that will be worn often, the flexibility of 49 Strand will help it withstand daily wear and tear.