Choosing Beading Wire Do's and Don'ts

What to consider when choosing Beading Wire

There are some factors to consider when choosing the right wire for your project – after all, there are more than 150 to choose from!

  1. Flexibility
  2. Resistance to kinking
  3. Strength
  4. Colour

1. Flexibility

Generally speaking, when stringing beads, you want to have the best drape possible. Silk cord (made of lots of miniature strands of Silk thread) drapes beautifully and is very flexible – ideally we want our Wire to be as flexible and drape as well as silk. Just like Silk, the more and finer strands the wire has, the more flexible it is. Think of a Wire coat hanger – single strand, difficult to bend – and once bent it does not return to its original shape. Add extra, smaller, strands to the wire and it becomes more flexible – like the cable on your headphones.

The most basic beading Wire – Tigertail – has just three strands. It is more flexible than your coathanger, but still does not drape anywhere near as nicely as silk or is as flexible. Therefore, the more strands beading wire has, the more flexibility and better the drape it has. You can buy Beading wires in 3, 7, 17, 19, 47 and 49 strands. The heavier your beads, the more they will influence the drape of your design. Lightweight beads are more influenced by the wire, so you will get a better drape on 49 strands with lightweight beads.

We would recommend using 7 strand as a minimum, particularly for heavier beads and 49 strand or when you want the best possible drape and flexibility – particularly with lightweight and small beads. 19 Strand offers a good compromise of cost versus performance.

 

2. Resistance to Kinking

Let us come back to our Wire Coat hanger. Bend it and it is almost impossible to straighten it. Think again of our headphone cable  and it can be straightened and coiled with no ill effects. The same is true of Beading wire. Bend 3 strand and it will kink and be almost impossible to get rid of the kink. 7 strand less so and 49 strand imperceptibly so (in fact, it is the Nylon Coating that causes the slightest of kink in 49 strand wire). Fold a necklace or bracelet made with a lower number of strands into a box or bag and it will never be the same again. The exception to the rule is Titanium Wire (only made by Beadalon at present) – it is completely kink-free, but only comes in three sizes and one colour - grey.

 

3. Strength

If you want to string heavy Beads or string a very long necklace, then your choice of wire needs to consider the breaking strain of the wire you are using. Most manufacturers websites will list the breaking strain of their wires – however, it is important to consider that the breaking strain is normally quoted ‘at rest’. The most basic 7 strand 0.38mm diameter wire has a breaking strain of xxx. But, if you were to catch your design when wearing it, the force applied to the wire will be far greater than the quoted breaking strain and it is possible the wire will break. So, always choose the thickest wire you can fit two pieces into the hole of your beads. Beading wire comes in a choice of diameters ranging from 0.25mm to 0.66mm or 0.010” to 0.036”.

The number of strands in your wire will also influence the breaking strain. 3 strand wire is the weakest wire, 49 strand the strongest – just like a miniature cable. There is a third factor that influences the strength of the wire – and that is the material the wire is made from. Beadalon make Beading wire in 5 varieties – Titanium, mentioned above, Stainless Steel (the most common material), plated Stainless Steel, coloured alloys, Sterling Silver and, just released, Spectra® cord. Stainless Steel and Plated Stainless Steel are the strongest wires, Sterling Silver the weakest (I would not recommend Sterling Silver Wire for designs that will be used day to day).

 

4. Colour

Regrettably, many suppliers only stock Beading Wire in its raw colour (normally grey stainless steel, known as 'Bright'). This is absolutely fine if you are covering your wire with opaque beads and then wire cannot be seen. However, if you are using translucent glass beads or crystals, then metallic plated wire will reflect through the Beads and make the colours of the beads brighter. Further, the wide range of colours available can be incorporated into your designs to good effect with the wire forming part of your design.

Stainless Steel Wire can be plated with other metals - typically Silver, Gold and copper. Plating retains the strength of the Stainless Steel core. However, Wires can be made from Alloys which reduces the cost, but reduces the strength of the wire. If strength is really important and you want a metallic colour, then choose plated wires.