Choosing Jewelry Wire
Jewelry wire is designed for stringing beads of all shapes and sizes. It is much stronger than typical stringing threads and cords. It is also fray resistant, so designs with beads that have sharp edges, such as crystals and metal beads will be more durable. But choosing jewelry wire for a project can be a little confusing at first. There are several different brands, each with a variety of types and sizes. This is a good thing, because it means that you will be able to find just the right wire for your project. But, how do you choose? It will help to understand what the different features and measurements of the wire mean.
The Jewelry Wire Diameter:
The diameter of the wire is usually given in inches. The sizes can vary from .010 inches at the very fine end of the scale, which is fine enough for some seed beads and finely drilled pearls, .019 inches in the medium range which will accommodate most crystals and .024 inches or more at the heavy end of the scale for heavier gemstones and beads with larger stringing holes. There are also several sizes in between.
The rule of thumb for choosing the best diameter is to pick the largest diameter that the bead holes will allow. Many designs are made up of beads in a variety of sizes, so be sure to consider the beads with the smallest holes in your design when choosing the best wire size. The image below shows beads with a variety of hole sizes strung on wire in a variety of diameters. This should give you an idea of how to pair wire with beads.
Number of Wire Strands in the Jewelry Wire:
The next thing to consider is the flexibility of the jewelry wire. Jewelry wire is made up of several strands of stainless steel wire that are woven together and then coated with nylon. The stainless steel wire makes it very strong and the nylon coating protects the wire, adds to the durability and offers a smooth surface for the beads. What differs among jewelry wire is the number of wire strands used. The numbers range from seven strands up to 49 strands. The more strands the jewelry wire is made of, the more flexible it is. Some of the wires are flexible enough to knot.
For a design where you want the wire to hold its shape, a wire with fewer strands will be best. Below you can see our Aurora necklace on the left, which uses wire with fewer strands. The necklace holds its shape because of the wire. Price can also be a factor, so choosing a jewelry wire that has fewer strands can be a money saver since typically the more strands the wire is made out of, the more it costs. For some designs, having a soft drape will be important, so a wire with more strands will be best. It will result in a more luxurious feel. Our Highland Spring necklace on the right utilizes wire with more strands.
The Different Colors and Finishes of Jewelry Wire:
Standard jewelry wire is silver colored. The shade varies from brand to brand, but silver wires are all pretty similar. Jewelry wire does come in a large variety of colors, as well and is even available sterling silver-plated and gold plated. In most designs, the beads cover the wire, so the color of the wire doesn’t have much impact. But if the beads are transparent, a lighter color of jewelry wire, or a color that matches the beads would offer a more even look. As the picture below shows, silver wire and wire that matches the color of the transparent beads can make a difference in your designs.
In many designs the wire becomes part of the design. Floating necklaces are an example where much of the wire is exposed, so a complementary or contrasting color is ideal. Jewelry can be woven or braided from colored jewelry wire. Here the wire is the star. Just be sure to consider the overall size and flexibility when choosing. The Molto Caldo necklace below on the left is a great example of letting jewelry wire shine in designs, while the Freya bracelet on the right shows braided jewelry wire.
Using Jewelry Wire:
Jewelry wire is rigid enough that a needle is not necessary. Nippers are the best tool for cutting jewelry wire. If you use your nippers for only jewelry wire, they last a long time. The easiest way to finish jewelry wire to a clasp is with crimp beads or crimp tubes and a crimping tool. Crimps come in a variety of sizes to accommodate the variety of wire sizes. See our All About Crimps page for more information on crimps.
Now you have plenty of information to get you started working with wire. You'll be able to pick the perfect wire for your projects. If you don’t have a specific project in mind and just want to experiment with jewelry wire, a good place to start is in the middle. Try a 19 strand jewelry wire with a .018 or.019 diameter. This will accommodate many beads and is of medium flexibility. Then you can decide if what you want next is something finer or heavier, more flexible or less. 2x2mm crimps will work best with this size and don’t forget a pair of nippers and a bead crimper tool!