Selecting the right type of stringing materials for your jewelry projects is essential. The type of material you need to use will depend on three things:
- wether you are making a neclace, bracelet or earrings
- the style and look you want to achieve
- the type and size of beads you will use
Once you’ve answered these questions it will become more clear as to what type to use. Let’s look at the most popular stringing materials used by jewelry makers and the features of these materials.
Bead stringing wire
Bead stringing wire is a very popular stringing material. It is composed of tiny stainless steel cables inside a nylon coating to prevent tarnishing. The main brands are Soft Flex®, Beadalon® and Accu-Flex®. Before you buy beading wire you need to think about the flexibility of your design, wether it has to follow the contours of your body.
The higher the number of strands the more flexible the wire will be. For eg. 7 strand wire has some flexibility, 19 strand wire is more flexible, 49 strand is the most flexible. If you need a very stiff beading wire then Tiger Tail will do the job. It is not as flexible as other beading wires and tend to kink easily due to its stiffness.
Beading wire also varies in diameter. The smaller diameters (0.13 or 0.14) are for lightweight beads such as seed beads and small pearls. Larger diameters (0.16 or 0.18) are for bigger beads.
There has always been a question of which one is best. That is a matter of preference. I personally use Beadalon® 49 strand and Soft Flex® 49 strand wire for medium flexibility and Soft Touch™ (made by Soft Flex) for extreme flexibility. Soft Touch™ is 50% more flexible than Soft Flex® and it has one more advantage, it can be knotted. Many people prefer Accu-flex® which is good quality as well and very economical.
Illusion cord is a clear bead stringing cord which looks like fishing pole string. Therefore the name ‘illusion’ or ‘floating’ piece of jewelry where it seems that there is no string between the beads. Illusion cord is not as durable and strong as beading wire. Supplemax™ (from Beadalon®) and Illusion cord from the Beadsmith® are two brands.
Elastic cord is a flexible stretchable cord. You don’t need any findings to finish off a jewelry piece made with elastic cord. The ends of elastic cord can be knotted or fused together. Stretch Magic™ is one of the brands available. Elastic cord is mostly used for more informal type of jewelry.
Nylon bead thread is the modern alternative to silk. Nylon is more popular than silk nowadays for it doesn’t fray nor does it stretch as much as natural silk. The main brands are Griffin® (twisted polyamid thread) and C-lon®. Nylon bead threads are available in a range of colors, sizes and spool lengths.
Silk is the traditional way of bead stringing. Silk is best for stringing valuable pearls where you have to knot between the pearls. Silk knotting thread is soft and easier to make knots with than any other thread. Silk tends to fray and stretch over 3-5 years. Therefore you have to restring a pearl necklace after a few years. Gudebrod® and Griffin® are the main brands. Use the following sizes for stringing pearls: Griffin® size 5 or 6, and Gudebrod® size E. You can buy silk thread on cards of 2 meter lengths (6.5feet) with a needle attached to the end of the silk thread. It’s better not to use silk for heavier beads but rather nylon thread that is stronger.
Stringing materials such as simulated suede and leather cords are very popular to create a rustic look. Leather cords are mostly used for stringing heavier pendants due to its strength and durability. Suede could be tied in a knot and worn with a pendant. You could also use coil or leather crimps to end off a suede necklace. Simulated suede is more popular than leather because of its softness and the availability of more consistent dye colors.
Memory wire is a coil of very strong tempered stainless steel wire, which holds its circular shape when stretched and released. Memory wire makes quick and easy necklaces and bracelets. It can stay on your neck or wrist without a clasp. You can finish off memory wire by making a loop at the end of the wire or alternatively you can glue a capping bead at the end of the wire. Never cut memory wire with side cutters, but rather use hardware store wire cutters. Always protect your eyes when cutting it.
Other stringing materials
- satin cord
- hemp thread
- black rubber cord
- waxed linen, works well with beads that have larger holes
- rattail, it’s a braided cord with a satin finish, popular for Chinese knotting
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