Essential Beading Wires For Your Bead Stash

May 15, 2013

I recently made a necklace for the Fall issue of Jewelry Stringing magazine using 24-gauge gunmetal wire. As I was sifting through my box of wires deciding which to use for this project, I realized it might be useful to discuss wires...especially the wires I couldn't bead without. If you're a beginning beader, I would recommend purchasing the following wires. 

MEDIUM (.018 or .019 diameter) FLEXIBLE BEADING WIRE

This is a must-have wire. It's stainless steel wire that's been covered with clear nylon. A go-to material for any stringing project, this wire is won't kink and is strong enough to support most beads (use heavy wire for heavy beads, such as chunky gemstones). I like 49-strand wire--the greater the number of strands, the greater the flexibility--so 49-strand is super flexible compared to, say, 7-strand or 19-strand. Soft Flex, Beadalon, Accu-Flex, Flexrite, and Acculon are just two of the many beading wires available. 

STERLING SILVER 24-GAUGE ROUND, HALF-HARD WIRE

Let me explain. Sterling silver is the type of metal, of course. While sterling silver has long been my favorite wire to use, recently I've purchased silver-plated wire instead due to the high price of sterling. The gauge refers to the thickness or diameter of the wire. 24-gauge is about .025" in diameter. This is considered fine wire, but I find it's a great size to fit most of the beads in my stash. "Round" refers to the shape of the wire, and "half-hard" refers to the temper. Temper is the hardness of the wire. Half-hard means the wire it's soft enough to be malleable but hard enough to hold its shape. This is the wire I turn to for my wireworking needs--it's perfect for making wrapped and simple loops.

While I use the above two wires the most in my jewelry-making projects, I've also accumulated several other wires that have served me well:

 

  • Heavy (.024) and fine (.014 or .015)  beading wires: I string heavy gemstones on the heavy and pearls with tiny holes on the fine.
  • 22-gauge silver wire: For projects when I want my wireworking to have more heft
  • Gold 22- and 24-gauge wires: For projects I make in gold tones
  • Antiqued brass or gunmetal wire: Because I've been using more and more brass in my work

 

What wire could you not live without? Tell me below!

-Danielle


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Comments

OhJoy wrote
on May 18, 2013 4:13 AM

Good article, thanks.  I like to have a good supply of the really cheap wire that comes on a spool in the craft section; the kind that has no guage listed and only comes in silver 'color' or 'goldtone.'  Actually the reason I like to have this around is to play with.  I don't draw my wire ideas on paper, I would rather feel it out with my hands.  I bend and shape and pound with the inexpensive, very soft, wire and when I like what I have shaped I can use it as a pattern.  

OhJoy wrote
on May 18, 2013 4:13 AM

Good article, thanks.  I like to have a good supply of the really cheap wire that comes on a spool in the craft section; the kind that has no guage listed and only comes in silver 'color' or 'goldtone.'  Actually the reason I like to have this around is to play with.  I don't draw my wire ideas on paper, I would rather feel it out with my hands.  I bend and shape and pound with the inexpensive, very soft, wire and when I like what I have shaped I can use it as a pattern.  

on May 18, 2013 12:18 PM

I like to have a lot of 20 gauge on hand, both in craft wire and precious metals. It's heavy enough to "doodle" new designs, but light enough to make findings such as earwires- the perfect "all purpose" size!

ctutt wrote
on May 18, 2013 12:18 PM

Wire is just plain fun to mess with. Replaced a bakers rack with a big chrome shelf in the kitchen only to realize I now had no place to hang big coffee mugs. Got some 18g. stainless steel wire at the hardware store, and bent it into two sets of cup hooks which fit into the spaces between the rods on the shelf unit.  WOOT!

Thebragal wrote
on May 18, 2013 2:42 PM

filled wire is a pretty good option vs plated. Still not too expensive yet way more durable.

on May 19, 2013 4:17 PM

I've always thought of .015 beading wire as medium weight and .012 as fine.  I use .018 as medium/heavy and .024 as heavy.  

I've recently invested in different colors (coated copper) 28 and 30 gauge wire for crocheting and Kumihimo braiding.  Haven't started any projects with it yet.  I like to have lots of different gauge "craft" wire around for use around the house and other crafts and various jewelry uses like making ends of multi-strand necklaces and braids to fit through cones, etc.