Types of Jewellery Wire and Cords | beadsdirect.co.uk

Types of Jewellery Wire & Cords

There are many types of stringing material to choose from, and it can be daunting trying to choose the right one when you're starting a new project. Below you will find a description of all the main types of wires and cords and what they are used for in jewellery making. It’s always a good idea to use the strongest thread possible for a job, but this has to be balanced by the thickness in relation to the size of the bead hole.

See the full range of jewellery making wires and cords here >>

Elastic Cord

Elastic cord is great for beginners as you don't need any special fixings to finish off a design. Simply knot it well and you can easily create a stretchy bracelet. Elastic cord is sold by the spool and comes in various thicknesses, strengths and colours. Often used for bracelets, some of today’s elastics are very strong. We have a useful video tutorial on how to knot elastic, which can be viewed here >>

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See all jewellery tutorials using elastic here >>

Leather Cord

Leather cord comes in several thicknesses and is good for modern casual designs and for stringing larger beads and pendants. To finish either knot if the leather cord is fine or use some of the cord ends in the findings section. Match the clasp or end to the size of your leather cord. A strong glue is required for a sturdy finish. particularly with thicker leather. We recommend Hasulith glue.

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Leather design inspiration can be found here >> 

Beading Thread  

Nozue Sonoko™ thread is a high quality 0.29mm Diameter thread designed for many bead stitches, bead embroidery and for work on a jewellery loom and kumihimo disk’s. Nozue Sonoko™  jewellery threads are made in Japan and together with TOHO beads they form a perfect duo. Flexible, strong, waxed and an 8lb breaking strength contribute to the perfect joining of beads into various forms, depending on the design and choice of stitch. Nozue Sonoko ™ threads are easily threaded, they are resistant to friction, do not break and do not tangle.

TOHO One-g threads are 100% nylon, very strong threads, made in Japan by TOHO. The One-g thread has many advantages. It's very thin, so it will pass even very tiny 15/0 beads. In addition, it does not pill or fray, which is very important not only when threading the needle, but also when sewing. Your work will look smooth, clean and tidy. At the same time, it's strong and durable. Jewellery made using this thread is stronger, meaning we do not have to worry that the thread will break in the middle of the project and the beads fall on the floor. These threads can be reused as many times as you need. They are also covered with a special substance, so that they do not tangle meaning you no longer need to use wax. Just unwind the necessary amount of thread from the bobbin, stretch it a little and straighten it in your fingers and it is ready to use immediately. In addition, the ends of the threads can be scorched, making it is easier to finish your work, because after scorching and a light press with a finger, the end of the thread sticks to the beads.

One-G is perfect for stitches like peyote, brick stitch, RAW, herringbone and more. It's perfect for bead Embroidery and Soutache too. You can also use it when working on the loom and wherever you need a thin, but strong thread. Each spool contains 46 meters of thread. They are available in only one thickness: 330 dtex, i.e. approx 0.35 mm and 22 colours

Nymo is a waxed nylon thread most commonly available on small bobbins (64-72 yards). It has various sizes from 00-FF. 00 is very fine but can snap, whilst FF is too thick for many beads. B and D are most popular. Nymo is a good choice for bead weaving (on or off loom) or any other beadwork that demands a tough yet fine thread.

KO thread is 100% nylon and is a great alternative to Nymo, as and is similar in size to Nymo B. Fits through sizes 10 and 12 beading needles. Made in Japan, it is pre-waxed, colourfast tangle resistant and can be tightly knotted.

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Beading Thread continued...

Fireline is a very strong pre-waxed braided cord, it is one of the most popular threads to use in the beading world. This is a highly recommended thread due to its strength and versatility, making it great to use on a variety of jewellery projects such as bead weaving and loom designs.

Beadsmith SuperLon also known as S-Lon threads come in many colours and thicknesses. It can be used in bead weaving, micro-macramé weaves and products with the help of a kumihimo disk. This thread is flexible, smooth, pleasant to work with and most importantly – they maintain the elasticity of the product. As strong they work well with leather and upholstery fabrics, so it is not surprising that they are happy to be used by upholsterers.

Miyuki Thread allows you to create beautifully weaved jewellery, decorative braids, ideal for crochet, beaded embroidery or soutache. This thread is also ideal for beads on the loom, or weaving on a kumihimo disk. The possibilities are endless! Choose the right colour, match it to other elements of your super design... and create!

Polyester Thread is uniformly twisted with a slight sheen, maintaining palpable rigidity. This thread is ideal for knotting and has a thickness of 0.6mm. Polyester is a strong fiber, it perfectly copes with both jewellery stones, metal spacers with small holes and various beads.

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Craft Wire

This is a bendy wire used for both craft use e.g. making an animal form out of wire and for making jewellery with pliers using shapes and loops.

This wire ranges from very fine e.g. 0.2mm which would be used for fine wire knitting and twisting, through to 0.5mm which is most commonly used for craft and larger thicknesses which is used to make jewellery pieces as it is thick enough to hold it’s shape when combined with some weight e.g a semi-precious bead as a centre piece. See wire gauges for the different thicknesses and conversion to US gauges.

Wire gauges (thicknesses)

European wire (coated copper or silver wire) is measured in millimetres whilst the US use gauges. The most commonly used gauges are listed below:

34 gauge wire = 0.16mm ( 0.006”) Good for wire knitting and twisting. Too fine for firm shaping.
28 gauge wire = 0.32mm ( 0.013”) Good for wire twisting and knitting.
26 gauge wire = 0.40mm ( 0.015”) Good for wire twisting and knitting.
24 gauge wire = 0.51mm ( 0.020”) Good for wire crafts and general use.
20 gauge wire = 0.81mm ( 0.032”) Good for making jewellery.
18 gauge wire = 1.02mm ( 0.040”) Good for making heavy jewellery as long as the bead holes are big enough.

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Memory Wire

Memory wire is a steel wire which keeps it's shape so is great for designs such as spiral bracelets. Simply string the beads and turn a loop or use the memory wire bead ends. Cut with hard memory wire cutters. Memory wire is great as it expands to any wrist size.

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French Wire or Gimp Wire

French wire or Gimp Wire is a length of fine metal coils, it is extremely delicate, so you will need to handle with care. You can use French wire in your designs to protect your stringing materials and you will only need a small amount at each end of your design.

Simply, thread your stringing material through the French wire and it is designed to sit where the loop is at each end of your design, so that you can attach your jump rings/clasp to it. The French wire is there to protect your stringing material and will prevent from damaging/fraying due to the friction/movement of the findings.

French Wire/Gimp is very flexible and comes in a variety of thickness.

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Flexible Beading Wire BEADSMITH® / Flex-Rite® (Steel Cord, Beadalon, Tigertail, Softflex, Accuflex)

Flex-Rite® is a professional quality beading wire at an affordable price. BeadSmith® have used state of the art micro-wire technology to produce a wire that is abrasion resistant, strong, soft & flexible which gives a superior, kink resistant drape.
It is a wire that behaves like a thread, combining strength with versatility making it a very popular product for stringing necklaces and bracelets. It’s good for beads with sharp edges that might cut thread and for heavier jewellery designs. It drapes, but not as softly as thread. It is very versatile but cannot be knotted. Due to this it must be attached to a clasp or ending using crimp beads.

It comes in sizes from .012 to .018 with .012 being the finest. It is available with different strands, 7,19, 21 and 49, 7 being the cheapest and 49 the top quality. The extra strands make it more flexible and less likely to kink, as well as providing quite significant strength of 24.6lb.

Which crimp bead do I need for my wire?

It is important to choose the correct sized crimp bead for your wire as if it is too large, it won't grip the wire properly and your design will not stay in place. Here's a handy table to help you choose which size to use:

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Beading Wire Size (Inches)
Beading Wire Size (mm)
Crimp Bead Size
Crimp Tube Size
#0 or #1 (1.3 or 2mm)
#1 (1.3mm)
#1 (2mm)
#2 (1.8mm)
#1 (2mm)
#2 (1.8mm)
#1 (2mm)
#2 (1.8mm)
#1 (2mm)
#2 (1.8mm)
#2 or #3 (2.5mm or 3mm)
#2 or #3 (1.8mm or 2mm)

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Macrame Cords and Ropes

Macramé™ Cords - A collection of thin nylon cords 0.6 and 0.8 millimeters thick, usually used for Micro Macramé and as a replacement for thicker threads in the production of bead jewellery. Jewellery made of micro Macramé is jewellery made on the basic of Macramé weaves of threads or thin cords. Extremely delicate, subtle, often spider-web like macramé cords are very smooth with a gloss characteristic of nylon - they blend in beautifully with perfectly even TOHO beads, small stones, viscose tassels and delicate feathers. So, depending on the materials used, jewellery can be made in different styles and for different occasions.

Mcord™ strings belong to the group of macrame strings, which can be both thick ropes and thin strings.  The MCord strings are a thin nylon string available in several thicknesses, which will mainly be used to create handmade jewellery. Nylon twine is a popular and commonly used in macrame designs, especially among beginners and intermediate users. Nylon cords do not tangle, you can immerse their ends and they come in many fabulous colours.

Coated Twine, Waxed Cord and Satin cords are also ideal for creating macramé designs.

See all macramé cords and ropes here >>

Invisible Cord (also known as Illusion Cord or monofilament)

Invisible cord is a strong nylon product that is almost see through. It is ideal when you want your thread to be hidden, perhaps when using see-through beads. It is also good for illusion necklaces, which are designs that make the beads look like they are suspended at intervals as if by magic. Beads can be suspended in this way using glue or crimp beads.

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Other Threads and Cords

Rattail is a satin cord which comes in many colours and knots well. Good for use with large beads and Chinese knotting techniques, and ideal for kumihimo braiding.

Silamide is a 2-ply twisted nylon thread produced for the hand-tailoring industry. It comes waxed and can be used in the same way as Nymo.

Softflex is just one trade name for a 49 strand flexible wire. Beadalon 49 and Accuflex are similar alternatives from different companies.

Silk thread is sized from 0 to 16 with 0 being the thinnest. Silk is easily knotted and is the best choice for delicate beads such as freshwater pearls. It is uaually advisable to knot between pearls to protect them from knocking each other so silk thread is ideal for this purpose. Because it will stretch, you may wish to pre-stretch.