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 wires and cords here >>

Coated Copper Wire (also known as 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 0.8mm or 1mm 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.

See all copper craft wire 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.

See all elastic cord here >>

Flexible Beading Wire (Beadalon, Tigertail, Softflex, Accuflex)

Tigertail is the colloquial name for flexible stranded wire sold by companies such as Beadalon and Acculon. 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 .024 with .012 being the finest. It is available with different numbers of strands, 3 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.

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:

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

See all crimp beads here >>

Shop for Beadalon wire 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.

See all invisible cord 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 Fevi Kwik glue.

See all leather cord here >>

Nymo & KO Thread  

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.

See all beading threads here >>

Rattail  (other variations are Mousetail and Bugtail)

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.

See all rattail cord here >>

Suede Cord  

Suede tends to be flatter and thicker than leather. It also comes in a manmade form called faux suede which is stronger and more consistent than genuine suede.

See all suede cord here >>

Other Threads and Cords

Kevlar is a very strong synthetic thread used in making bulletproof vests. It is heat resistant and less likely to stretch than other cords, but more likely to fray. There have been reports of it disintegrating over time.

Nylon thread is less expensive than silk.

Polyester cord won’t shrink from moisture and is less likely to fray than silk.

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.

Silver/gold wire has similar sizing and application to the coated copper wires but is made fully of precious metals

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.