Beading wire is made from very fine strands of wire, twisted like a rope and coated in plastic, and is most beaders choice for stringing necklaces and bracelets. It can be used for earrings too (more about that next time). There's a huge variety of different strengths and thicknesses available, which is why some explanation is needed!
Basically, there are two things you need to know - strand count, and diameter.
Strand CountBeading wire is available in different strand counts - 7, 21 and 49 strand are the most common, although 3 and 19 strand are also occasionally available.
7 strand (commonly known as tigertail) is the most economical, but also less strong and less flexible than the higher stranded wires. The images show a cross-section, so you can see how it's constructed.
As the number of strands increases, so does the strength and flexibility, and also the price. 21 strand is made of 3 strands of 7, which is like 3 ropes twisted together.
49 strand, the strongest and most flexible of them all, is made of 7 strands of 7.
DiameterBeading wires are also available in a variety of diameters, from a very fine .0007" up to .024". Therefore, a 7 strand with a diameter of .024" is thicker than a 49 strand with a diameter of .014". But the 49 will still be the stronger and more flexible one.
Choosing your Beading WireBecause we have such a huge choice, it can be difficult to make your decision. Price is obviously a factor, and 7 strand is a good quality at an economical price. It's the one I'd recommend for beginners, and is fine for everyday, not too heavy, necklaces and bracelets. But if you graduate onto the more expensive wires, you will really notice the difference. For heavy glass, metal or gemstone beads, 49 strand is by far the best. I also like a 21 strand .014" diameter for lightweight beading, as it gives a beautiful drape.
BrandsI would advise to always choose a known brand. Flexrite, Accuflex, Beadalon and Acculon are all good quality brands. I have made the mistake of buying a cheap unbranded one, that was just called Tigertail and it's barely good enough to give away, let alone to sell.
I hope that's clearer than mud, and that it's "all you need to know"! If you have any questions, or if I've left something out, post a comment below.
Next time - working with coloured beading wires.
For more crafty blogs, have a look at Handmade Harbour