Sunday, 10 February 2013

Beading Wire - All you need to know

When I go to bead fairs, I'm frequently asked about beading wire, so I thought it would be useful to write about it.

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 Count

Beading 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.


Beading 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 Wire

Because 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.


I 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


  1. What a great post for new jewellery makers. I always use Softflex myself, and totally agree you get what you pay for in beading thread.

    Have a great week,
    Alison x

  2. This was a great mystery to me when I started jewellery making - I used Beadalon which was mostly very good.

  3. Thank you for that most interesting post. I had no idea about the different sorts of wire as I have only used thread so far.
    This needs further study.

  4. A very interesting post and the previous ones too. Thanks for sharing your knowledge :)

  5. so much useful info here, thank you! x

  6. I'm going to pass this onto my friend who likes to make jewellery.There's so much useful info I'm sure she'll love reading it.

  7. Ohhh now I'm not a jewellery maker, but it's the sort of thing one day I might dip my toe into (for myself of my daughter more likely than as pieces to sell) so it's great to know where to come to find all this kind of really useful information that would flummox your average newcomer! Thanks for sharing :-) Simmi x

  8. Thank you all for the comments. Let me know if there's anything more you'd like to know about beading wire, or if there's a topic you'd like me to cover. Beading has developed hugely since I first started in 1985, and the products available are so much more varied and sophisticated.

  9. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on this. I often look at beading wires and wondered how they differ from wire. Now I know. :)

  10. What an interesting post. As I don't make jewellery I had no idea about the wires and their different strengths.
    Ali x

  11. Wow, I have learnt something new. I wondered why wires were different and how you could tell what you were getting when you buy it online! Thanks for such an informative post x

  12. Really informative, and illustrative article.

  13. I think it's one of those things where a small amount of knowledge can be a good thing, and clear up a fair bit of confusion xx

  14. I've learnt something new today! Have a good week-end, Jo x