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over Bead Wire Numbers?


The beading world can sometimes be confusing with all its numbers. Stringing wire is a good example. "Stringing wire" is a bunch of stainless steel wires bundled together and then coated is added for strength, durability and comfort.

How does a new beader know which beading wire to use and when? Well, stringing wire comes in many different diameters and that is the way that they are measured. They begin with wire as small as .007 inches in diameter and goes up to .024 inches and some are even larger.

Why should you choose one over another? One thing to consider is the typflex-rite metal micro-wiree of beads you will be stringing onto the wire. Some beads have larger holes than others, and some are rougher on the inside than others. If you are using man-made beads such as ceramic, Czech glass, or Swarovski Crystals the holes will usually be a bit larger and uniform in size. Depending on the quality of those beads, some are a little sharper on the edges than others.

The weight of the beads is another thing to think about. If you hang large beads, more than 8 mm on the thinnest wire, the beads will pull the wire. So on larger man-made beads, I try to use a little bit larger diameter wire, maybe one that is .018. That is really my “go to” size of wire. It is a good all-around size.

If you are stringing natural stones there are other considerations. Something that new beaders do not realize is that most natural stones are drilled from both sides of the bead and the drills meet in the middle, so even if a hole looks big enough on the outside, sometimes it is much smaller in the middle. I usually use just a little bit smaller wire than I think I need for natural stones. Then there are pearls. Pearls take a much smaller wire because when they are drilled, the person drilling wants to leave as much nacre as possible. A more familiar name for nacre is Mother of Pearl. That’s what gives them their beautiful shine. The result is very small holes in pearls.

But you ask, “There are other numbers on this wire. What do they mean?” The other numbers on the spools of beading wire, usually refer to how many strands of individual wires are twisted into the wire. The most common numbers are 7, 21 and 49. And, just because there are more strands, it does not mean that the wire is larger. It is possible to have 49-strand .018 gage wire just like it is possible to have 7-strand .018 gage wire. And strangely, the more strands, the more flexible the wire. I am not sure about this, but I think it is because those 49 strands are so thin that the whole wire is more pliable.

I hope this has made choosing beading wire a little easier for you. We at Heirloom Classics - Jewelry and Beads are here to help you understand even more or to explain this in a different way, if you still have questions. We have been here in Fountain Square for nearly 2 years now and Judy has been making jewelry for many years before that. Please feel free to call anytime you have questions, or better yet, drop in (free parking on the side of the building). We will be happy to answer general questions and have classes to teach the specifics. We are located at 1311 Prospect Street, Indianapolis, IN 46203 (located in the Historic Fountain Square area). Phone number is 317-495-1102. Web Site is: www.heirloom-classics.com. And you can email us at: info@heirloom-classics.com. We are open from 11am till 7 pm Monday thru Saturday, and closed Sundays.

Quartz, Glass, Crystal

How are they the Same, How are they Different

One of the things that used to confuse me was the difference between Glass, Quartz Crystals and Crystal.  In my research, this is what I have found.  I hope that it clears things up for you too.  No pun intended.



First of all, glass that is labeled quartz might be a bit descriptive, but technically, they are more or less both the same because they both have a base of silicon dioxide. (SIO2).  The main differences in quartz, crystal and glass are in the way that the atoms are arranged and the molecular structure of each.


  • Glass-considered an amorphous solid, which basically means it has no crystalline structure.  It is made primarily of silicon, potash, lime and soda. (sounds like a drink of some sort)
  • Quartz Crystals-are from the earth.  They are made of pure silicon dioxide.
  • Crystal-man-made of silicon, sodium and lead.  With this combination of products, the atoms in the glass form crystals which allow it to be carved and faceted much easier than glass.

What does this mean in the beading world?

More about Glass................


Glass beads are made with long thin rods of glass, then they are drilled and polished.  In the very popular Czech bead, this means that they are faceted, then put back into a furnace to be"polished". This can be a difficult time for them as there isn't much difference between  "polishing" and melting. OOOPS!

Remember, these beads do not form crystals, they are amorphous,  This translates to the fact that they are not as bright and shiny as crystals because they don't have the refractive properties of that crystal shape.


More on Quartz..................................


The beauty that is natural quartz stone, comes in many different colors.  You know some of these as Rose and Smokey Quartz, Amethyst, and Citrine.  From what I understand, the colors come from what other elements attach themselves to the end ions when the Silicon Dioxide was forming.  It is a little confusing, but an example would be if iron was present when Amethyst was forming and gave it it's beautiful purple.  Quartz has been sought after for centuries  to make jewelry pieces to adorn the human body.


And then there is the lovely Crystal.....................


Crystal has some similarities to both quartz and glass.  It's similarity to quartz is that it is a crystalline structure.  It also contains silicon dioxide.  And what makes it different from quartz but like glass, is that it is man-made .  We need a new term for something that humans make, what about human-made.    The chemicals used to make crystal are silicon, sodium, and lead.  Up until 1676 only small amounts of  lead had been added to glass, and that was primarily to change the color of the glass.  Then in 1676 George Ravenscroft tried adding lead oxide in a higher concentration.  This made the glass much more clear, and made it more easily carvable so that it could be faceted for glasses and, of course, beads.


Then Came Swarovski Crystal.........................



Danial Swarovski created a machine to cut and facet these wonderful crystal beads and created an addiction that still has a hold on some people to this day. 

He invented this machine in 1891 and  the exquisite bead, Swarovski Crystal was born.  These crystals contain up to 32% lead dioxide. Adding this much lead lowered the melting point and made  it softer and easier to both facet and carve.  His invention took advantage of the refractive and reflective qualities that make Swarovski Crystal what it is today.


When beaders today speak of crystal, I translate it, for better of worse, to Swarovski Crystal.


Swarovski crystals

Swarovski crystals




  • Glass, Crystal AND Quartz are made of silicon dioxide (SIO2)
  • Glass and Crystals are alike in that they are both human-made
  • Crystals and Quartz are alike in that they both form a crystalline structure.


Resources & Recommended Reading




Window panels get new artwork






First Friday Artists

On the First Friday of August, we started a project to beautify our building by having three local artists apply their imaginations and artistic abilities to the four window panels on the side our our store.  We think they did a marvelous job and we are so proud of them and their work.  Nicholai took the leadership role in this endeavor and you can see more of his work on his web site:  http://nicholaishaver.com/



Where Beads Become Jewelry