Beading – Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re looking for answers to some of the most common beading questions, we’re here to help! Below you’ll find questions with detailed answers to help you with your beading designs.

Can you please explain the difference between metal finishes?

There are several different types of gold and silver finishes for beads and findings:

  • 24k Gold: 100% pure gold, which is too soft to make durable jewelry products.
  • 14k Gold: 58.3% pure gold mixed with other metals to influence hardness, color and cost.
  • Gold Filled: This is a layered product with 1/20 gold content. The gold layer will not wear off like it may in plated products.
  • Vermeil: Pronounced “ver-may,” these items are made of sterling silver and heavily electroplated with18k to 22k gold.
  • Gold plated: Gold color metal plating over a base metal such as pewter or brass. Inexpensive but the plating can wear over time.
  • Silver Plated: Silver plate is a metal plating over a base metal such as pewter or brass. It is less inexpensive than sterling, but the plating can wear over time.
  • Sterling Silver: Sterling is 92.5% pure silver metal and 7.4% other metals to achieve a stronger metal of stability and hardness.

What exactly is a lampwork bead?

Sometimes known as "lamp winding,” the term is derived from the gas torch, or "lamp" in which the artisan heats colored glass rods to fluidity and, in the case of bead making, winds the molten glass around lengths of specially-coated steel wire (mandrels). Once the base bead is made, other colors of melted glass are applied to form designs or cleverly formed into shaped beads.

How can I calculate how many beads I will need to create a necklace?

Good question! We use a chart to assist our customers. Thanks to your questions we have now added the chart to our web store to help you determine the approximate number of beads to purchase. We always suggest that you get a few extra in case of loss, breakage, or defective beads.

What are crimp beads?

Crimp beads are small, soft metal beads that are squeezed together to secure wire stringing materials onto clasps. There are crimp tubes and crimp beads that come in several sizes to accommodate the wire gauge. The crimp tubes are made with a softer metal which will be easier to crimp than the more traditional French crimps, which are round with a corrugated or ridged surface

How do I use crimping pliers?

Be sure to follow the two-step process instructions for the crimp pliers to ensure success. Start by placing the crimp into the lower U shaped channel making sure the two wires are side by side and not crossed before squeezing firmly. Then turn ¼ and place in the top rounded channel. Squeeze together for a beautiful rounded crimp. Although crimping pliers are not necessary for successful crimping, they give a more secure crimp and a more rounded look - not a flattened look where they can leave sharp edges.

What are the different metal finishes?

There are a variety of metal finishes to create a variety of looks:

  • Bright - Shiny, glossy, polished, looks new.
  • Stardust - Rough texture which creates a shimmer.
  • Antique - Metal dipped into a solution which leaves behind black accents that make a piece look old or tarnished.
  • Brushed - Textured to make the metal look dull or matte with some luster.
  • Goldtone - A base metal product (zinc alloy) that is plated with gold.
  • Silvertone - A base metal product (zinc alloy) that is plated with silver.
  • Copper-tone - A base metal product (zinc alloy) that is plated with copper.
  • Antique Goldtone - A base metal product (zinc alloy) that is gold plated with black accents.
  • Dark Silvertone - A base metal product (zinc alloy) that is plated with a black/silver color combination.

What is Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver metal. Silver clasps should be marked with 925 to indicate they are sterling. Since pure silver is such a soft metal, findings and beads are made with 92.5% sterling (vs. 100% sterling) and mixed with a stronger metal to achieve the desired stability and hardness. The majority of sterling is made in Bali, India and Turkey. Silver colored beads and findings are less expensive but may also be less flexible, durable and may lose their finish over time.

What are ear wires and what types are available?

Ear wires are the part of the earring that goes through the ear lobe. They come in different styles to offer variety and functionality:

  • Kidney Wire: One thin wire that goes through the ear lobe and hooks in the back. Works well for delicate jewelry and can be secure if there is enough tension where the front and back come together.
  • French Wire: One wire made into a partial S-shape which when placed through the ear lobe will hang freely. Can add a plastic back to keep the ear wire from working its way out of the ear lobe. These are very easy to use and can be quite decorative.
  • Lever back: This style is an upside down “U” shape with a hinged bottom piece which closes against itself.
  • Stud: A straight wire piece goes through the ear hole and is secured by a clutch behind the ear lobe.

What are the different types of tools and pliers I should use?

Round nosed pliers are basic work pliers with lap joints and polished heads to prevent marking soft metals. Flat nose pliers have lap joints and a polished flat head and curved nose pliers have a curved tip which is great for opening and closing jumprings and wrapping wire. Wire cutters or a really good pair of side cutters are used to cut stringing wire and some metal wires. Crimping pliers are used with crimp beads to secure ends of stringing wire to a clasp.

How do I tie off my stretchy cord?

Tie two overhand knots together and pull tightly so as not to come undone.

What are the stones for each month and what do they represent?

January - Garnet (deep red) signifies constancy
February - Amethyst (purple) signifies sincerity
March - Aquamarine (pale blue) signifies courage
April - Diamond (clear) signifies innocence
May - Emerald (deep green) signifies love and success
June - Pearl (pearl or in ancient alexandrite) signifies health
July - Ruby (red) signifies contentment
August – Peridot (light green) signifies married happiness
September - Sapphire (deep blue) signifies clear thinking
October - Opal (multi color) signifies hope
November - Topaz (yellow) signifies fidelity
December - Turquoise (blue) signifies prosperity

How do I avoid making tool marks on my findings?

Some headpins, jumprings and other soft metal findings will mark easily when handled by tools. There are some tools made especially not to leave markings on findings, but they are more costly than the basics. To avoid making marks, wrap some masking tape around the head of your pliers.

What are some tips for using memory wire?

Memory wire is easy to use and comes in different sizes for use with bracelets or necklaces. Cut wire to the length required and finish off the ends by making a loop with round nose pliers or attaching bead caps, made especially for memory wire, to the wire ends with a dab of glue. A charm can be added to the loop for an added decorative feature.