This is a question every new beader asks when they first encounter Venetian Beads. And then they ask, “What size wire should I use?”
Venetian Beads, Murano Beads
The most common size of holes of Murano Glass Beads is approximately 1mm. Approximate because they are most often made on 1mm diameter copper rods, which heats up and naturally expands. The glass wrapped around it expands as well, but when the glass and the copper cool, they both shrink. So we generally have a ~1mm hole and for larger beads, the mandrel will be larger as the mandrel must support the bead in the fire.
We also make beads like our PerlaVita, European Large Hole Beads, Bimbi, our smaller European Large Hole Beads for Children, Duo and 2mm Rondelles which we developed for Leather and they each have different sizing. We make these on stainless steel rods using a bead release to keep the glass from sticking to the rods. Bead Release was used in Venice prior to the 1920s and was called “fango” meaning mud because it came from the lagoon. Bead Release is similar to kiln wash and contrary to popular believe it was not invented by Americans, but they did add graphite to it.
So the short answer is that any wire which is less than 1mm can be used for Venetian Beads. The important issue is the weight of a bead. So larger beads from 16mm up through our 30 and 40mm beads will need a larger gauge wire. Venetian/Murano Beads will always be slightly abrasive around the edges. This is not a defect, simply how the beads are made.
Bracelets or Necklaces?
Bracelets will require a heavier gauge because bracelets are much more active and get more abuse than a necklace. Necklaces, especially those with Swarovski or small beads can be strung on a smaller gauge because they will not be subjected to as much stress.
Beadalon and SoftFlex
We carry wire from both Beadalon and SoftFlex, which are the standard setters in the beading industry. SoftFlex is produced in the US and much of Beadalon is also produced in the US, though they also import, each spool of wire will tell you the place of manufacture. Beadalon is part of a larger corporation which manufacturers fishing line. So your beading wire’s not-so-distant relative is fishing line! And probably the reason each line has a “pound” weight limit – so if you are fishing for really big fish, you need a heavier gauge line. If you are stringing large bead, you need a heavier gauge wire!
Strands of Wire
You will notice that both Beadalon and SoftFlex have different number of strands.The more strands in the wire, the more it can flex without breaking – and the more strands in the wire, the higher the pricing.
The SoftFlex Label on the wire gives you a wealth of information, including recommendations for use of each type wire.The wire shown is 49 Strands with a 26 pounds test strength, and a diameter of .019 Inches which is .48mm. Since our Venetian Beads are generally 1mm holes, this is a good choice.
Wire Gauges are confusing!
The larger the number – the smaller the wire
Did I miss it? The diameter in inches doesn’t correspond with the Softflex image above. Why not just post suggested Softflex/Beadalon sizes for different applications, and explain why?
I’m curious about your thoughts on products like Fireline. I’m working on a multi-strand necklace where four strands of seed beads go through Venetian beads. My options are to use something thin enough that several strands could pass through the Venetian beads, or use beading wire and terminate each section. But since there are five larger Venetian beads, that would be a lot of terminations. This seems tedious, and I’d also rather look at beads than findings. I’m using Fireline, and, in the fear that a rough edge on the Venetian beads might fray a line, each seed bead strand will be doubled. That means 8 strands of Fireline going through the larger beads. Is this enough, or is it overkill?
Pam, When I said it’s confusing,I guess I didn’t realize how true that statement was. I have found on bead sites, 2 different charts for the sizing. I have asked both Beadalon and Softflex the correct numbers. The one thing I do know is our Murano Glass Beads have approximately a 1mm hole. ;>)
Re: Fireline/VenetianBeads. I have never used it. My suggestion is to take a round file and gently file the holes of your Venetian Beads so the edges are softer where the wire enters and exits. We use the Bead Reamer https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-15-17.pdf
I will post as soon as I have some clarity on the gauge sage.