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Beading: An FAQ

Beading is a simple way of creating highly personalised and attractive jewellery. Simply thread a selection of choice beads across your wire (or string) or choice, and you’ll have created a new and attractive item in next to no time.

Of course, things aren’t quite as simple as that – in order to get the best out of the technique, you’ll need to pick up some chops along the way. In this article, let’s address some of the questions often asked by those new to beading.

What’s gimp wire and how is it used?

The role of gimp wire is to protect the thread from wearing against the metal of your item’s clasp. Once you’re done threading your beads, you’ll need to add a crimp before applying a short length of gimp wire. Pass this through the clasp’s loop, and then squeeze the whole lot together with pliers. This will help to keep the whole thing fixed into position, which in turn will help to prevent further abrasion. You’ll be able to pick this up from any good purveyor of jewellery making supplies.

What’s a bead board?

A bead board is a device that’s used to measure new designs before they’re put together. They come with a tray, into which you’ll be able to slot your new piece. In this way, you’ll be able to get an idea of its length before you run the string through it. And in doing so, you’ll also ensure that your beads don’t roll all over the place. You should bear in mind, however, that once the piece is wrapped around your neck (or wrist) it’ll need a little bit of give in order to properly flex.

I can’t thread through some of my beads!

Some beads (and particularly stone ones) are hand-drilled. Consequently, it can be difficult to thread a wire through them without slightly enlarging the hole. For this, you’ll need to use a bead reamer- a special sort of circular file built for just the purpose.

What are the differences between fresh and saltwater peals?

Generally speaking, saltwater pearls are the work of oysters, while freshwater ones are the work of mussels. These animals are, as you might expect, very closely related, and so their products are similar. Both pearls are made from nacre (or ‘mother of pearl’), the same hard substance that forms the outer layer of a mollusc’s shell. Saltwater pearls are normally built around a nucleus of nacre, which freshwater ones lack.

How do I thread pearls?

Pearls typically come with extremely small drill holes, which means that you’ll need an accordingly fine thread in order to properly string them. There are several options, available, here, from naturally fine silk thread to synthetic flexible wire. If you intend to tie a knot between beads, then the former is preferable, as it is more flexible.

How should I maintain pearls?

One problem with pearls is that they’re difficult to keep in good condition, as they’re far more vulnerable to chemical abrasion than precious stones. Just a little bit of abrasion can cause them to lose their shine, so be sure to keep make-up, moisturisers, perfumes and the like away. If you’ve threaded your pearls using silk them be sure that you don’t shower while wearing them. If you need to clean your pearls, then do so using a damp cloth – don’t submerge them, and don’t use harsh chemical cleaners under and circumstances.

Why does silk need to be restrung?

One of the problems with silk is that it is fragile. It will therefore decay over time – particularly, as we’ve mentioned, if it’s exposed to regular cycles of wetness and dryness. In order to battle this, it’s important to restring a silk-strung necklace or bracelet every year or so – as this will avoid the unfortunate scenario where the silk one day snaps and your beads are scattered across the pavement, with many of them settling into nearby drains.

How do I thread heavier beads?

Of course, heavier beads will cause your thread to wear down far more quickly. A heavier, more durable thread is therefore called for. This is where stainless-steel threads come in handy. They’re made from a series of woven metal fibres, and often come coated in a protective layer of nylon. Alternatively, you might consider a cord of either leather or cotton – though these will require the holes to be extra-big. Be sure to pick some of these materials up the next time you buy craft supplies!


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