Thursday, October 27, 2011

The wonderful world of crimp beads

If you're working with Beadalon (or other beading wire) then crimp beads are an important part of your jewelry making adventure. Crimp beads are small, cylindrical beads whose purpose in life is to get squished between the two jaws of a pair of pliers, in order to hold the ends of your Beadalon -- which is supporting your fabulous design -- around the clasp you've picked out. [They have a few less obvious uses we'll explore in later blog posts.] Nomadic Notions carries base metal crimps, as shown in this photo, in 4 finishes: black, brass, silver-tone and gold-tone.

We also carry sterling silver and gold-plated (vermeil) crimps, shown here.

How do you decide which to use?

Money is the obvious difference - base metal crimps are $5 per gram (I don't have the exact number but one gram is a lot of crimp beads!); sterling and vermeil crimps cost $0.25 for two, unless you buy them in bulk packages. With the price of precious metals on what seems like an endless climb, base metal is more cost-effective, especially if you're just starting out. Over time, the layer of color on the base metal crimps will wear off, and they may break more easily than the more expensive types.

If you're making jewelry for gifts, or to sell, you'll probably want to go for the more expensive precious metal crimp beads; they look better and will maintain their strength and looks longer than base metal.

Once you've made that decision, the next question is invariably "Will that little thing really go around two pieces of my beading wire?" Our base metal crimp beads are 2mmx1mm on the outside -- that's 2mm across the "hole", and 1mm "long." Our precious metal crimps are 2mmx2mm on the outside.

But it's the inner diameter -- the amount of room inside the little tube -- that determines whether or not the bead will work with your Beadalon. All of our crimp beads, base or precious metal, have an inner diameter of 1.3mm. So the maximum diameter of beading wire that will fit through our crimp beads twice is 0.65mm, and you probably want to stay below that to avoid the crimp bead damaging the wire when you put it on.

Beading wire comes in a wide variety of gauges, but they're all labelled with the diameter in inches, which is how we refer to them: 0.015", 0.018", and 0.024" (or "15", "18" and "24" if we're talking and not writing). In the metric system, that's 0.38mm, 0.46mm and 0.61mm.

So the light and medium Beadalon is definitely safe. If I am doing a project with 0.024" Beadalon, I'll test the crimp beads before I start putting things together to see if I'm comfortable with the fit.

What if I don't know the weight of the beading wire I'm using? I'll usually compare what I've got (wherever it came from, usually a repair) to the open spools of Beadalon in my stash at home, or behind the counter at work. When you're at Nomadic Notions, we'll help you make the comparison to be sure you've got beading wire and crimp beads that will play happily together.

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