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Threading gemstone beads

Hi there everyone!!

I was wondering if any experienced beaders could please advise me on
what type of cord/thread would be most suitable for threading
gemstone beads, such as onyx, tourmaline…etc? Size of beads would
be between 4mm - 12mm.

Many thanks
Kind regards

Thought someone else would have responded by now but here are my

Do not use thread on anything except pearls, some of the softer
gemstones (such as turquoise) or plastic beads - stones and glass
will just cut through without much encouragement. For the crystaline
gemstone beads use one of the nylon coated steel wire combinations.
Generally this will mean crimping but there are some out there which
can be knotted (within reason) but I would only knot to end the
string not between each bead.


Hi Sarah

Beadalon has many different gauges…and colours… of wire that are
different weights depending on the semi stones you are using. It is
important to get that part right.

Use crimpers in 2 spots to finish in case one ?? comes loose. Make
sure to feel for sharp cut wire that can cause irritation to the


Hello Sarah-Jane,

Although the bead size is important, you are most likely to be
limited by the size of the hole in the beads. I would suggest using
the largest diameter of Beadalon or Soft Flex beading wire that will
go through the smallest hole of the smallest bead in the design.

Personally, I love using silk cord and knotting between beads.
However, unless the gemstone bead hole is nicely polished and free
from sharp edges, the silk will be subject to wear much more quickly
than the beading wires.

Judy in Kansas, who will officially be retired from the University
this coming week!!

Hi, Sarah-Jane -

Unless the necklace is aerobic (so heavy, one’s heart rate goes up
when wearing it), I use silk cord for everything. If my customer
wants something else, I will go with my customer’s request. When
knotted, I like the liquidity in the way beads & pearls move when
strung on silk. Nylon may be stronger, but stretches more. 49-strand
Beadalon doesn’t stretch, is very strong, but doesn’t “give.”

The thickness of the cord depends on how you’re attaching the clasp

  • bead tips, clam shell, French wire? If you’re using bead tips/clam
    shells to attach to the clasp and not knotting the beads, any size
    silk that’s secure will do nicely.

Are you knotting between every bead? If so, then size is critical,
especially if you’re using French wire to attach to a clasp. The
silk must be thin enough to go through the first 3 & last 3 beads,
but still create a knot that the beads’ holes won’t eat.

And, finally, are you mixing More complex still.

Most better beads are ultrasonically drilled, giving the beads a
nice straight hole. Ideal. The size of the bead hole will vary,
dependent on the hardness of the gemstone, e.g., lapis is a softer
stone than onyx, so the hole in lapis beads will be larger than the
holes in the onyx beads. The entrance hole will be larger than the
exit hole, another factor to consider.

With all of the above said, I like Griffin #5 for most work; if I’m
stringing fwp strands, I like #3 white, which will take a permanent
dye to match the pearls. (I used to use Gudebrod silk, as they were a
domestic company, but they are out of business now).

If I can help you further, please contact me off-line.

Kind regards,

Mary Stachura

Fireline is a good strong thread for beads with small holes. This is
available at many bead stores & websites.

For heavy beads with bigger holes I like to use braided dacron
fishing line (but may not be suitable for clear beads as it is green
and white). The dacron is available at Cabela’s, brand name
’Prestige’. I use a twisted wire needle with this (looks like a
lollipop - a loop with a long stem of twisted wire). I got my
needles from Fire Mountain Gems, product number H20-1040BS. You can
make your own from 30 gauge wire.

Just remember when you design your piece that you pick the thread
that will go through the smallest hole bead. I usually double my
thread if possible. Its best to pull thread through a hunk of beeswax
& wipe off extra with your fingers so the beads slide on easier. I’ve
been beading for over 20 years. If you have any more questions, feel
free to contact me off list. I have enough of the dacron fishing line
to last lifetimes if you want to try some. Have fun!


Found it!

Try the Bead & Button forum for your beading questions. They are as
precious a resource to beaders as Ganoksin is to metalworkers.

A lot will depend on what you want as a finished article. I use
tiger tail or silk as my preferred threads. Many gemstone beads have
quite large holes which allow you to use heavier gauge silk threads
which give you strength without losing suppleness. Just done some
agate bead stringing using 0.9mm silk, knotting between each bead. I
use Griffin beadiing silk because it is the commonest decent thread
in the UK suitable for knotting. Available in a range of colours and

Tiger tail is stong and supple and not too prone to stretching and
easy to use. You cant knot it but you can get different gauges and
numbers of wires to the cable which gives it different levels of
pliability. Using crimp beads between your stone beads will give a
spacing similar to knotting silk and you can have a lot of fun
playing with different cable colours and multiple threads through
one bead, “invisible” threading etc.

Smaller beads wont need knotting between them for weight
considerations but you might still do so as a precaution against
losing all the beads if a string should break.

Nick Royall

There are a number of excellent threads that can be used to string
gemstone beads. One thing that you will encounter with the
transparent gemstone beads that are drilled in India is that the
holes are usually quite small. They are also sometimes much smaller
in the middle than on the outside edges. Consequently, you will want
string that is thin but strong. Many bead stringers prefer the nylon
coated steel wire, such as Beadalon or Softflex. For beads with very
tiny holes, Beadalon is better because you can get it as small as.013
inches, whereas Softflex’s “fine” is.014 inches. That difference can
be all it takes to make or break your ability to string the beads.
They are usually finished off with crimps which can be problematic
(ugly and sometimes not holding firmly.)

My personal preference is Fireline, with is finished with knots. I
especially like it when working with small hole beads, as they will
stop the knot which would slide into larger holes. It also drapes
well, is quite strong, and does not require the use of a needle,
crimps, or other hoopla. I usually use 14 lb. Fireline when working
with small hole beads. A couple other strings that I have found to be
excellent are Dandyline and Wildfire. Both are very strong and come
in different thicknesses. They do, however, require the use of a
beading needle. The problem with beading needles is you have to be
able to get double the thread thickness through the bead holes, since
the thread is folded at the needle end. That’s yet another reason to
go with either Fireline or Beadalon which do not require a needle.

One more thing - if the beads are transparent, dark thread will show
through and alter the color somewhat. This can be an advantage for
gemstones that are pale where you want to bump up the color, but it
can also be a negative, as dark thread will darken the beads’ color.
I usually use white thread when working with transparent gemstone
beads, as it does not show through or alter the color.

If you want to bump up the color of something, such as citrine
(which can be almost clear) then use a colored thread such as
Griffin. I avoid Griffin mostly because it frays at the end. It comes
on cards with a needle attached. You won’t have the doubled thread
issue with it, as the needle is spun into the thread. The length of
the thread per card is pretty short, however.

My personal rule of thumb is use Softflex (because it is cheaper)
when the beads have large holes, use Beadalon when the holes are very
small and I’m in a big hurry or I want silver or gold or copper
plated wire that will show in a design, use Fireline for everything

Sun Country Gems LLC