What’s in a tiny finishing detail in stringing like French wire finish? Have you ever wondered why some pearls or beaded necklaces break more quickly? Or why some just look great and others look like they’ve been “cheaply” strung? French wire finish may be the difference you’ve noticed.
As a restringing jeweler, I am frequently asked why French wire finish is desirable and how it works. Here’s my answer.
What is French Wire Finish?
French wire is a very thin, very tightly wound coil of metal wire used at the end of pearl and beaded necklaces. Imagine a Slinky shrunk down until it was only 2 or 3mm in width. Tiny. That’s what French wire looks like. It’s a tiny, hollow, Slinky-like coil of metal.
Both the gold color and silver colored French wire finish are made of a costume metal. It will not hold its pretty gold or silver tone forever.
I’ve been asked, “why don’t they make it in real karat gold?” And, “my clasp is real gold, why is the French wire fake?”
My answer is that you’ll use that lovely real gold clasp again and again, you’ll probably re-string your pearls long before the French wire finish starts to look funny. Pearls are supposed to be re-strung regularly. If your French wire finish is looking tacky, it’s more than time to restring with fresh new French Wire.
How it Works
I’ll get a bit technical here. Feel free to look at the pictures and skip this section.
We start by knotting the last few inches of silk thread at the end of your pearl necklace. Then we run the French wire through the clasp’s ring, connecting it to the stringing thread. We weave the French wire around the stringing thread on the end ring. The end of the stringing thread is then finally threaded back through the last several pearls and knotted off. What we’re left with is an attractive metallic loop of French wire protecting the stringing thread in its most vulnerable and breakable area. The area connecting the pearls to the clasp.
Check out a video: “How to Use French Wire” to see how it works visually.
The Two Purposes for French Wire
1. The first purpose for using French Wire is to give a necklace a finished, professional, and aesthetic look. It conceals the stringing thread or wire so that all we see is the gold or silver colored French wire.
2. The second purpose is that it protects the string from rubbing and abrading against the metal clasp. Abrasion of string: not good! Too much abrasion of string: loss of mother’s pearl necklace! Not good at all!
A French Wire Finish For Every Necklace
French wire typically comes in three different colors: gold, silver, and rose. It comes in different sizes, too, depending on the size of the pearls, beads, and/or the stringing thread or wire. It looks great with lapis, malachite, amethyst and all kinds of different beads. It’s not just for pearls.
Why I love French Wire Finish in my Restringing Work
I restring almost all pearl necklaces with a French wire finish. Not only is it stronger, it just looks better. Next time you have to get your pearl or other precious bead necklaces restrung, choose a jeweler who knows how to use a French wire finish.
Want to learn more about pearls? Check out these blog posts