Wire Jewelry Resource: How Many Beads in a Strand?

By on February 29, 2012
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by Rose Marion, Wire-Sculpture.com

Wire Jewelry Resource for February 29, 2012

When I was in Tucson, beads were everywhere! And for the most part, they weren’t loose, or in bags, but tied on strands of fishing line or cotton thread, and then bunches of strands, called hanks, were rubber-banded together at the top, often hanging off hooks around the walls of a booth, so you could slide the strands you wanted free from the hank, or take the whole hank.

While I’m not 100% sure why 16 inches is the standard size for bead strands, that’s how long each of my strands was that I brought back with me from Tucson, and these strands came from all over the world! But of course, when I came home and sat down to record the new inventory (not my favorite part!), I thought, I’m not going to count every bead! While some people do enjoy counting each bead to be precise, I thought I might as well put my math skills to use instead. so here’s what I did.

The beads I got the most of were some 4x6mm crystal faceted rondelles (pretty!). After making sure the strand was 16 inches (it was), I converted 16 inches to millimeters, which is 406.4. Now, I took the easy round and typed into Google, “What is 16 inches in millimeters.” But you can multiply your inches (16) by 25.4 to find the measurement in millimeters if you are just using a calculator.

Then, now that I knew that there are about 406 millimeters in a strand, I simply divided that by the width of my beads (4mm). 406 / 4 = about 100, and sure enough (I only counted one strand!) I had about 98 beads on that strand (I think I lost count a couple times). Most bead factories simply string the beads on by the length of the strand, rather than counting, so I’ve found that for smaller size beads, the bead count is within a few beads, give or take, of my mathematical calculation, which is close enough for me.

To find the approximate number of beads per strand in a consistent strand:

1. Multiply the length of the strand in inches by 25.4 to convert it to millimeters.

2. Divide the length of the strand by the width of your bead. This number should be accurate within a few beads!

For another example, if you want to know how many beads are in a 13x4mm tube bead strand, simply divide 406 / 13 = 31. So I would expect about 29-33 beads on a 16 inch strand.

Of course, while this is a pretty good way to find the number of beads per strand, if there are any knots in the thread between beads, or if there are clear spacers between shaped beads to protect them, this method will not give an accurate result, and then it’s best to count them oneself.

I hope this helps you!

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  1. avatar

    Donna Geurin

    February 29, 2012 at 8:22 am

    This is really good and interesting. I am printing this to keep as a reference. Thank you.

  2. avatar


    February 29, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Rose, I really appreciated your bead counting system. This is one that I had not heard of or tried. My accountant/husband has me count everything that I purchase that goes into my jewelry. Good thing, too. He said it would only take one time that the IRS did an audit and asked to see my records for every cost and I would be able to produce the records and banish the guys forever. I hope! But your system sounds like a winner–as long as I have my trust calculator nearby! Thanks.

    BTW, when I put cabs or unstring the beads into a container, I put the cost per item onto masking tape and place it on the inside of the container so I know exactly what I’m charging out per piece of jewelry. And I charge out the items (icluding every inch of wire) when I have completed the item. Keeps my records stright and up-to-date.

    • avatar

      Jil S

      February 29, 2012 at 8:51 am

      Wow… I bow down to your efficiency! That’s amazing! And also good information to have (IRS)

  3. avatar

    Danielle M

    February 29, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Fabulous information! I love finding ways to simplify things. It is really tough to price a piece if you have no idea what the component costs are. And counting each bead? Ha! Thanks so much for this great method. I also label things the way Jil S does, so that I don’t have to go searching thru records. But I wasn’t do it at the price/bead level. This makes it easy to do that.

  4. avatar


    February 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Living in Canada, I’ve had to use the metric system for years now. For purposes of counting beads, a 16″ strand converts to 400mm plain and simple. I know the exact number is 25.4mm to 1 inch, but 25 is much easier number to use. I don’t require a calculator and I can calculate the bead count in my head most times.
    I also have a scale that can measure pieces. This is a very handy device to “count” vary small beads including seed beads. I simply have to weigh 10, 20 50 or 100 beads depending on the weight of the beads. The scale lets me know when it has enough beads to make an accuarte reading. After that I just place the rest of the beads on the scale either in one or several batches and it gives me an accurate account of each batch. Also, I always decrease the count by a few beads to make up for waste and or/loss before I calculate cost price per bead.

    • avatar


      February 29, 2012 at 4:19 pm

      Excellent, Adrien! That’s smart to round that way, and then it’s not so bad for mental math! Smart plan on the scale, too – I do that with my knitting & yarn, why not with beads? Thanks!

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    March 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this! I find all your tips invaluable!