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Wire Basics For Wire Jewelry Making

Updated on May 14, 2012

Wires for Wire Jewelry

Different wires perform very differently when making jewelry
Different wires perform very differently when making jewelry

An Introduction To Wire for Jewelry Making

Wire is available in a variety of different types of metal. Each of those metals has its’ own set of characteristics that determine not only its workability but also its’ desirability as an art element. Knowing these characteristics before beginning any jewelry making project can only serve you well and help avoid potential difficulties in your jewelry designing. All that's to say that learning about the different qualities of your materials first will most certainly help you when you're learning how to make jewelry.

Different types of wires have different attributes regarding composition, hardness and pliability. Of the metal wires, fine silver, sterling silver, brass and copper are the most viable for professional looking woven wire jewelry although integrating colored wires can enhance jewelry pieces. Also, given the high price of precious metals today, considering alternative metals, like enamel coated copper wire (colored wire) may be a great asset to your jewelry making.

Know the Characteristics of Each Type of Wire

Metal wires can come in their pure form or as a compound of metals known as an alloy. Alloys are typically made either to increase the workability of a wire or to produce a particular color of metal.

Metal wire comes in three degrees of hardness: hard, half hard, and dead soft. The different degrees of hardness correspond to the different potential uses of the wire. For example, jewelry ear wires are generally made with half-hard wire. Dead soft wire can tolerate the greatest amount of “working” and that’s why it is often preferred for wire weaving.

What To Know When Purchasing Wire

Wire is sold in varying thicknesses, commonly known as the gauge of the wire. The most important thing to remember about gauge size is that the higher the number, the thinner the wire. For example, a 14 gauge wire is fairly thick compared to a 24 gauge wire. For the purposes of braiding with wire for jewelry making, gauges usually range from 20 to 28 gauge. If you plan to use thicker wire gauges than these, the wire should probably be annealed (heated) prior to beginning your wire jewelry.

Finally, when purchasing wire, you’ll be asked which temper you’d prefer your wire in. This refers to the pliability of the wire and there are usually three tempers to choose from: hard, half hard and dead soft. Generally speaking, if you plan to “work” the wire a lot for your particular wire jewelry, you’ll want to choose dead soft wire.

Make Wire Beads 2011

Here's another great book and review for making jewelry with wire: Make Wire Beads


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