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How to Choose Wire for Making Jewelry

Updated on January 12, 2011

Find the Right Wire for your Jewelry Project

Making wire jewelry is very fun and rewarding. You can make a great piece of jewelry even if you have never tried wire jewelrymaking before. Once you become more comfortable with wire, the design possibilities are endless. However, it can be hard to know what kind of wire you need in order to complete a project. I remember being baffled by the different diameters of wire, different metals, and by terms such as 'full hard' and 'dead soft'. That's why I created this lens. I wanted to offer information about wire choices and recommendations for good wire to try.

Wire for Making Jewelry - An Introduction

As you become experienced working with wire, you will develop your own preferences for the hardness, sizes, and shapes of wire that work best for you. However, we all have to beg, borrow, or steal some wire before we can get to that point and it can be disappointing (not to mention expensive) to purchase a type of wire that won't work for our designs. Here's a table of the types of wire I use for different types of projects. In order to help you make your own choices, I've provided more information about hardness, diameter, shape, and size following the table.

Choosing Wire for Jewelry

Table of Recommendations

For each entry in this table, I've listed my choices in order of preference. I rarely have access to 21 ga wire, but I find it very useful. The three sizes I would never be without are 24 ga, 20 ga, and 18 ga. However, 22 ga is great for strong wire wrapping and 16 ga makes wonderful chain maille rings, armatures for cuff bracelets, and strong clasps.

Project

Wire Hardness

Wire Gauge

earring findings (hooks, loops, etc.)

soft (hammered after bending) or half hard

20 ga, 21 ga, 18 ga, 22 ga

handmade clasps

soft (hammered after bending) or half hard or full hard for simple shapes

18 ga, 16 ga, 20 ga

wire wrapped loops

dead soft or half hard 

22 ga, 24 ga, 20 ga, depends on specific design 

jump rings for chain maille

dead soft or half hard 

20 ga, 18 ga, 16 ga, 20 ga for delicate jewelry and tiny rings, thicker for heavier types 

'normal' jump rings for jewelry

dead soft 

20 ga, 21 ga 

French or Victorian beaded flowers

dead soft? craft wire is rarely labeled 

26 ga, 28 ga, 24 ga, 32 ga 

wire wrapping cabs

half hard, dead soft 

20 ga, 22 ga, 18 ga, square and half-round are great for this 

Find Some Wire!

You can find wire at any hardware store or craft store or you can order it online.

NEON CRAFT WIRE
NEON CRAFT WIRE

Want To Hot Wire Something? Best use this 24-gauge craft wire in hot neon colors. Our each is a dozen 40-foot spools. You'll get (2) each of hot pink, chartreuse, lime green, blue, bright orange and purple.

 
CRAFT WIRE, 12 COLORS INDIVIDUAL 3 YARD SPOOLS
CRAFT WIRE, 12 COLORS INDIVIDUAL 3 YARD SPOOLS

Wire work is a popular trend. It can either be used alone or combined with stained glass 'Cobbles' pieces, such sea glass, beads, polished rocks and other mediums for an endless variety of effects. Make beautiful bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. Add wonderful accents for cards and scrapbooking. Decorate glass bottles, candles, and vases. Create wire baskets, pins, dream catchers, ornaments and photo holders! Gorgeous, rich colored wire will make stunning projects. The list is endless, if you...

 

Learn to Work with Wire

Wire Hardness

You can buy wire that is dead soft, half hard, or full hard. Soft wire is flexible and doesn't break as easily when you work it as hardened types. However, hardened wire will hold its shape better than softer wire. It's very important to know that you can't really compare the hardness of wires that have different compositions. For example, hard steel is really hard and springy (think memory wire), while hard gold is still pretty soft and flexible (but harder than soft gold). Hard wire can be made soft and soft wire can be hardened. Wire gets hard as you work with it or hammer it. You can make your wire uniformly hardened by pulling it through a draw plate, which is just a block with successively smaller holes. The way to release the hardness is by heating the wire, which can be risky since you can lose the shape of your wire if you heat it to its melting point.

Wire Diameter or Gauge

Wire manufactured in the United States usually is sized according to gauge; most of the rest of the world uses millimeters. Both units refer to the diameter of the wire. A higher number of millimeters means a thicker wire, but a higher gauge is a thinner wire.

Wire Shape

You can get wire that is round, half-round, square, triangular, and in other shapes. Round wire is the least expensive. Wire with edges can be especially handy for wire wrapping. The shape you use will be a both matter of personal preference and based on comfort (e.g., no square wire for pierced earring posts).

Try a Jig for Making Jewelry - A little help with wire...

The reason I like this particular jig for making wire jewelry is because it is more affordable than the larger jigs (because it is smaller). You can hold it in your hand, which makes it easy to wrap wire. I like that it is see-through because you can put your designs underneath the jig. Finally, I love how indestructible it has been.

You are welcome to sign my guestbook, write comments, or ask questions about choosing wire for making jewelry.

Questions or Comments About Choosing Wire for Jewelry?

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    • profile image

      TWOnline2 

      7 years ago

      useful

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      9 years ago from Canada

      Great information for someone who is interested in making jewellery.

      Brenda

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      9 years ago from Covington, LA

      Thanks for an informative lens. I am getting back into jewelry making after a hiatus of several years and the information about the different gauges was helpful.

    working

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