Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why One Won't Do - Wire Gauges for Jewelry-making

Ever walk into a jewelry-making store, start out in awe, then get  overwhelmed by all the choices?

I'm not just talking about the multitude of beads in every material, color, shape, and size you can imagine, but also finishings, clasps, crimp beads and crimp covers, all in a variety of metals, sizes, and qualities.  

Then, there's also THE WIRE! 

If you are working with wire as a basis for your jewelry to make pendants, bracelets, rings, earrings, you probably don't need just one type or size of wire, but maybe 4-5 to get you started.   Why so many rolls?    Each gauge of wire handles differently and serves a different purpose.  

The higher the gauge, the thinner the wire is.   For example 24 gauge is very thin and pliable.   It is best used for making links in a chain, dangles for earrings, and linking very small, lightweight, small-holed beads.   If you need the item to be stiff when you are finished, this is not the wire for your project.   22 gauge is nearly the same.   It's good for doing wire-wrapping around stones and crystals small in size.   It's nice for these jobs because it's so easy to bend.

As the gauge numbers get lower, the thicker the wire is and, generally, the harder it is to bend.   20 gauge wire, is an excellent slightly-stiff wire that is nice for bending, scrolling, twisting, and making hammered clasps.   It bends easy enough when you need it to, but hardens up after hammering.  (See sample below.)   It's my favorite, all-around wire size.
18 gauge is the largest I use, but you can find larger wire.   At this size it can become very difficult to bend and control.   It is great for pendants though when you have heavy beads that need a lot of support so they don't wiggle too much or so the wire doesn't bend after the necklace is made. 

Because each size can fill a different need, I sometimes use more than one wire size on a single piece of jewelry.   A heavier wire may stabilize the base of the pendant while there may be dangling pieces connected to the bottom by thinner strands of wire.   

Don't be tempted to use a thin wire for a pendant though, just because a couple of the beads have small holes.   You'll be sorry when the piece won't stay straight.  Instead, use a bead reamer (a very thin round file made especially for this purpose) to carefully enlarge the hole or substitute with a different bead.   (Please note that bead reamers work great on most beads, but not on glass.)

In addition to gauge, there are many other considerations, such as whether you want to start with a less expensive wire at first for practicing, a sterling silver wire over copper, or solid sterling silver...or maybe you perfer copper, brass, or ...      It may seem overwhelming in the beggining, but know that with a little experience, you'll soon be reaching for the exact roll of wire you want for each of your projects!

For more information and samples, please visit

Content originally published:    Sharyl McMillian-Nelson  ©  2011 Intuit Inc. Business Directory article   (15-Jun-2011)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

BRAVO...more, more!