So what type of wire should you use for your wire project? That is one of the most often asked questions, especially those new to wire jewelry making. While most decisions really are personal preference, much of the decision is also connected to the type of jewelry you are making. There are a few general rules of thumb that you can follow when first starting out. Then, as you start to work with wire, feel free to experiment because as we know all rules are meant to be broken.
Wire comes in three different forms of hardness: dead soft, half-hard, and full-hard. Below are some basic definitions for each type:
- Dead Soft: As the term indicates, this wire is very soft and can be bent with your hands. It is often used for wire-sculpted jewelry.
- Half-Hard: It is harder than dead soft wire because it has been pulled through a tool with holes in it the same size and shape of the wire, also known as a draw plate.
- Full-Hard: This wire is harder than half-hard wire because it has been pulled through a draw plate more times than half-hard wire.
Wire comes in a variety of shapes such as round, square, and half-round. Most, though not all, wire projects use round wire since it is the most versatile. Simply add round beads for bracelets and your bracelet will be complete. Artists who prefer to make wire wrapped style jewelry usually use a lot of square and half-round wire. They’ll use the half-round to wrap around the square when attaching the wires together.
In the US, the size or thickness of wire is measured in gauge (sounds like gage) while in most European countries they measure it in millimeters. Below is a list of the different sizes and what is “normally” used for each size.
- 26 and 24 gauge (.40mm – .50mm). This size is good for beads that have small holes in them such as pearls. It is
recommended to buy these in half-hard. In an ounce of 26 gauge wire there is about 76 feet and in 24 gauge there is about 48 feet of wire.
- 22 and 21 gauge (.65mm – .71mm). These sizes are used a lot because they are very versatile sizes and most beads like crystals and stone beads can fit on them. These are typically sold in dead soft and can be used to make bead and wire chains and also for a variety of jewelry findings such as ear wires or head pins. One ounce of 22 gauge has about 31 feet and 21 gauge has about 24 feet of wire.
- 20 and 18 gauge (.80mm) – This is about the thickest wire that most beaders use. You can get about 19 feet of 20 gauge wire when you buy it by the ounce.
So hopefully this will get you started and this is by no means is a complete list of sizes but a sampling of those most often used. We would love to hear what your favorite type of wire is? Let us know what size wire that you use for each of your jewelry pieces.
So buy your metals and beads on-line and get going! Time is a wasting!