It is common to have many questions, like: "What kind of wire do I need to start making jewelry?" or "What is hardness and gauge?"
Fortunately, we are going to answer all of these questions here. But the most important thing you need to remember is that choosing the proper jewelry wire is vital for successful projects.
When you choose the proper shaping wire, your project will go much more smoothly, and it can ensure long lasting pieces that won't fall out of shape.
Here we are going to help you get started if you are a wire jewelry newbie.
Shaping Wire Materials
Jewelry wire comes in a wide variety of materials. You can select from precious metals like gold and silver to base metals options. Here, we are going to explain the most popular ones.
It is essential to understand that all metals behave differently. This means that some will be better than others for different uses. And keep in mind that not all materials are measured using the gauge system, so keep this in mind when buying supplies. It's also important to note that jewelry wire comes in hard and soft materials; choose the best one for the task at hand.
While stainless steel is a strong wire, it is also a very challenging wire to work with because it is very hard. It is accessible in different hardnesses, but even the softest version tends to be quite stiff. With all of that said, if your application requires a robust stainless steel wire, then you must have the specific jewelry making tools exclusively for working with it. Stainless steel wire is likely to damage your tools due to its harness; this is particularly true with cutting tools. So make sure to have heavy-duty wire cutters if you plan to use stainless steel wire.
- Sterling Silver- is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. Sterling silver is mixed with another element to create a more durable material. Sterling silver is also commonly referred to as 925 silver.
- Fine Silver- is 99.9% pure silver. It is more expensive than sterling silver, and it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Fine silver is very soft and challenging to create jewelry with because it can bend out of shape easily.
Hardness Scale Of Wires
Jewelry wire is rated in three hardnesses which are dead soft, half-hard, and full hard. The hardness measures how much the metal resists bending. This measurement is key for making wire jewelry.
- Dead Soft- is very easy to bend as it offers little or no resistance. It is vital to notice that dead soft wire is not your best option if you want to form hard angles. This type of wire is not recommended for structural shapes. You can use dead soft wire to coil around another piece.
- Half-Hard- has the perfect balance between dead soft and full hard. The half-hard wire is gentle enough to work with but hard enough to keep its shape. You can use half-hard wire for making ear wires, hoop earrings, and jump rings.
- Full Hard- the stiffest resistance. It is challenging to flex, but it is ideal to do structural things as it retains shape very well. The primary problem with full hard is that it has less maneuverability, so you need to be careful not to make a mistake. This type of wire is not recommended to do spirals or other tight shapes.
Figuring out which wire you prefer is something that will come with experience and time.
Understanding Wire Gauges And Sizes
The most important thing you need to know about jewelry wire is that it comes in different thicknesses and sizes. The size measures the thickness of the wire, and it is known as the "gauge."
The most crucial thing you need to remember is that the smaller the gauge number, the thicker the wire. For instance, the 10 gauge wire has a 2.6-millimeter diameter, while the 28 gauge is around 0.3 millimeter diameter.
Here are some of the most common types of wire gauges and their uses.
- It is about 1.3 mm (0.052 inches) thick
- It is ultra-heavyweight wire that will not to lose its shape
- Great for making ring shanks, j-hook clasps, and links for jump rings
- It is about 1.0 mm (0.040 inches) thick
- It is a heavyweight wire that holds its shape
- It is widely used to make hoop earrings and connector links
- It is about 0.81 mm (0.032 inches) thick
- It is a medium-heavyweight wire
- It has the perfect size to make ear wires, open connectors, hoops, and loops of all kinds
- This gauge is 0.64 mm (0.025 inches) thick
- It is a medium weight wire
- It is thick enough to do eye pins for dangles and earrings.
- Good for making small or closed connectors
- It is not heavy enough to make big open-air connectors
- It is about 0.51 mm (0.020 inches) thick
- It is a medium-lightweight wire
- It is not ideal to do an open connector, but it is excellent for wire wrapping
- Closed connectors that don't have tension
- This is considered the most versatile wire
- It is about 0.40 mm (0.017 inches) thick
- It is lightweight wire
- It is excellent for using with small tiny beads like briolettes.
- Terrific for wrapping
- It is a fine tiny wire about 0.3 mm (0.13 inches) thick
- It is an ultra-lightweight wire
- Perfect for stringing tiny beads and wire weaving
Tools For Cutting Wires
Jewelry wire requires special cutters to get a clean-cut finish. For most jewelry designers, the preferred tool is the Beadalon Designer Flush Cutter.
The Bread Designer Flush Cutter has two sides. Please notice that one side is flat, and this is the side that addresses the wire when you cut. The other side is diagonal. It provides an accurate angle for making a knife-like, even cut.
The flush cutter will make a level end where you cut. This cutter is so popular because it prevents any rough ends that can cut the skin or get ripped on clothing.
We recommend using the Beadalon Designer Flush Cutter for copper, gold-filled, and silver wires of 18 gauge and higher.
- You can use wire Rounders to put a nice round end on the wire to give a nice finish look.
- Flat-nose pliers have smooth flat gripping area jaws. These pliers are versatile and perfect for beginners.
- Chain-nose pliers are similar to flat-nose pliers and are usually used in conjunction. They are designed to get into tight areas as they have a smaller, more delicate tip.
- Round-nose pliers are used for creating rounded loops with wire.
- Fine flat-file is used to smooth any rough edge left by wire cutters.
- Nylon jaw pliers are used for straightening bent or kinked wires.
Choose The Wire That is Best For You
There are many important things to keep in mind about jewelry making. The most crucial choice you need to make is what wire to use. Most jewelry designers prefer slimmer options between 24-28 gauge.
Please do your research to determine the best type of wire to use according to your project. If you are learning, it is a brilliant idea to start with the half-hard wire as it is the perfect balance between softness and hardness. Finally, you need to think about what type of jewelry design you have in mind to choose the proper type of metal to use.
Do you have any experience working with shaping wire? Please share with community by commenting below.