5 Tips for Colored Wire Jewelry Making

I've been unpacking my craft room/studio/office since I moved (yes, that was six months ago . . . shh!) and working on getting each part of the room set up and organized–one side for jewelry making, one for paper crafts, one for my work desk, and one for general crafts and storage for everything else. Last week I came across literally dozens of little spools of colored wire, in several gauges and every color you can imagine, both metallic and matte finish.

Part of my stash of colored wire . . . oh, the possibilities!

Those spools of wire are like a bad penny; they keep coming up every time I dig through my craft supplies, and I've never used them. I've never been a fan of colored wire use for jewelry making, but I could never part with them, either. When I discovered them this time, though, it was different. Suddenly, I like them! A lot. The colors really appealed to me, and I knew just where to go for ideas and tips on using them.

Sara Richardson, former associate editor of Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry, wrote a great post about working with colored wire during the early days of Jewelry Making Daily. "More often than not, I choose to work with color-coated copper wire or craft wire," Sara wrote. "Part of the reason why, I'll admit, is because it's way easier on my budget. But the more important part is because I like the boldness and the brightness of the colors. I'm not really that into liver of sulfur, and I'm not a big fan of polishing tarnished pieces. Since this kind of wire is nontarnish, I never have to worry about polishing . . . and the people I make jewelry for don't have to worry about it, either."

Wrapping colored wire can enhance the color of dramatic pieces like Sara's Ocean Garden necklace. Photo: Michael Richardson.

Here are Sara's five must-knows about working with colored wire.

1. It's less expensive than other metals. You can pick up quality colored wire for about $5 to $6 for a spool. Depending on the gauge, you can get anywhere from 40 feet to 100 feet of wire. At every Bead Fest, I stop by the Parawire booth to pick up several spools of wire in several gauges and colors. Then I take it home and play with it . . . pairing it with matching or complementing beads. The results are always amazing to me, and if I ever mess up what I'm doing, I'm not afraid of wasting the wire due to how much it costs. The other well-known brand of colored wire is Artistic Wire.

2. You can get it in metallic colors, too. Colored wire is available in silver, gold, rose gold, copper, and gunmetal. Because of this, I haven't had a strong compulsion to completely leave it behind and move to the more expensive metals.

You can coil and hammer colored wire with ease and without fear of tarnishing or the color chipping off! Jewelry by Sara.
Photo: Michael Richardson

3. You can use colored wire just like other metal wire. Another great thing about this colored wire is that you can bend it, coil it, spiral it, and wrap it to your heart's content and not have to worry about the color chipping off. You can even hammer it and still get great results!

4. There are some challenges and limitations. It's usually only available in 16 to 30 gauges, and some people may be allergic to the copper (or other) base metal underneath the coating. Keep in mind that craft wire isn't good for soldering or fusing projects–save those for the traditional jewelry-making metals, such as silver and gold.

5. Be careful with your pliers. If you have a set of worn pliers or cutters, you'll need to take a little extra care when working with colored wire. If you're too rough with them, they may mar the color coating, possibly exposing the copper underneath. There's an easy solution, though. Just dip your pliers in a coating like Tool Magic. It really helps to prevent boo-boos!


For more wirework tips and dozens of ways to use colored wire in your wire jewelry making, check out our Live Wire eMag! But don't just take my word for it; here's a bit of Live Wire buzz from jewelry-making fans and experts in the blogosphere:

Cindy Wimmer of Sweet Bead Studio says, "What makes this online magazine so GREAT? Live Wire is interactive–you'll find articles, tutorials, resources AND videos. Scroll around and click–it is easy to find information in greater depth than you would with a traditional magazine."

Lampwork Diva Cindy Gimbrone writes: "Live Wire is beautifully laid out and has many within-eMag videos to show you how to do the basics of wire wrapping. If you're not always good with following written directions like me, the videos are fabulous. You can see how to hold the pliers and which direction to wrap your wire."

Do you use colored wire in your jewelry? I'd love to hear about your experiences with it in the comments below!

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