Top Tips for Beginning Wire Jewelry Making
A wire gauge is an essential tool for determining which wire is perfect for your project.
Wire Jewelry Making Primer
Here are some basics to know when working with wire.
The diameter of wire is known as the gauge. In the United States, the standard is Brown & Sharpe, also known as American Wire Gauge. The diameter of wire in inches or millimeters is translated into a numeral from 0-34. The higher the number, the thinner the wire. Most findings are made from gauges ranging from 14g-24g. Working with heavier gauge wire is more difficult by nature.
Additionally, jewelry suppliers will sell wire in three hardnesses: dead soft, half hard, and full hard. All wire will get harder and stiffer as you work with it (that’s called work hardened). So if you’re going to be weaving or coiling wire, you should work with dead soft. But if you’re making head pins or ear wires, you want it to already be stiffer, so that it maintains its shape. In that case, it’s best to buy half hard. Remember, you can always harden wire more by tumbling or hammering with a nylon or rawhide mallet. Nylon and rawhide will harden without flattening.
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Making simple findings is one of the easiest things you can do in wire jewelry making, and by far the most useful. Imagine the money you can save if you never have to buy head pins, ear wires, jump rings, and hooks! Some general rules for the wire gauge to use for each are:
18g-22g (Some people can’t tolerate a wire as fat as 18g, and 22g must be very hard to hold its shape. I find 20g half hard to be perfect for ear wires)
18g-24g (Of course, your bead holes will determine the size headpin you need. Pearls need the finest gauge for the tiny holes)
16g-22g (Again, your particular project will determine how thick a jump ring you need. The finer the gauge, the less secure they’ll be)
14g-18g ( Heavier gauge wire will make a chunkier, more substantial hook clasp. Hooks made with finer gauges should be tumbled or hammered to stiffen them)
Some examples of the different sizes and shapes of head pins you can create with different wire gauges.
One great tip? You can make perfect earwires by bending the wire around a Sharpie pen.
Now you’re ready to dive into the sumptuous wire jewelry making designs in Step by Step Wire Jewelry. Each issue offers over 14 new projects for every skill level. Why not treat yourself to full year of issues? Be inspired!