Page 19     Jewelry Making with Beads and Wire -- What a Beginner Needs to Know

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Jewelry Making -- Choosing Your Jewelry Wire

Style, durability, and hardness are a few of the considerations involved your choice of jewelry wire for a jewelry project.  First and foremost, the finished piece of jewelry must be durable enough to stand up to the wear and tear that is expected for the finished jewelry component.  Second, the hardness of the jewelry wire must be appropriate for the design.  (Spirals don't work well with half-hard or hard wire.)  Finally, the selection of wire must be esthetically pleasing in both color and size. 

First some background facts on jewelry wire.  Almost all jewelry wire in the US is sold in sizes defined by the American Wire Gauge.  In this standard as the gauge of the wire increases, the size of the wire decreases.  As an example 16 gauge wire is much larger than 22 gauge wire.  To view the size of wire in each gauge and the diameter of that wire in inches and mm, please visit here.   As the wire gets larger, or the gauge gets smaller, the wire becomes harder to bend.  Simply put, it is easier to bend thin wire than it is to bend thick wire.  In general, wire components for earrings are made in 20 gauge wire, wire components for bracelets are made in 18 or 20 gauge wire, and wire components for necklaces are made in 16 or 18 gauge wire. 18 and 20 gauge wire are relatively easy to bend and durable enough to stand up to the wear necessary.  16 gauge wire is harder to bend and probably isn't appropriate for beginners.

With inexpensive wire, like copper, brass, or Artistic Wire, the wire is generally made in only one hardness -- soft.  With more expensive jewelry wire like sterling silver, gold, or gold-filled wire, the wire is commonly manufactured in one of five hardnesses -- soft or 0, 1, half-hard or 2, 3, or fully hardened or 4.  For the jewelry making projects described in this web site, we generally only use soft or half-hard wire according to the project.  Soft wire bends easier than half-hard wire and tend to remain in place once it is bent.  Half-hard jewelry wire is somewhat springy and tends to spring back some once it is bent.  Soft wire is perfect for making spirals and other rounded shapes, but doesn't make crisp angles.  Half-hard wire makes crisp angles and wraps around itself well, but because it is springy, it must be pushed beyond where you want it to end up.  Please visit our Nov. 9, 2003 jewelry making newsletter for good information on how to work with 1/2 hard wire.

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