Page 20     Jewelry Making with Beads and Wire -- What a Beginner Needs to Know

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Jewelry Making -- Choosing Your Jewelry Wire (Continued)

Another jewelry making issue to discuss is durability.  Jewelry wire is relatively soft by comparison with glass or stone.  The inside of glass or stone beads has small microscopic irregularities that act as the teeth on a saw and will ultimately cut thread or smaller jewelry wire.  Over time and with heavy wear, glass or stone beads can saw through wire.  This effect can be minimized by using a bead reamer to remove some of the microscopic ridges inside the bead, but it can not be eliminated.  Bracelets seem to be most vulnerable to this sawing action, but necklaces are also vulnerable.  Anything that gets a lot of wear and as a result a lot of motion by the beads is vulnerable.  The sawing action of the beads is a consideration whenever you are making a wrapped bead link connecting two wire components via a wire segment with the wire inside a bead.  In general, it is easier to make a wrapped bead link with thinner wire, but thinner wire is less durable.  22G jewelry wire is recommended for making the wrapped bead link, but for a piece that will get a lot of wear, 20G wire may be a better choice. 

The last jewelry making topic to discuss is hardening jewelry wire.  Just as during the manufacturing process wire can be made in one of several hardness's, when making jewelry a wire artist can change the hardness of a jewelry wire component.  Most of us have experience in breaking a wire coat hanger by bending it back and forth many times.  With the coat hanger, we were changing the hardness of the wire by "work hardening" it.  Each bend increased the hardness of the wire until we saw one of the drawbacks of very hard wire -- it became brittle and broke.  With our jewelry wire components we want to make them permanent, so we frequently want to increase the hardness of the wire.  This happens naturally as part of manipulating the wire into shape by work hardening.  We can use nylon jaw pliers to help with this manipulation and by squeezing the piece in the jaws of the pliers we can work harden the piece.  We can also significantly increase the hardness of the wire by hammering it with a chasing hammer or nylon hammer and anvil.  When making ear wires, using a chasing hammer will be an important step to set the round portion of the ear wire and make it permanent.  (Please note: do not hammer wire where one wire segment crosses over another piece of wire.  that can cause the wire to break.) 

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