Jewelry Making Wire Facts

Wire jewelry artists love sterling silver jewelry making wire. But, more metals exist for jewelry making and beading. Discover them today!

About Wire for Jewelry Making

Use these guidelines and helpful information when making wire jewelry with beads.

Wire Jewelry Metals

Brass Wire

A copper and zinc alloy, raw brass is golden yellow in color. Antique it and it turns greenish brown. Great for making vintage style jewelry!

Brass jewelry components are very popular today. Why? Maybe because it is a cost effective alternative to sterling silver and gold-filled wire.

But, it looks great too!

Copper Wire

Pure copper is very malleable or soft. It's reddish color is warm and earthy, a natural complement to turquoise.

Copper wire for jewelry making is a cost effective alternative to sterling silver and gold-filled wire.

And, guess what? Copper jewelry wire is the same wire used to bring us electricity. No kidding!

Gold Wire

Gold-Filled Wire

It's name is somewhat of a misnomer as the wire is not actually filled with gold, but rather the gold is pressure bonded to another metal.

Gold-filled wire has an outside layer of 12K gold, making it much more durable than plated wire.

Karat Gold Wire

Of course, wire is available in solid karat gold too.

Common karats are 14K and 18K. However, it is very, very expensive. It is primarily used by very experienced jewelry makers.

Niobium Wire

Niobium wire is a naturally hypo allergenic base metal, niobium in it's natural state is grey. It is anodized (coated) to create various colors. Niobium wire can be pricey.

Steel Jewelry Making Wire

Memory Wire

Made of stainless steel, memory wire is available in stainless steel color and silver or gold color (plated). Always use memory wire cutters to cut it.

Finish the ends of a memory wire necklace or bracelet with memory end caps or a simple wire loop.

Memory wire is available in necklace, bracelet and ring size coils and is relatively inexpensive.

Stainless Steel Jewelry Making Wire

What is that you say? Stainless steel wire in beaded jewelry. Yes, it's becoming the happening thing.

You can find it in your local hardware store or try bead stores and shops. It will look black, not a stainless steel color.

Silver Jewelry Making Wire

For making wire jewelry, silver wire is commonly available in three different alloys (a mixture of two or more metal types).

Argentium™ Silver Wire

A new type of sterling silver, Argentium™ wire contains an additional material (and less copper) that helps it to resist tarnish better than standard .925 sterling silver. However, it's usually more expensive than sterling.

Fine Silver Jewelry Making Wire

Of course it will cost much more than sterling silver jewelry wire, but will not tarnish. Fine silver wire contains 99.99% silver so there is no copper to cause it to tarnish. It can also be fused to itself, which means that you won't need a torch or solder.

Sterling Silver Jewelry Wire

Though its cost have skyrocketed over the past few years, sterling silver wire is still very popular. It's relatively inexpensive if compared to wire made of gold.

Sterling silver wire contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, which causes it to tarnish over time. You will need a torch and solder to fuse it together or to other metals.

Craft Jewelry Making Wire

This is usually copper colored wire. The color can wear off and if the wire is scratched, the copper can show through. It's available in small spools of various gauges. It makes a great wirework practice wire and is fun.

Personally, due to its temporary nature, I would not use it to make jewelry that I make to sell. However, if you make these disclosures to your customers and they still want it, go for it. Sell it as costume jewelry, which is always popular.

What Causes Wire to Tarnish?

It is the copper in wire that causes it to tarnish when it is exposed to air for long periods of time. To help prevent tarnish, store jewelry making wire, or your jewelry, in plastic bags to keep air out.

Jewelry Making Wire Temper

Wire is malleable or pliable. Temper gives an indication of the malleability of the wire, its ability to hold its shape and to bend fluidly.

Wire is most commonly available in three tempers: dead soft (most malleable), half hard (less malleable) and full hard (least malleable).

The more you need to work the wire the more malleable you want it to be.

  1. Soft wire is very pliable, produces smooth curves but does not hold a bend well. Dead soft wire is more often used in wire sculpture, where the wire is manipulated many, many times into smooth curves.
  2. Half hard wire is somewhat less pliable, but holds crisp wire bends, making it ideal for making wire wrapped jewelry. It is well suited for most wire working projects, especially those requiring sharp bends in the wire.
  3. Full hard wire is the least pliable. Is not very fluid and holds crisp bends, but cannot be worked much before breaking or being annealed (heated to soften).

As a beginner, look to a project's supply list for which wire temper to purchase. As you gain more experience, you'll decide which temper of wire you want to use in a project.

When in doubt, half hard wire is the best all-around choice for making wire jewelry. I use half hard wire most often and have never used full hard wire.

Jewelry Wire Gauge

Wire gauge measures the diameter or thickness of wire.

The smaller the gauge, the thicker the wire. Twenty gauge jewelry wire is thicker than 22 or 24 gauge wire as you can see in this picture of sterling silver jewelry wire gauges.

Wire Gauges

For at-a-glance gauge to millimeter equivalents, see this wire gauge chart .

Shapes of Jewelry Making Wire

  1. Round - Shape most often used to make wire jewelry. Some jewelry artists, like myself, prefer to use round versus square wire as the primary wire used to make wire wrapped jewelry. Small gauge round wire can be used as the wrapping wire in making wire wrapped jewelry.
  2. Square - Shape most often used to make wire wrapped jewelry. Square wire has edges that provide a better grip on a stone when its wire wrapped.
  3. Half Round - Primarily used as the wrapping wire in wire wrapped jewelry.
  4. Triangle - Triangular shaped wire is also available. It's usually used in advanced wire work or to make metal jewelry.

Ways to Work Harden Jewelry Making Wire

  1. Make Wire Jewelry - Wire can be hardened to some degree simply by manipulating it into jewelry.
  2. Hammer - Hammering flattens and hardens wire. Use a steel hammer to flatten, texture or harden wire. Use a rubber mallet to harden jewelry making wire without changing the shape of the wire. Simply lightly hammer the wire jewelry and it will hold its shape over time.
  3. Tumble - A tumbler is a piece of electronic equipment that can be used to harden jewelry making wire, though it is most often used to tumble polish rough stones. It is used in conjunction with stainless steel shot pellets, water and lubricant. The equipment is plugged in to run for several hours for a smooth, shiny finish.

When you know a little about wire, what it is and what it can do, making wire jewelry is fun and easy. Enjoy!

Ready to begin some wire jewelry projects? Try these beginner to intermediate wire and bead jewelry projects by Marlize Kasselman.

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