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Ask Bailey Beader: How is Jewelry Wire Measured?

July 27th, 2011 · 6 Comments

For all of your jewelry making questions, Bailey Beader is here to help. We want you to be able to ask us anything, no matter if you’re a beginner or professional. We all get stuck sometimes when we’re being creative. Here’s a good question one of our customers asked a while back about jewelry wire:

Question:

I am looking for a particular chain and not sure how to measure gauge. Is 20 gauge thicker than 15 gauge or the other way around?

Answer:

The higher the gauge number, the thinner the wire. A 20 gauge wire is thinner than a 15 gauge wire. This chart might help you as you look at gauges.

If you’re ordering chain on our website, the listed measurements should also include the size of the links so that you know if the diameter is right for your designs.

I hope this helps. Happy beading!
-Bailey Beader

Here’s some more helpful information about jewelry wire others have asked our customer service via e-mail:

Question:

What type of jewelry wire do I use?

Answer:

There are four key points to consider when purchasing stringing wire.

First is the thickness of the wire. We suggest purchasing the thickest available that will still string through the beads. You will find the .018 to .019 as a nice average.

Second is to consider the amount of strands of wire woven into one thickness. You will often find 7, 19 and 49 strands as options. The more strands the more flexible and stronger the wire. We suggest using 49 with all heavy jewelry designs, as you will not have the risk of the wire breaking.

Third is the finish of the wire. Some wires will offer a color choice and some may only have a dark grey finish. If you are doing a design that shows the wire or has light colored beads, you may want to use a wire that has more of a silver tone than grey.

Fourth is the brand. Each beader will tell you one wire is better than the other. However most of the difference is based on the feel of the wire. Our designers use ZambaPro™. Not only does this wire come in 49 strands, offers various wire thickness but it also feels soft and doesn’t kink.

Types of Jewelry Wires
.010 to .012 – Seed Beads, Freshwater Pearls, Smaller Gemstones.
.012 to .013 – Crystal Beads, Seed Beads, Freshwater Pearls.
.014 to .015 – Medium Beads, Crystals, Glass Beads, Metal Beads.
.018 to .019- Medium to Heavy Beads, Gemstones, Crystals, Seed Beads, Glass Beads, Metal Beads. This is the most common size used in jewelry.
.024 – Large heavy beads, Gemstones, Beads with large holes.

Question:

What are “gauge” and “hardness”?

Answer:

Gauge is a measurement of thickness, with 4 gauge being the thickest and 34 gauge being extremely fine. Hardness refers to malleability or stiffness.

Perhaps the following information would be of help:

30 gauge is very fine and often used in wire crochet.

26 and 28 gauge are best used for wire wrapping and delicate wire work.

24 gauge is intended for beads with smaller holes, such as garnet stones and pearls (best used in half-hard to retain some shape)

22 gauge is fairly thick and good for stone and crystals. It can also be used for making your own findings such as eye pins and jump rings. (Can be either dead-soft if you need to manipulate it, especially with your hands, or half-hard if you are looking for more rigidity.)

20 gauge is very thick and good for making clasps. (Perhaps dead-soft would be best, as this gauge can be difficult to manipulate due to its thickness.)

18 gauge is good for chainmaille or for your heavier-looking pieces.

Dead-soft is the easiest to manipulate with or without tools, but it does not hold its shape well. In the thinner gauges it is used for bead wrapping.

Half-hard will retain its shape better for jump rings and findings, but is not as easy to manipulate, especially in the heavier gauges.

If you have a question you’d like to ask Bailey Beader, e-mail us at artbeadsblog@gmail.com or leave a comment on our blog. You can also e-mail us jewelry and craft ideas you’ve designed and be featured on our blog as one of our customer creations. Share your ideas and inspire others to get creative!

-Marissa

Tags: Ask The Experts · Beader's Resource

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Susan Osborn // Jul 27, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I would like to make my own ear wires. What type wire (gauge, softness) would you recommend?

  • 2 Crystal M. // Jul 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I have been using 20 gauge aluminum wire for wrapping stones. However, I am unsure if this will “turn” or tarnish. Which is most reccomended- aluminum or silver-tone beading wire? Sterling silver is beautiful, but it is just too expensive to experiment with.

  • 3 Marissa // Jul 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Susan! I would recommend using 20 gauge half-hard wire.

  • 4 Marissa // Jul 27, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Thank you for your question, Crystal! We carry some really nice non-tarnish craft wire that you may like. I would try 20 gauge if you’re wrapping stones. Unfortunately we are out of the silver wire, but you can always get an e-mail notification from us when it is back in stock! Follow the link below to view all of our 20 gauge craft wire, including some in different colors:

    http://www.artbeads.com/artistic-craft-wire-20.html

  • 5 Sharel Roath // Aug 3, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Hello, How do you decide what lenghth of wire to use when making a necklace? Do you add more wire to incorporate the fastener on each end? Do you measure the wire then cut it prior to beading or cut afterwards? Also, do you usually use wire to thread the beads or elastic string? And finally…how do you keep the bare wire from showing after you have gotten it as tight as possible and tied it off. I have trouble with wire and the elastic, but the elastic is worse. Any ideas on that? I keep buying beads when I see them on sale, but I haven’t done much as I feel I’m not doing them correctly. I would hate for them to fall apart after I spend so much time planning and stringing them. Thank you so much for your help. I’m sure I will be writing again. /S

  • 6 Marissa // Aug 3, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Hi Sharel!

    When you make a necklace, it’s best to add 3 1/2 inches to your desired length to leave enough room for adding clasps and tying off your wire. That way you can just snip off any extra wire when you’re finished with your design. Depending on what style of jewelry you like, you may use wire or elastic string in your designs. Wire may be easier to work with, though. To cover up your wire, I would recommend using crimp tubes and crip covers. If you’re nervous about beginning to bead, I would check out our Getting Started page to help introduce you to making jewelry. You can also browse our Learning Center for handy tips on special techniques and free jewelry ideas. I’ve added the links below. If you need anything else, be sure to e-mail us at artbeadsblog@gmail.com.

    http://www.artbeads.com/how-to-get-started-necklaces.html

    http://www.artbeads.com/learning-center-resources.html

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