Daily Wire Tip: Wire Gauges for Various Jewelry Styles

By on August 3, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

I am prepared to start wire working after a year or two of reading numerous questions and responses, as well as many success stories. I have hesitated for a few reasons – one being the fear of making a mistake or not starting out on the right foot! What gauge wire do you recommend I start out to begin with? I want to begin my works with brooches, rings, and maybe bracelets.

-Laura in Villers-dt-Orval, Belgium

Answer:

The first decision you need to make, regarding beginning wire jewelry creation, is what style interests you the most.

Each style requires different wire sizes, tempers and shapes. For example:

  • Sculpting is mainly done with square dead soft wire in gauges from 24 to 20.
  • Coiling uses a lot of soft and half hard, round wire in gauges from 32 to 16.
  • Weaving utilizes a variety of gauges from 24 through 16, shapes, (round, half round and square), and tempers, (half hard and soft).
  • Traditional combines all of the above, but the most commonly used are square and half round, (half hard), in gauges 24 through 12!

I suggest beginning with earring and bracelet projects, as most brooches are advanced and except for very simple designs, rings are the most difficult of all.

You might want to give a try to these full length, free video projects.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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17 Comments

  1. avatar

    Rose Bovan

    August 4, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Hello Laura,

    I have been making jewelry for about a year and 4 months to be exact. I have an uncanny nack of looking and doing. My projects are all over the place, meaning I have done rings bracelets, earrings, necklaces, toes rings and Brooches, it’s just what you feel. I don’t classify myself in one are, whether ists beginner, intermediate or advance. You say you have all the information, and all you needed to know was the gauges to start out with and what projects. I say do you, and you will be just fine.

    Rose in Florida
    Stay Bent!

  2. avatar

    Barbara Bear

    August 4, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I was so glad you asked that question. As a beginner myself I have found information on which metals gauges, etc the hardest thing to figure out.

    It’s very easy to find information on tools but this has been a different story all together. There are so many choices out there. It gets very confusing. Plus as beginners we tend to make a lot of mistakes. It can get expensive!

    Any more advice from some old timers would be appreciated!

  3. avatar

    Terri

    August 4, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Laura,

    I’ve been working with wire for less than a year. I was a little nervous to use expensive silver wire to start so I used copper wire to practice with first and then when I was happy with my technique, I made the design in silver wire. Just start playing with the wire to get a feel for it.

    Good Luck,
    Terri

  4. avatar

    Lila

    August 4, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Laura,
    Never ever let the fear of making mistakes stop you from doing anything! The best way to learn is to make mistakes. We learn a whole lot more from our failures than our successes. When you start with wire use only base metals. That way your mistakes won’t be costly. Copper is the best to start with. And once you are making beautiful work, even the copper pieces will have value.

    They say that you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. I know you would like to know how to create all kinds of jewelry using many different techniques, but I would suggest choosing one technique, and one type of jewelry, like a pendant. Master that first, then when you are proficient, try it on another type of jewelry. Or try another technique making pendants. It really won’t matter what you start with. Just focus on one method and master it.

    On making mistakes, there is a great story about Thomas Edison and his efforts to create the light bulb. A reporter asked Thomas Edison about the ten thousand experiments he went through to invent the carbon filament – something along the lines of “how does it feel to have failed ten thousand times to create the electric filament?”

    Thomas Edison replied: “I have not failed, not once. I’ve discovered ten thousand ways that don’t work.”

    Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from anything.

    Cheers
    Lila

    • avatar

      Janice Fingado

      October 4, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      What Lila says is correct. I always tell my students the little saying “You don’t become a Pro by knowing how to do 1400 techniques; you become a Pro by doing one technique 1400 times.”

  5. avatar

    Kathleen Bianchi

    August 4, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Hi Laura. When I started wire working, I purchased copper wire from the local home improvement (or hardware) store. I used 20G and 18G. The wire is less expensive and it makes good practice wire before going on to Sterling Silver wire. Best of Luck.

  6. avatar

    Kathy

    August 4, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Start out with copper wire. That’s what I’ve been doing because you can get it cheap at home improvement stores and if you make a mistake, it is very forgiving. Practice with some different gages to see what suits you and your project best. When you get good at it, you can move on to other more expensive metals (like silver). Most of all, have fun!!

  7. avatar

    Debbie

    August 5, 2010 at 12:48 am

    I’m like Rose in Florida. And I’m IN Florida. But my projects are also all over the place. I don’t let anything scare me. I bought some spools of 26 guage wire at a certain auction site, with no particular plan for it. If I have a lightbulb moment, I go with it. I’ve followed project instructions that called for thicker wire & used my thinner wire with good results. I wrap anything I think will be enhanced by the wire I wrap around it. I’m about to do some glass marbles in all differenert colors.

  8. avatar

    Barb

    August 5, 2010 at 2:53 am

    I agree with what everyone else had to say. I would like to add that I also started out using copper from the hardware store, but Wire Sculpture.com also sells square and half round copper wire. I have been using this to practice wire wrapping and have had more success doing so. I have also been “spicing up” my projects using a combination of silver and copper wire and I really like the look. It saves some money when I have a “design change”, AKA- boo-boo. I usually do the first try or prototype in copper, then make the second one a combination of types of wire.

    I love Dale’s DVD’s they have been very helpful to learn this craft.

    Have fun and stay twisted

    Barb

  9. avatar

    Alex

    August 6, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Hi Laura and all;
    I have been doing wire wrap for about 30 years, and I started out doing rings and pendants, the hardest of all! I started doing earrings a few years ago, and I find them to be my best sellers. They can be made with the cheapest material and still sell.
    I also suggest beginning with copper. To make earrings, use dead soft or half hard. To wrap, use half hard square, the larger the project, the larger the wire. I use a lot of 20 and 22 ga., but in silver, I use a lot of 21 ga. if I can find it. For silver, use the new formulation of non-tarnish silver called Argentium®, which is still Sterling silver by law, but has other elements in it which prevent tarnish.
    I use a lot of silver, as it is affordable, and if I do gold, I go with gold filled, which is a little more, but still affordable. Remember, though, that copper is now becoming popular, and you can sell it as quickly as you can sell gold or silver.
    Once again, start out with earrings that have beads on them, graduate to pendants, then study rings, and finally (GASP!!!) brooches. Look up patterns on this site; they have some nice ones!
    Alex

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      August 7, 2010 at 12:49 am

      Thanks Alex : )

  10. avatar

    Clare Green

    August 12, 2010 at 1:09 am

    My best advice is to not wait so long to jump in! Persian rug weavers have known for centuries that “Only Allah is perfect.” Traditionally, they intentionally include a mistake so as not to offend the “higher powers”. Some of the greatest pieces I’ve seen in metalwork and pottery were “mistakes” that worked brilliantly. Most medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs have been serendipitous accidents.Penicillin was one. The “hottest” medical mistake resulted in Viagra. Originally developed as a way to treat high blood pressure, it was a resounding failure. But the researches noted an interesting but unintended side-effect; and drugs to treat erectile dysfunction were born!

  11. avatar

    Rebecca Emery

    October 4, 2012 at 6:19 am

    My very best advice to anyone considering working with wire is to get Dale’s book “Wirework“. Not only is it motivational, it’s clear, easy to understand and gives all the necessary information and tools (including wire dimensions) to create beautiful pieces. If you’re going to invest in this wonderful craft, you owe it to yourself to learn from the best. I did and have never been sorry.

  12. avatar

    Daniella

    October 4, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Hi all – I consider myself still new to wire wrapping, still so MUCH to learn and loving it all. I have my second fair coming up in Nov. in my town and am busy getting ready for that. I work with different gauges of wire and tend to match my wire to what I visualize in the components I will work with, so if the beads look better with the wire I pick, great. If I later think it does not really match, if it should be thicker or thinner, if it can be replaced I do so. My work is such that that can easily be done, I love working with gemstone focal beads. Of course, being correct from the beginning is even better…LOL

  13. avatar

    Melody Schmidt

    October 4, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Hello everyone. I started wire wrapping a few years ago, buying lots of magazines to teach myself. I can’t stress enough that I didn’t truly get the correct movements of the pliers, etc. until I purchased some of Dale Cougars DVD’s. I started out wanting to learn for myself, however after watching Dale’s DVD’s I began to get stopped by people wanting to know where I bought the jewelry I was wearing. When I told them I made them, I would end up walking out the door without the jewelry I was wearing, plus getting more orders. Yes I too began making things with the craft wire and then progressed to the Argentium Silver and Gold Fill. Give yourself a break and order some of her DVD’s. It’s a wonder how fast you will progress from there.
    Have fun and let your creative juices flow.

  14. avatar

    Mary Hallengren

    October 7, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    I was afraid to wire wrap so I started I started with Dale wrap a rock DVD. I used chalko pyrite stone (where it came from I don’t know) it turned out so great I was in total shock. I gave it to my daughter and every time she wears it people ask where she got it. I used silver plated wire. I have wrapped several stone and cabs since then, all using Dales DVD’s.

    Mary

  15. avatar

    Khristine Rivers

    November 13, 2014 at 10:04 am

    i just started making wire rings just a few days ago.. i saw a video tutorial (youtube) and got interested.. i’m using galvanized wire, cheap and can make a lot in one spool..i make beaded jewelries and i also crochet.. they said “practice makes perfect”.. ;-)

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