I talked to a customer on the phone recently who was having some serious wire woes. She was trying to wire wrap a pendant but just couldn’t get it right. It turns out that the wire she was using was all wrong. This is a very common problem, actually—especially for beginning beaders. Even people who are more experienced find that a wire used for one project may not be the best wire for a different project. With so many options, how do you choose? Luckily, there are a few guidelines you can follow when selecting your wire.
Colourcraft/Artistic Wire – If you are completely new to working with wire, I would suggest using Colourcraft or Artistic Wire. Both are colored copper wires, so they are much more affordable than working with Sterling Silver Wire. I personally prefer Artistic Wire when I want to use silver wire because the silver coloring is brighter and more permanent than Colourcraft’s version. Colourcraft does come in all kinds of fun colors—from red to green to black—and is great for making fun rings.
Which Gauge? - The lower the number, the harder the wire; therefore, 16 gauge is a lot harder than 24 gauge. If you are new to wire wrapping and making loops, I would suggest starting with a 22 or 24 gauge because you will learn technique without killing your hands. You may also find that beads with small holes, such as pearls, will only fit on a 22 or 24 gauge wire. I almost exclusively use a 21 or 22 gauge wire to make drops for bracelets or earrings unless I am working with pearls. I have found that 20 gauge is best for makingrings because it is flexible enough to wrap around a ring mandrel but sturdy enough to maintain its shape when worn. I would also say that 20 gauge is great for simple wire wrapped pendant; if you want to do lots of intricate work with your wire, you might want to use a 22 gauge instead. The heavier gauges, such as 16 and 18, are generally used for making your own jump rings and clasps, chokers, bangle or cuff bracelets and other heavy items. Since gauge sizes are uniform, the above information holds true whether you are working with Artistic or Colourcraft wire or sterling silver. Sterling Silver Wire will have two differences though.
As with almost everything in the bead world, practice makes perfect and you will find that you have your own preferences. Don’t be afraid to learn something new—like making a simple wire wrapped bracelet or a basic ring. The more you learn about wire and how to work with it, the easier it will get and the more it will enhance your unique jewelry designs.
Shanna Steele, Auntie’s Beads Designer