Please welcome guest writer, Katie Hacker!
Katie Hacker has been wire wrapping for a long time and there is still a whole world of wire to explore. Katie is the content strategist for Halstead and hosts Beads, Baubles & Jewels on public television. Today, Katie shares tips on how to buy sterling silver jewelry wire.
Thinking about buying sterling silver jewelry wire? There are a few important things you need to know before you make your purchase. Sterling silver jewelry wire is available in a wide range of tempers, gauges and shapes, which you’ll choose based on what you want to make.
About Sterling Silver Wire
“Sterling silver jewelry wire is an alloy of 92.5% silver. The remaining 7.5% is usually copper, though sometimes other metals are used. The other metals are added to the alloy to increase the hardness, so the metal will be more durable, and to create the color and luster that is so prized by consumers,” says Hilary Halstead Scott, President of Halstead.
Sterling silver jewelry wire can be soldered, formed and annealed. You can use it to make your own findings like head pins, eye pins, jump rings and clasps or you can use it to do wire wrapping, make rivets, bezel-set stones and more. It is wonderfully accommodating and versatile for a variety of techniques.
Jewelry Wire Temper
Dead soft wire is easy to bend with just your hands. Unless it is a very heavy gauge, it doesn’t hold its shape without work-hardening. Use dead soft wire to make loops and spirals. Once you have finished forming the wire, you may wish to harden your shapes by gently hammering with a rawhide or nylon hammer. This will work harden the pieces, so they hold their form. Otherwise, the dead soft wire can be easily bent out of shape.
Half-hard wire is more difficult to bend. It’s the standard choice for components that need to hold their shape, like earrings or clasps. Use half-hard wire to make crisp angles.
Jewelry Wire Gauge
Gauge refers to the thickness of the wire. The higher the gauge number, the thinner the wire. So, 24-gauge wire is thinner than 12-gauge wire.
The word “gauge” was originally based on the number of times that a wire had to be pulled through a draw plate. That’s why the thinner gauges have higher numbers and thicker gauges have lower numbers.
The gauge you’ll need depends on the design you have in mind. If you want to make your own rivets, 14-18-gauge is a good choice. For ear wires, 18-20-gauge (work-hardened) is common. For wire wrapping, fine gauges 24-30-gauge are best.
Jewelry Wire Shape
Round wire is the most prevalent style of wire because it’s so versatile and used for everything from wire wrapping to making findings and bracelets. All of the Wubbers Mandrel Pliers work well with round wire. It can be hammered or run through a rolling mill to flatten it for a different look.
Half-round wire is domed on the top and flat on the bottom. It’s perfect for using as a binding square wire when making wire wrapped jewelry. Large gauges can be used to make finger ring bands or ring shanks.
Square wire is often used for portrait settings or other types of wire-wrapped designs where several wires are bundled together. Because the wire edges are square, the wires will lay flush without gaps. Make crisp right angles with Wubbers Designer Square Mandrel Pliers.
Gallery wire is typically used to form bezel settings, but it can also be used in other jewelry making applications, such as decorative bails or soldered embellishments. If you are using the gallery wire to bezel-set a stone, you’ll need to consider the height of the stone when selecting the wire width.
Pattern wire makes beautiful finger ring bands using Wubbers Extra Large Round Mandrel Pliers, custom bangles and other creative jewelry. It’s commonly used with a patina to highlight the decorative details. The pattern is only on the front side, so the back is plain and flat.
Fancy wire is round wire that has been put through a secondary process, such as diamond cutting, shaping or twisting. The surface of the wire has a texture and is very shiny because the extra surfaces reflect the light. Fancy wires can be used for wire wrapping, making components, and to make lovely double bezel embellishments around the outside of a bezel setting.
Flat wire is perfect for making finger ring shanks, bails, bracelets, collars and more. The surface is plain and shiny so you can leave it as-is or use a Wubbers Artisan’s Mark Texture Hammer to decorate the surface. It’s also ideal for hand stamping.
Caring for Sterling Silver Jewelry
Sterling silver jewelry tarnishes when exposed to sulfur and other compounds that are common in the air and water. Once you’ve made your amazing jewelry from sterling silver wire, you’ll want to take care of it. Here are some tips:
- Don’t swim, shower, sweat or sleep in your sterling silver jewelry.
- Avoid contact with perfume, makeup, lotion and hairspray.
- Use a silver polishing cloth or ultra polish pad to remove tarnish.
- If your wire is textured, use a spray or a dip to clean it. Be careful to avoid stones or pearls.
- Store your jewelry inside a bag with an anti-tarnish tab.