Wire types for Wire Wrap Jewelry
There are many types of wire from Stainless Steel, Copper and Aluminum to Gold Filled and Solid
Silver wire. The most popular is Aluminum craft wire which is available in a variety of colors
usually coated with clear vinyl and comes in different diameters. It is made for durability and flexibility and is used for beading or wire work. It will usually not fade or tarnish and is great for the beginning wire wrap artist due to its wide availability and inexpensive cost. There is also solid or thick single strand stainless steel spring wire used for a lot of popular bracelet and necklace designs. On occasion I use gold filled and solid fine silver wire for some of my work. But my favorite, which happens to be the most popular for a variety of reasons, is Copper wire. Sterling and fine silver are the second most popular wires used for making jewelry.
Wire for Wire Wrap Jewelry is available in many shapes like oval, triangle, square, and half round and round profiles. Each profile has certain uses for the type or style of wire wrapping involved with the design. Wire also comes in different thicknesses or gauges and hardness levels, also known as malleability. For wire wrapping, Wire gauges range from 6 gauge to 30 gauge with 30 being the thinnest, which is about the thickness of human hair. Hardness levels range from Dead Soft (DS) to Half Hard (HH) to Hard. Dead Soft and Half Hard are used more often because it’s easiest to work with. Dead-Soft wire does not hold its shape well when used for wide looping without first hardening it, but works great for elaborate designs right off of the spool.
Fine, Sterling Silver and Copper wire can become tarnished over time due to oxidation. You can keep the wires luster by storing it in plastic zip lock bags before use. This is a nice way to keep your wire shiny or to preserve the luster for a longer period of time. Air and oil on the skin of your hands are the biggest culprits of oxidation causing that brown dull luster on the wire. Have you ever looked at an old penny versus a new one? As people handle the penny, the oil from their hands along with exposure to the air cause the penny to tarnish over time. The same is true of copper and silver jewelry. There are ways to prevent this which I will share in another post.
I use dead soft copper and dead soft fine Silver round wire for 99.00% of my work with the majority falling between 18 and 28 gauge wires. I simply prefer round wire, and it happens to be the easiest to obtain. Half-Hard and Hard wire are difficult to work because it is hard to bend and requires a strong hand and tools. The Half-Hard and Hard wire nicks or damages easily as well because you must firmly clamp down on it to get the wire to bend correctly. However, I still prefer dead soft wire because once it’s bent, it’s done, and will usually not get damaged through normal wear and tear. It is both durable and lasting. These pieces should be around for generations and even become heirlooms.
The wire I use for pendants spans a wide range and is dependent on the size and shape of stone or other material that I am wrapping. But I mostly use 18 and 20 gauge wire as the base and 24-28 gauge for the weaving on the pendants. Although I plan my designs, they very rarely come out the way they are drawn as I usually let the stone or focal point dictate the style and flow of the design as I’m weaving.
I’ll cover how to protect your wire and jewelry in my next post.
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