What Gauge of Wire Should I Use to Make Jewelry?

Daily Wire Tip: What Gauge of Wire Should I Use to Make Jewelry?

By on November 3, 2011
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by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong and Krystal Day, Wire-Sculpture.com

In Part 1 of this series, How to Choose Wire Temper for Making Jewelry, we learned about the most popular wire tempers that are used to make wire jewelry designs. Now we will learn a bit about the size or gauge of jewelry making wire, along with some examples of how different gauges may be used.

When looking at the gauge numbers of wire, it is normal to think: “the larger the number, the bigger the wire.” However, wire gauges actually work in reverse: “the larger the number, the smaller the wire.” This is because all jewelry wire sizes begin at the number 0, and each time the wire is passed through a drawing die, it becomes smaller. So, a wire that is labeled as 22-gauge has been pulled 22 times, and it is 22 times smaller than its original size. The gauge equals the diameter of the wire, meaning the distance straight across its center.

In North America, the size of the holes in a wire-drawing die is based on a geometric formula developed in 1855 by the machine-tool company, Brown and Sharpe. This progression of 39 sizes is known as the American Wire Gauge (AWG). All of the wire stocked by Wire-Sculpture is labeled using the AWG. Other parts of the world may use the British Standard Wire Gauge (SWG), where the sizes are just a hair larger than those of the AWG. (For example: AWG 20-gauge = 0.813mm and SWG 20-gauge = 0.914mm.) For the purpose of this article, all references below relate to the American Wire Gauge (AWG).

1.425457wiregauges

28-34-gauge
These are extremely fine wires, with diameters that measure from 0.013-.006 inches or 0.32-.16 millimeters. When thinking about using these wires, compare them to sewing thread. They can be used for coiling, weaving, knitting, and crocheting, as well as to work with feather-weight small-holed pearls and seed beads. If it should become kinked, this wire will easily break.

26-gauge
Measuring .016 inches or .41 millimeters in diameter, this is also a thin wire, but unlike the extremely fine wires (above) it is amazingly strong. In a round shape, one of its most popular uses is to coil it around a larger-gauge wire. It can also be used to knit, crochet, and weave, and to attach small-hole pearls and beads to other projects.

technique-basics-weaving-a-wire-cuff24-gauge
This is the first gauge in this list that can be used in the base creation of both sculpted and traditional wire jewelry designs. The diameter of 24-gauge wire measures 0.020 inches or 0.51 millimeters. In a round shape, it can be used more aggressively in the same manners as the 26-gauge above, and in a square shape 24-gauge can be used to make frames and wire settings for smaller cabochons and faceted stones. It is also used to make individual jump rings and head pins, as well as wrapping the tops of briolettes.beadedbriolette-1

22-gauge
The diameter of this wire measures 0.025 inches or 0.64 millimeters. In a square shape, this is the preferred gauge for most traditional wire jewelry designs, such as bracelets, rings, and pendants for women and children. It is often used to make settings and frames for small-to-medium sized cabochons and cut stones. 22-gauge round is also used for larger coiling projects and those with experience will also use it for weaving and braiding designs. As a multi-purpose wire, it makes a nice double wrapped hook, head pins, smaller clasps, and it can be used to make individual jump rings.

Blu Cat's Eye Ring

Ring made with a blue glass Cat’s Eye and argentium silver. Ring created and photo provided courtesy of Adrien De Ruyck.

21-gauge
Slightly larger than the 22-gauge, the diameter of 21-gauge wire measures 0.0285 inches or .723 millimeters. In a square shape, this small difference in size will match 21-gauge wire with the thickness of several pattern wires, so that they may be used together in bracelet and pendant designs. It can be used in all of the same projects listed for 22-gauge, but in a heavier fashion, meaning anything made with 21-gauge wire is suitable for men. It is the preferred gauge for making most prong projects and rings. Round 21-gauge wire is also an excellent choice when creating hooks and eyes, individual jump rings and other components that need to handle more stress. It is the preferred choice for making ear wires.

gem 6, wrapped by Irisha Patterson

20-gauge
20-gauge wire measures 0.032 inches or .81 millimeters in diameter. In a round shape, 20-gauge wire is good for clasps, double wrapped hooks, head pins, ear wires and many other handcrafted components. The square 20-gauge wire is most often used to make heavier jewelry such as bracelets and rings for men, as well as to create neck collars for women.

18-gauge
Measures 0.040 inches or 1.02 millimeters in diameter and it is a very strong wire. It works well for making all types of hooks and clasps and for wire wrapping beads with large holes. It is used often when making ornate bracelets and when creating wire collars and heavier neck pieces.

16-gauge
This is a thicker wire that measures 0.051 inches or 1.29 millimeters in diameter. It can be used to make neck wires, freeform rings, bracelets and bracelet bases.

14-gauge
Probably the heaviest wire most wire artists will use, its diameter measures .0641 inches or 1.63 millimeters. Most often used in a dead soft temper, 14-gauge wire is perfect for making neckpieces, arm cuffs and bracelet frames.

mystery-stone-6
What are your favorite gauges to work in? Leave a comment below! Next time, we’ll cover the last topic in this 3-part series on jewelry making wire, on Choosing Wire Shape.

60 Comments

  1. avatar

    Barbara Stewart

    November 3, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I’ve just begun to use wire in projects and this was very helpful.
    Thanks for the information!

  2. avatar

    Sandra

    November 3, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Great info, thank you so much for your help! Are all the wire you mentioned, dead soft, half hard or what?

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      November 3, 2011 at 8:39 pm

      Hi Sandra, right now you will have to combine the article I wrote on Tempers with this one on Gauges – for more specifics – stay tuned!!

      • avatar

        Sandra

        November 5, 2011 at 2:01 pm

        Thank you!

  3. avatar

    Dawn @ MairzyDozy

    November 3, 2011 at 11:18 am

    This tip of the day is so valuable to me. I always struggle to decide which gauge to use for which technique. I am going to be referring to this a lot! Thanks. :)

    • avatar

      Dawn @ MairzyDozy

      November 3, 2011 at 11:23 am

      Oh, I forgot to mention my favorite gauge to work in. I actually use mostly 6 and 8 gauge for my hair fork and hair stick bases, and then I use 18 and 24 for my wraps and beading.

  4. avatar

    Mary

    November 3, 2011 at 11:35 am

    I have just begun this last year to make jewelry. I have been designing Rosary Beads and Chaplets since 2009 and use mostly 22g and 20g for that depending on the beads. Naturally, for hematite, I’d go with the 20g :) Now I’ve also begun working with the square and 1/2 round wires as I’m really loving wire working as well as making Rosaries. Very fulfilling activity all the way around. You know what they say about ‘idle hands’! lol
    Enjoy!

  5. avatar

    Cindy Schneid

    November 3, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    This is the information I have been looking for, in a concise format. Thank you!

  6. avatar

    June

    November 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I use 16 gauge wire for jump rings,I make bracelets they stay together good without soldering.June

  7. avatar

    Jilly W

    November 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I use 22 ga square and half-round for wrapping pendants most of the time, occasionally 24 ga for small dainty stones or cabs. I might use 22 ga round half-hard for earwires, but I’m just as likely to use 20 ga. Other than that I rarely use anything smaller than 20 ga, and I prefer 16 and 18 ga for most of my work. For bracelets and bangles I may even go to 10 ga, especially in copper and brass.

  8. avatar

    Nancy Gregory

    November 3, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    I like to use mostly 22- and 24-gauge half-hard wire for my projects. Thank you for the information, this is great stuff to know!

  9. avatar

    Daniella

    November 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Thank you, this has been very helpful to this newbie!!

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      November 3, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      You are welcome Daniella!!

  10. avatar

    BeaJae Harrand

    November 3, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    I’m celebrating my first 18 months of jewelry making. Every time I think I’ve seen everthing, something new pops up to get me excited about jewelry making again! I’m just in the begginers throes of wire wrapping and this will be very helpful. Thank you!

  11. avatar

    Bennie

    January 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Thank you so much, Dale. You’re a real help to beginners like me. I have one question though; what wire guage is best for name-writing?

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      January 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      Hi Bennie, name writing with wire can be done using either square or round wire in a half-hard temper. Most people use either 21 or 22 gauge, the choice is yours!

  12. avatar

    Mary

    March 15, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    I like to create with all gauges. The sky’s the limit!

  13. avatar

    Yifatiii

    March 17, 2012 at 4:27 am

    Very helpful, Thanks!
    When do I need to use dead soft and when half hard?

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      March 18, 2012 at 8:34 am

      Hi Yifatii, check out my article on Wire Tempers :)

  14. avatar

    charlotte

    May 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Im still just starting out to make rings,,this so far is my favorite thing to make,but,,i dont know what my favorite wire is i only know what its NOT,,its not 22 dead soft,,i cant get it to do anything,,it looks messy no matter what i do,,i have had good results with half hards but the dead softs kill me,,

  15. avatar

    Shelly

    May 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Thank you for this very helpful information. I am just a beginner in wire wrapping. My first love is chain maille, and I have been using jump rings from Walmart (my daughter works there so I get her to use her discount), but the packaging doesn’t say what gauge the wire is. I want to use colored wire and bought some 20 gauge but it seemed too thin. Going to try the 18 gauge and see if that is more to my liking. I love making my own findings as much as I love to make the jewelry. Going back to read your article on temper. Thanks again, you’ve really helped me tremendously.

  16. avatar

    Elisa

    June 2, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Hello,
    The old measers, gauges, AWG, SWg etc are very dificult and you can make mistakes .When every body use mm, millimeter, than you have never problems with the wire. Measer your own wire and make a label with the diameter in millimeters, so you cannot make a mistake when you make a new jewel.
    (sorry for my english.)
    succes
    Elisa, master goldsmith from the Netherlands

  17. avatar

    deidre Barrnes

    June 18, 2012 at 1:54 am

    Hi I have been making wire Jewellery for ab out five years.
    Most of my work is maded in 18 to 16 gage wire.
    l also use gauage 12 and 8 in copper.
    This is good for free form rings and heavy gauage beaceletts.
    This is a good alternative to gold.

    l use half hard for rings and if l am going to make coils and a lot of bending the metal is required l use dead soft for wrapping gemtones and some rings.When you hammer dead soft wire this will harden the metal.
    Deidre

  18. avatar

    Sondra

    June 21, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Hi everyone! I am so excited that I found this site and wire-sculpture. Great information for a beginner, I have been wrapping about year now. Unfortunately I live in a small town and can only get 20g, 24g round in silver or gold plate. So, I have started ordering my wire and am addicted to 21g sterling silver R, HR, and SQ in HH and DS. Looking forward to using gold filled and silver filled along with argentum (spelling??). Is there a difference in the gauge you use when using different types of wire?

    • avatar

      Rose

      June 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      Hi Sondra! It won’t make a difference; 21-gauge round dead soft wire is going to be pretty much the same whether you order it in bronze, copper, silver, gold-filled, or argentium. Copper is, by nature, softer than sterling silver, but you can definitely keep ordering the same gauge and shape across the metals. Good question!

  19. avatar

    Shelly Cardwell

    June 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    I have tried using 20ga round copper for handmade ear wires. It seems to flimsy & soft, so I order my copper ear wires. But i sure wish i could make them. What am i doing wrong? The spool doesn’t say what temper it is. I am a newbie.

    • avatar

      Rose

      June 22, 2012 at 8:52 am

      Hi Shelly, if it comes on a spool, it is probably dead soft. (If half hard is put on a spool, it would risk kinking and be hard to work with) You definitely need to use half hard wire for ear wires. You can try hammering the ear wires you have to make them useable.

  20. avatar

    sally jennings

    June 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    i mainly use 18 and 20 or higher, but have started buying 16 and 14, been dying to try these gauges out.

  21. avatar

    heather castillow

    September 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    how workable is the stainless steel 12 gauge wire? Would this wire need to be tempered and heated to be able to bend it? Also what is the largest gauge wire you carry on hard silver filled wire?

  22. avatar

    Eryka Garbutt

    September 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Thank you so much for this information. I use 30 gauge for crochet and 20 gauge for almost everything else but sometimes it is too heavy.I shall give 22gauge and 24 gauge a try. Here in Australia we can get 21gauge.

    I have only recently your newsletter and I am finding it very useful. Great work .

    Eryka

  23. avatar

    Tammy Sheppard

    December 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Hi. I’ve just started.just this month. I’ve started with 20 gauge and what I think is dead soft. My tools leave marks, is there a remedy for that? Your info has been very helpful, as has reading the comments. Thanks!

    • avatar

      Rose

      December 13, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Hi Tammy!

      Don’t feel bad! I think everyone starts out that way. I know how frustrating it can be, believe me :) Don’t give up!

      Step 1: Forgive yourself – you’re just starting out!
      Steps 2-4: Practice, practice, practice. Get a feel for what the wire wants to do, and train your muscle memory to make the smoothest moves possible. In wire, less is more.

      You may notice that the more you keep the wire in the center of the jaws, rather than on the outer edges, the better things turn out. Also, try using the tips vs. using the very inner part of the jaws, near the hinge. Your pliers may not “bite” so much if you find the sweet spot.

      Now, aside from that, I myself have a pair of flat nose pliers that love to chew up wire. So I just don’t use them for making spirals – they’re on strict jump ring/bundle wrapping duty. I have no idea why they seem to have invisible teeth! But I’ve heard that you can take sandpaper and smooth down the edges of the jaws – I think I need to do that.

      As far as other remedies: you can put masking tape around your jaws; there is a product called Tool Magic (and I think I have seen off-label brands of it too), which is is like sticking your pliers in liquid wax or rubber, giving them a coating. But before you visit these fixes, please give yourself a little more time to see if adjusting how you use the tools, and just getting more familiar with them, will help.

      And of course – the quality of your tools is going to show through in your work. My $6 flat nose pliers give me different results from my Swanstroms! Good brand names are Swanstrom, Lindstrom, and Wubbers. Make sure you’re using jewelry pliers, specifically, not just pliers from the hardware store. Here are a couple links for you to check out:
      http://www.jewelrytools.com/eurotool/jewelry-making-pliers.html
      http://www.wire-sculpture.com/jewelry-pliers-1.html

      Good luck, Tammy! We’ve all been there – and if you keep going and figure this out, you will be soo much closer to being the jewelry artist you want to be! Hope to see your pictures on our Facebook page soon! :)
      http://fb.com/wiresculpture.com
      Rose

      PS – Taking a hammer to your piece isn’t just good venting – you can also hide those tool marks with texturing or flattening. I like a chasing hammer or a brass hammer and a good bench block (on a cushion!).

      • avatar

        Tammy Sheppard

        December 14, 2012 at 4:42 am

        THANKS!! Will do.

  24. avatar

    Sandy Funderburk

    July 12, 2013 at 10:49 am

    You mentioned in a reply to see your article onTempers. I have not found it yet. Can you please tell me where it is in your site. I am a newbie and love the look wire cabs. Thanks, Sandy

  25. Pingback: Online Resource Center | Jewelry Making Blog | Information | Education | Videos

  26. avatar

    Rose

    September 20, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Hi, I am very new to this. I need a kindergarden class. I know I will love it once I understand all the concepts I need to learn. This site is very informative thanks for all the info on wire. I will continue on looking for other areas you may have posted. Thanks Rose

  27. avatar

    Bsl hardwood flooring

    January 15, 2014 at 12:38 am

    My spouse and I stumbled over here different web address and thought I should check
    things out. I like what I see so i am just following
    you. Look forward to checking out your web page for a second time.

  28. avatar

    Christy

    April 23, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Thank you Rose so much for freely sharing all the info. I have found a strong passion for doing just what you do. I have, over a few years, experimented with different jewelry crafting techniques and found wire sculpting and wrapping my favorite. My living room is covered in the stuff. I really like working with 20 gauge wire. But i also love them all because i found i can make dream catchers and even wind chimes frames with higher gauges and wrapped with smaller gauges. Thank you again so much for sharing your passion. You really inspire me!

  29. avatar

    Barbara

    April 25, 2014 at 11:23 am

    I started making jewelry about 5 years ago and discovered working with wire about 4 years ago. Around the same time, I discovered Wire Sculpture and subscribed to the daily tips.
    My favorite gauges are 18,20,22 for most of my projects. Sometimes I will use 24 gauge for fine wire wrapping.
    Your site has encouraged me to try different techniques in my journey of self taught jewelry making as well as different metals and shapes of wire. Square wire amazing!
    Presently, I’m looking for different links to make and I’m saving to buy dapping tools in order to try making bead caps. I also met a lady who daps bottle caps and makes beads out of them. I’m also going to try some different chain maille patterns for making bracelets and necklaces. For those, I will probably be using 20 gauge wire.
    I can’t get enough!

  30. avatar

    Marg

    June 4, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Hi, great informative article, thank you :) for a while now I\’ve been wire-wrapping rings and pendants and for this I use 20gauge for the base and then wrap with usually 24guage.. for more intricate designs I use 26gauge.

  31. avatar

    Marg

    June 6, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Hi, great informative article :) for a while now I’ve been wire-wrapping rings and pendants and for this I use 20gauge for the base and then wrap with usually 24guage.. for more intricate designs I use 26gauge.

  32. avatar

    Jacki

    June 19, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    I have just started to make any kind of jewelry, so this is so very helpful to me. I just started to buy wires and tools,so Thanks for all of the info. Very helpful.

  33. avatar

    Shirley Burke

    June 21, 2014 at 4:24 am

    A real newbie here ,just starting …can someone give me a list of supplies to help me get started ??would like to start with ,rings ,bracelets , earrings …or any suggestions…have been wanting to do this for a long time….

  34. avatar

    danyiel mager

    July 16, 2014 at 9:41 am

    hi. i am just learning how use wire. i found a super clearance of boxes upon boxes of 26 multicolored wire for .25!!!!!! not knowing or understanding that this is very difficult to find tutorials and project ideas for this gauge of wire, i bought every last one! tons!!!!! but now what? i have been searching what projects to make, jewelry how to use 26 gauge wire, what to make out of 26 gauge wire, etc….and i don’t find very much useful information. can you give me some ideas or tell me your opinion? i have been trying to sell off some or most of the wire , but as soon as the customer finds out the gauge they decline. help :( danyiel

    • avatar

      Jeff

      August 6, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      26 gauge wire is too light for much of anything except wrapping heavier gauges and attaching beads and things to your projects.

      So start wrapping! :-)

  35. avatar

    Diane

    July 17, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Thank you, very helpful info. I clicked the link for Part 1 but it says it’s no longer there, I assume since it’s from 2011? Do you have a direct link to that article, or can you republish? Thank you for all the helpful tips and great info.

  36. avatar

    Anita Campbell

    August 6, 2014 at 7:33 am

    The part about how gauge number is determined: drawn 22 times…is 22 times smaller than original size was quite interesting. Also the description breakdown about what the different gauge wires are commonly used for. I am just starting to get into wire.

  37. avatar

    Martha Flores

    August 8, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Thanks for the information!

  38. avatar

    Wende Popejoy

    September 20, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Been making wire jewelry for about 11 years now. I love 18 and 19 gauge for my jump rings. I use 22 gauge for wrapping. Half hard is best for me. 14 gauge I only use to make clasps and closures with. Good article for beginners.

  39. avatar

    naisha

    September 22, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Hi,im new to jewelry making and I found this website and I love it.im learnig a lot and how to use wire.i have a long way to go,but with this classes im sure I will learn a lot.
    thank you very much.

  40. avatar

    Larry Dallas

    November 13, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Information is always helpful! I struggled at first, but after time and lots of reading, talking with local beads store owner I finally caught own too how different sizes of wire are used for. Thank you for the chart and information. Larry

  41. avatar

    Larry Dallas

    November 13, 2014 at 8:30 am

    In making jump rings it is best to go by the aspect ratio charts. You can find this in the Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop by KAREN KARON. I do a lot of Chain Maille, and Wire Wrapping too. I find a lot of pleasure working with wire.

  42. avatar

    Sue Branham

    November 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I am fairly new at wire wrapping so this is very helpful.I would like to make some rings so now I know what to use.Thank You Sue

  43. avatar

    Anne Schofield

    November 23, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    For years I have worked with wire, but never knew the history of numbering wire gauges until I read this article. I am so happy I signed up for your wire tips.

    Also, do you have an article or lessons on the technique of filigree?

    Thank you so much.

  44. avatar

    kaye

    February 1, 2015 at 6:58 am

    Thanks so much for the wire gauge chart, very helpful and useful. Also the info about the gauges are fantastic. I returned to making jewelry this January and dabbed into wire jewelry since strung beads were becoming somewhat ‘ho-hum’.

    I usually use 20-22 wire gauge since I do make my own wire findings as well as clasps and rings, but not earrings. I prefer to purchse the already prepped ones. Main reason: my spool of wire are for my other trinket findings I can design.

    Wonderful info.

  45. avatar

    Sandra M.

    February 27, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Hi, Thanks for your tips. I enjoy them. I do have a question thou, What,s the best wire to make necklaces with. Is 14 n 12 gauges good. I made up my mind to make jewelry. I did a little last year. Please send me a guide?

  46. avatar

    Helen Huebner

    March 11, 2015 at 10:55 am

    I am a beginner in this. This guide will be so helpful. I know that I already have the wrong guage of wire for what I want. Thank you for the blog.

  47. avatar

    NORMAN

    March 18, 2015 at 7:16 am

    loved this article it is great for us newbee\’s

  48. avatar

    Carla

    April 23, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I am glad that I chose to get these tips they are extremely useful. I have always been artistically inclined and so I finally decided this January to just take the plunge and start making jewelry and have do well but it\’s odd that I got this information at this time because I\’m going further and want to get into wire jewelry. All I can say is that this is the perfect time for this information now I\’mm know exactly what gauge of wire to purchase for element of my jewelry.

    Thanks again!

  49. avatar

    Mary

    June 19, 2015 at 8:10 am

    I\\\\\\\’m new to wire wrapping and love to use 20gauge or in UK where l live 0.8 mm dead soft, but l find here its not labelled dead soft or half hard so you don\\\\\\\’t know till you get it home, wish it was better than that but enjoying wire wrapping all the same.

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