Wire allows so much versatility in designing your jewelry. From beading, to wire wrapping to creating pendant frames the possibilities are endless. But what is the best choice of wire to use for your project. What is best suitable for your design? There are a few different factors to consider when choosing wire. Think about the wire harness, wire shape, wire size and the other pieces of your design for compatibility.
The softest wire available, dead soft, is very soft and pliable. This wire is considered easy to work with, formable, easy to make spirals, great for wire wrapping around wire and beads, especially soft stone beads. However, unless it is paired with a stronger wire type the finished piece can become bent and misshapen if not properly handled.
Half hard wire is a great medium to use, slightly stiffer than dead soft but still easily manipulated. It works well for making tight angular bends, wrapping around itself and it is strong enough but not stiff enough to bend chains and other materials you are working with. Creating spirals can be difficult, but once made, they are stronger that if made with soft wire. When finishing off a piece with half hard wire you can expect the look to stay more permanent that with soft wire.
Hard wire is very stiff and tends to spring back after being bent. This can make it harder to work with when using a jig. Hard wire will not make a spiral. The advantage to hard wire is that components made out of hard wire, while difficult to make, are very permanent.
Typically wire is round, however with experimenting we can now distort wire into different shapes. The shape refers to the cut end, round, half round, square or flat. You can flatten round wire your self using a hammer or mallet. This also allows you to create textures your wire. The shape of the wire is mainly for aesthetic purpose, round seems to be most versatile. However, you can create interesting unique designs with different shapes of wire.
In jewelry design using gauge 16-30 are most common. With the Standard Wire Gauge (SWG) the larger the number, the smaller the gauge. For example 6 gauge is about the size of a straw and 30 gauge is the size of a piece of thread. The gauge of jump ring used in jewelry typically range from 18-22 gauge. This is dependant upon the other findings and chains being used, anything finer than 22guage as a jump ring is generally to weak and will not do its purpose to connect pieces.
Lastly you need to think about compatibility. What size chain are you are using, the strength of the chain, the link size. As well as if you are using beads or stones. Stones have a hardness scale that can be helpful for you to figure out what wire is best suitable.
For example: Amber and pearls are considered soft stones. So you would use soft wire, likely 26 or 28 gauge depending on the purpose. Sapphire is a hard stone, so you could use half hard wire 24 or 26 gauge if the sizes are compatible.