In this article the basics of sterling silver wire for jewelry making will be explained carefully. Silver wire for jewelry making is such a multipurpose material for creating lots of jewelry pieces and it is easy to work with if you learn and understand a few of the basics. It will be discussed; how the silver wire diameter is determined, the various hardness (tempers), the temperatures of melting, and the available various shapes. Use this information in this article to choose the best silver wire for jewelry making in any project you are going to do. There is no right or wrong or absolute for sure. But your knowledge will add the power to any of your choices.
Start with the Craft Wire, as it does not have as lots of things to be discussed as the silver wire for jewelry making does. There are also a specific type of the craft wire called the Artistic Wire. Craft wires are a copper wire that has a coating with permanent color. It is available in all diameters or gauges which will be listed now for the silver wire for jewelry making, but the common hardness will be described as the ‘soft.’ The larger diameters can be hammered slightly to make another shape and harder. However, it is done only with the copper and silver colors. Hammering the color coated silver wire will tend to crack the color of the coating. Do not ever heat the craft wire for any soldering process. Craft wire are available also in the round shape and polishing a craft wire is not necessary. The available colors of the craft wire are fascinating and you will be sure to find at least 5 of your most favorite pieces.
Sterling Silver Wire for jewelry making is explained as a metal wire that holds 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metal (commonly copper). Also you can find the 99% sterling wire online or in almost all of the local jewelry making supply stores. Sterling silver wire for jewelry making is easy to find, pay for, and use compared to the other metal wires like the gold metal. It is usually sold by pound, ounce, foot, or inch. Buying by inch or foot will work best for sure. It is hard to think what an ounce silver wire will look like when buying at the online stores.
Now the properties mentioned above will be discussed separately.
Diameter or thickness of the silver wire for jewelry making is described by using the terms ‘gauge’ or ‘millimeters’. Gauge looks s to be the most common terms used recently. Below are listed the common gauges with the equal millimeter measurement for use. A gauge size is explained by a number with the letter ‘g’; the higher the number, the thinner the wire will be, so the lower the number, the thicker the wire will be. 26g wire is thinner than 14g wire. The common gauges you will see on the store are from 26g for the thinnest to 14g for the thickest. A tool for wire measuring is available with the gauge size on one side and the millimeter size on the other side of the tool. This tool seems like a circular metal disk with circles and slots around its edges. This tool really not necessary for the basic silver wire for jewelry making. Here are the equations size of the gauge size and millimeter measurement:
10g = 3.25 mm
12g = 2.64mm
14g = 2.03mm
16g = 1.63mm
18g = 1.22mm
The temper or hardness is usually explained in three different ways. Dead Soft is extremely malleable but does not hold well its shape and does not create a pretty proper angle bend. It is better for weaving or knitting wire and it will become harder when you work with it. The next temper is Half Hard that is malleable as well but it will always hold its shape better than the dead soft temper. It is easily to be used for the strong connections. Half hard silver wire for jewelry making also will create and hold sharp bends. The last temper is Hard or Full Hard temper that is of course the last of the malleable options, but it always holds it shape perfectly and is the perfect choice for creating clasps. When you work with any silver wire for jewelry making of these tempers, they will become harder. This is commonly called the “work hardening”. Hammering the finished design will harden the wire as well. Heating the silver wire, which is called annealing, will make the wire soft again if it got too work hardened. These hammering and heating techniques are beyond the reach of this article.
It is a basic feature of silver wire for jewelry making, but you really only have to be aware of it when you are getting into the soldering of your Sterling silver wire for jewelry making. The purpose of soldering is to create a permanent bond between the two sections of the silver wire without melting all over your work. Therefore, silver solder melts the silver at a bit lower temperature to make the permanent bond. There are some level of silver solder: Hard, Medium, Easy, and Easy-flow. Below are the melting points of the various solders include the fine silver and sterling silver (on Fahrenheit).
Easy flow solder – 1270oF
Easy solder – 1325oF
Medium solder – 1360oF
Hard solder – 1450oF
Fine silver (99%) – 1762oF
Sterling silver – 1640oF
The most common shapes of sterling silver wire for jewelry making and its most widely used with jewelry projects is of course the round. If you prefer to choose other than the round one, you can choose between the half round, square, triangular, rectangular, or even twisted shape.
Hopefully, this article was able to explain several basic properties of craft wire and sterling silver wire for jewelry making and make you feel more confident to choose the perfect wire for your work.