What’s the best wire for wire wrapping?

November 12, 2008 at 11:15 am 4 comments

An informative article from Jewelrywirewrap.com:

What’s the best wire to use for wire wrapping?

 This is a common question for most new and aspiring wire wrap artists.  However, the “best” wire to use is wire that’s appropriate for the design or project you want to create and then personal preference as you become more experienced. Most artists will experiment with different wires to create new and unusual designs and end up choosing their favorite which dominates most of their work.


There are many types of wire from Stainless Steel craft wire to Gold Filled and Solid Gold wire.  The most popular craft wire is available in a variety colors usually coated with colored or clear vinyl and is made with multiple strands for durability and flexibility and is used for beading.  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 gold wire for some of my work.  But my favorite, which happens to be the most popular for a variety of reasons, is sterling silver. Copper wire is the second most popular wire used for making jewelry.


Wire for Wire Wrap Jewelry, including Sterling Silver wire, is available in many shapes like oval, triangle, square, and round profiles.  Each profile lends itself well for the various styles they are used for.  Sterling wire comes in other shapes or profiles, but those listed above are the most commonly used.  Wire also comes in different thicknesses or gage and hardness levels also known as malleability.  Wire gages range from 6 gage to 28 gage with 28 being the thinnest; which is about the thickness of human hair.


Hardness levels range from Dead Soft (DS) to Soft, Half Hard (HH) to Hard.  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 or elaborate designs so I stay away from it for this reason.


I use Half-Hard and Hard Sterling Silver Round wire for 99.9% of my work with the majority falling between 18 and 24 gage wires.  I simply prefer round wire and it happens to be the easiest to obtain.  Half-Hard and Hard wire is difficult to work because it is hard to bend and requires a strong hand and tools.  The 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 HH and Hard wire because once it’s bent , it’s done, and will usually not get damaged through wear and tear.  Durable is the word I’d use. These pieces should last for generations and even become heirlooms.


– Earrings: I use 22 to 24 gage sterling wire.

– Pendants: I prefer 18 and 20 gage sterling wire.


New wire wrap artists and beading enthusiasts may want to practice with copper wire.  Not the multi-strand wire you buy for speakers or lamp cords, but electrical wire like the type used for light load household use.  These wires can be purchased at major hardware or building supply stores.  A 12 to 18 gage *ROMEX works well and is a common brand of 3-conductor (3-wire) solid copper wire that comes in various gages and is sheathed with white or black plastic.  The profile is a flat oval due to the 3 wires inside.  Simply stripe away the outer insulation as well as the insulation around the wire inside.  Each inner wire is insulated with black, white and green , and one wire may not be insulated at all.  A non insulated copper wire inside the outer sheath is the ground wire and will not need to be striped; which can save you time.


*Romex is a brand name and copyright is held by the Romex company. This is not an endorsement, merely a guide.


Sterling Silver and Copper wire can become tarnished over time; keep its luster by storing in plastics bags.  This is a nice way to keep your wire shiny or to preserve the luster for a longer period coiled up in a plastic bag.  The kind with a tight seal , or zipper style works well; just press out as much air as possible before you seal it.  Air is the culprit of oxidation, removing the air keeps you and your wire happy for a longer time!


The wire I use for Pendants spans the gamut and depends on the size and shape of stone or other material that I am wrapping.  But I mostly use 18 and 20 gage wire for pendants since I prefer a specific size, shape, and stone or bead type.


Hope this tid-bit of info helps you.


Happy Wrapping!


Raymond Ihrig





How to wire wrap crystal points tutorial





Entry filed under: Articles, Downloads, How to, Jewellery making, jewelry making, Tutorials, Wirework. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lois  |  November 12, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Nice article. Very well done. I just love working with copper. Easy way to clean copper is with lemon juice and salt. Just dip, rinse and dry. I keep mine in the bathroom and dip after wearing to keep it shiny. Keep writing. I’ll check back.

    • 2. Alicia Lynch  |  May 17, 2010 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks for your article. I have been wire wrapping sea glass with stainless steel and copper wire but am now ready to try sterling but was very confused about dead soft, half-hard… and I was unsure what gage wire to use since sterling silver is softer than stainless. If I hadn’t have read your article I was going to look for 10 gage sterling, thinking it was a softer metal so I would need a lower gage than the 20 that I like to use in the other metals. You very well may have saved me money by not having me order the wrong supplies.
      -Alicia Lynch

      • 3. Raymond Ihrig  |  July 25, 2011 at 3:51 pm

        Thank you for your kind words Alicia. Sorry it has taken so long to reply – I didn not realize anything was posted here until I noticed a visit to my website with tracking software.

        Anyway, I trust that you were successful since this post?

  • 4. Beth  |  March 25, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Raymond, thank you for the article. It addressed most of the questions I had regarding what type of wire to use when wrapping. This is something I’ve been playing with for years, and now I find I have the time to really apply myself to it. One question I do have, though. I am curious where you buy your wires. I live in a relatively small town, so sources here are pretty much non existent for good quality stuff, so I typically turn to online purchasing. However, what I have found so far is the run-of-the-mill ‘craft’ quality. I’m looking to make pieces that are ‘heirloom’ quality. Can you point me in the direction of a good supplier for this?


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