What Wire Do I Use In My Jewelry Making?

What Wire Do I Use In My Jewelry Making?

I frequently am asked what wire do I use in my jewelry designs and where do I get it? I am happy to answer that question and to share that information with you.

(In the above earrings Enameled Charms and Lampwork Glass by Kimberly Rogers, and Ceramics by Ragged Robyn!)

I use Black Annealed Steel Wire that I purchase at Ace Hardware. (I have not found this particular item in this packaging at Home Depot or Lowes hardware stores.) I usually get several packages at a time for around $3.95 a package plus tax.  If you do not have one locally, you can order it from Ace Hardware or Brenda Schweder on Etsy at… https://www.etsy.com/shop/brendaschweder?ref=listing-shop2-all-items-count#items.

Brenda’s shop carries a variety of sizes of wire. I use primarily 24 and 28 gauge. The 28 gauge is thin enough to go through my peals or small gemstones with small holes. I do like the look of the 24 gauge when I wire wrap something so that is the main gauge of wire that I use. I also have some 19 gauge for pounding into headpins for enameling, etc., but this gauge of wire is very hard to bend with just my fingers. You will need a pair of pliers or a tool to shape it.

Also you can do a search on Etsy and there are a few other shops that carry annealed steel wire in what look like large spools of unpackaged wire.

There are several ways to deal with the oily substance on the wire. (The oil is on the wire to keep the steel from rusting when exposed to moisture.) Some people like to pull the wires through sand paper, and I would imagine a light to a medium grade of sandpaper would work to do that. Some people like to wipe off the oil with a paper towel or rag. I like to leave the oil on, do the wire wrapping, and when I have finished with the wire wrapping I seal the wire with a microcrystalline wax, specifically Renaissance Wax, which was designed by the British Museum to protect items in their museum. Renaissance seems to be a specialty item that our local craft stores do not carry. I order mine from Forgeron Tools & Jewlery Supplies at www.forgeron.etsy.com or the Renaissance Wax page is: https://www.etsy.com/listing/103046612/renaissance-wax-polish-metal-wax-patina?ref=shop_home_active_15.

Brenda Schweder’s Etsy store also carries Renaissance Wax as I’m sure other Etsy stores do too.

I wipe on the wax with a soft cloth, aka my husband’s old tee shirt cut up into small pieces. I wipe small amounts of the wax over the exposed wire. I tend to do several earrings at a time in an open area as the wax is smelly. Then I set them aside for an hour to overnight. Then with a different soft small piece of cloth I lightly buff the wire. Voila’ you are done.

Here are photos of the Black Annealed Steel Wire, the Renaissance Wax, the cloth I use, and pairs of earrings with the wire wrapping and the wax applied and buffed lightly.  

                                                                                         

(Embossed Tinned Copper Charms by Sasha Crow & Sterling Silver beads from Numinosity!)

 

                    

(Enamels by Cathleen Zarring, Ceramics by At Home In Taos, and Lampwork Glass by Silverfish Designs!)

Have fun with this wire! 

Chris 

Comments

Love the look with the black

Love the look with the black wire..Love Ace Hardware for carrying it. :) Nicely written article, Chris, Thank you! :)

Thank you Cathleen

Thank you Cathleen for taking the time to comment! :))
Chris

Annealed Steel Wire

Thank you, Chris, for sharing this information. I do have a question, though. You've worked with copper, I assume? Is the steel considerably stiffer than copper? Thanks again for taking the time to share this!

Stiffness of wire

Hi Norbel, I think the steel is stiffer than any copper I have used, even the higher gauges feel stiffer than copper. I can easily bend the 24 gauge though. Ace doesn't seem to ever carry the 26 gauge which might be a little less stiff, but the 28 is very thin, still strong and it will go through pearls.
Chris

Thanks! I need to learn how

Thanks! I need to learn how to make earring wires. Love your earrings. And Ace is the place!!!!

Working with the Wire

Julia, I've seen the heavier wire, like the 19 guage, hammered and turned into headpins as is or for enameling and the higher numbered wire like the 22 gauge turned into earwires with a jig. Brenda Schweder created the wire jig I think and I know she has written a book on the topic of working with this wire, especially the heavier gauges.
Chris

Thank you for sharing!

Thank you for sharing!

Hi,

You are welcome!
Chris

Annealed black steel wire

Beautiful earrings. Do you use this wire for ear wires too?

Hi Ruth

As yet I have not used this wire for earwires but I have seen pictures of others making earwires out of this wire. The individual even did a beautiful job hammering the wire flat for a nice effect after making the earwire.
Chris

Question about the Steel

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your information. Can you tell me if there is a concern for people who buy earrings make with this for them to rust? I am asking because I live in California and I would love to use this wire - but do I need to put in a note for them not to swim in the designs made with steel? Or will the wax protect it from the salts etc...

Rusting

Hi DeMarie Rossi,
I did do an experiment on the 24 gauge wire in salty water last night through this morning. This is wire without wax, just the oil that is on the wire when you purchase it. The wire was placed in a warm bowl of water with a teaspoon of salt dissolved and swished around. I could see a bit of a change in color of the water this morning. Without disturbing the water I could see the signs of rust developing on the bottom of the glass bowl. So even with the oil on it the wire will rust in salty undisturbed water after sitting in this salty solution for 10 hours.

I might try it with the wax applied to see what happens next...
Chris

Hello DeMarie Rossi,You are

Hello DeMarie Rossi,
You are welcome!
Good Question...I have a statement in my policies section about not getting liquids on their jewelry design be it washing their dishes with a bracelet on or spritzing perfume on their neck and coating their earrings. I had crafted this policy before I used this wire to be on the safe side to avoid questions about materials in the jewelry reacting with the liquids. On that note just as a general principle I would apply that to jewelry made with annealed steel wire.
Now separate from the above it could be a concern if someone stood in the shower or went swimming with their earrings on. It is within the realm of possibility that moisture could impact this metal which is why it comes coated in an oily substance that gets replaced with the Renaissance wax to keep moisture from interacting with the metal.
On a personal note my jewelry hangs on a rack in my bathroom where steam gets generated if someone takes a shower and this is generally a rainy damp state. I have a bracelet like the one in the Jewelry Affaire article in the previous blog post, http://chriskaitlynjewelry.indiemade.com/blog/woven-amethyst-stones-publ..., that has sat on my bathroom counter for over a year and a couple pairs of earrings, both with the black annealed steel wire, and there has been no effect on the wire being in a damp environment.
I would lean towards the safe side and put something in your policy section if you have a web store or on a hang tag with the item, but I also don't think too much will happen based on the above example.
You could try an experiment, putting some straight wire and some coiled up wire in bowl of salty water and see what happens and note how long it takes before you see something happen to the wire, checking it daily, if anything. If you do, please let me know your results and I will update this post.
Thanks for the great question.
Chris Kaitlyn

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