Wire can be very confusing subject for people just starting
out in wire working. It comes in an infinite combination of
sizes, shapes, hardness and materials.
There are many standards used around the world today for
The most common one used in the United States is the American
Wire Gauge (AWG), and in Canada and Europe, the Standard Wire
Like knitting needles: the smaller the number, the thicker
For wire wrapping, 20 gauge wire is a good all round size to
start out with.
For chain maille, 18 ga or 16 ga makes nice heavy jump ring
that are easy to close properly.
Wire comes in a variety of shapes including round, half
round, square, triangle and rectangle. Round is the most common
and versatile shape.
You can also order patterned wire, which is usually rectangle
wire that has a pattern “stamped” or “rolled” on one or both
Wire comes in various degrees of hardness: dead soft,
half-hard, and hard are the most common.
All wire starts out as dead soft, and as it is pulled through
a draw plate the wire becomes harder, because the molecules are
A good rule of thumb for beginners is that for 20 ga and
smaller wire use half hard, 18 ga and larger wire, use dead
Wire can be made out of almost any metal, or combinations of
metal. Some examples include:
(99.9% pure silver)
(92.5% silver and 7.5% copper)
Silver or Gold
(20% karat gold over a base metal core)
For the most part, fine silver is not used because it is too
soft and does not hold it’s shape well, especially in the
Copper is a good metal to start out with and for practicing
techniques. It is relatively cheap, readily available, and
similar in consistency to sterling silver.