Wire Gauges: How to Find the Right Size

Sep 24, 2008

I recently redesigned a pair of earrings using a different gemstone colorway. I found out pretty quickly that the new stones I was using had very small holes. So, with my stash’s head pin box before me, I started trying . . . 22-gauge? Nope. 24-gauge? Nope. (I was starting to feel like a toddler with a shape sorting ball!) Wow—26-gauge? Yes! Luckily I have all those gauges on hand—how frustrating it would be if I didn’t.

By the way, if you’re totally confused by all this talk about gauges, check out Linda Chandler and Christine Ritchey’s book, Getting Started Making Wire Jewelry. It’s a book geared toward beginners, but covers the wire gamut.  Buy Getting Started Making Wire Jewelry.

How to avoid this dilemma? The best thing to do, if you’re buying your beads at a bead shop, is to test the bead holes right then and there. If you don’t happen to have a selection of wire gauges in your pocket, just ask one of the employees if you can borrow a few for testing.

General Wire Gauge Chart

If testing the beads isn’t an option, follow my general chart. As illustrated above, these sizes aren’t written in stone—just suggestions for both fit and strength. Keep in mind that the higher the gauge number, the thinner the wire. 

Another Option

Another option for many beads is to physically enlarge the holes. Use a diamond-tip bead reamer for gemstones and a pearl reamer with a fine corkscrew tip for pearls.  (See my earlier post "How to Fix Too-Small Holes in Beads.") 

Do you have tips about gauging wire gauges? Share them on the website.


New Jewelry Newsletters and Drawing Reminder:  If you sign up for one of the two new jewelry newsletters, you could win a $500 gift certificate from National Jewelers Supplies.  (Drawing is open to U.S. or Canadian entrants only.)  If your friends sign up, you can get extra chances to win.  This is optional--you can just sign up yourself if you prefer.  Sign up for either Jewelry Artist's Flashcard or Colored Stone's GemMail today.  Deadline for drawing is October 16, 2008. 


 

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Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks!



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Comments

PaulasPieces wrote
on Sep 24, 2008 5:18 PM

Jean,

I need your help, desperately! I found this great site for buying copper colored wire & sterling wire. They are in England & measure the wire in mm.

They do however, provide 2 conversion charts but now I'm really confused. Do I use The American Wire Gauge?

Or The Standard Wire Gauge?

I have a show coming up & would really like to use their products. Please advise!

Thanks,

Paula

pgreengarden@yahoo.com

MixesJewelry wrote
on Sep 25, 2008 2:52 AM

GAUGE DIAMETER (IN) DIAMETER (MM)

10 gauge 0.1019 in. 2.588mm

12 gauge 0.0808 in. 2.052mm

14 gauge 0.0641 in. 1.628mm

16 gauge 0.0508 in. 1.290 mm

20 Gauge 0.0320 in. 0.8128mm

22 Gauge 0.0253 in. 0.6426mm

24 Gauge 0.0201 in. 0.5105mm

26 Gauge 0.0159 in        0.4039mm

28 Gauge 0.0126 in. 0.3200mm

Greetz Myrthe

MixesJewelry wrote
on Sep 25, 2008 2:53 AM

GAUGE DIAMETER (IN) DIAMETER (MM)

10 gauge 0.1019 in. 2.588mm

12 gauge 0.0808 in. 2.052mm

14 gauge 0.0641 in. 1.628mm

16 gauge 0.0508 in. 1.290 mm

20 Gauge 0.0320 in. 0.8128mm

22 Gauge 0.0253 in. 0.6426mm

24 Gauge 0.0201 in. 0.5105mm

26 Gauge 0.0159 in   0.4039mm

28 Gauge 0.0126 in. 0.3200mm

on Sep 25, 2008 8:51 AM

Paula-

Looks like M provided a nice chart. You might also want to check out this very handy link:

www.onlineconversion.com/gauge_wire.htm

Good luck with your quest!

Jean

RinaC2 wrote
on Sep 25, 2008 7:10 PM

This article is perfect because I cannot seem to find 26 gauge headpins that are NOT sterling silver.   I am not an expert beader and only do it as a hobby and don't want to always use sterling silver.

Any online sources would be helpful -  Thanks!

Rina

rinarcastillo@yahoo.com

on Oct 11, 2008 9:24 AM

I really want to follow the procedure, but I do not know the names of the wires to buy, if i need copper wires, plain wires, or whatever is their name.

Please help me know the names of the tools.

Thank you.

Cy

LoriW@26 wrote
on Oct 14, 2008 2:23 PM

This guide is very helpful. I've recently started learning wire wrapping techniques and love it. But I'm still learning so I practice with less expensive Artistic Wire. I like the idea of getting a Bead Reamer tool. I could have used it on one of my projects. I was making wire wrapped components with some Bloodstone nuggets and gold Artistic wire. I ran into the problem of the wire not fitting the bead holes. I luckily ended having enough beads that would work, but the tool would have saved me a lot of frustration! Are there any type of beads that you shouldn't use a reamer on?

Thanks, Lori

on Mar 26, 2013 4:33 PM

Jean,

I just bought the most beautiful 2mm pearls.  Would a 28 gauge wire be appropriate for adding them into a necklace?  I want to make them into links on a cable chain necklace.  I just to know that this will hold up.  I wouldn't be wearing it daily.  

Thanks,

Sarah