Pros and Cons of Using Craft Wire for Jewelry

Nov 24, 2008

A Budget-Minded Wire Choice

Penny-pinchers fear not--there’s an affordable solution to high prices that’s often overlooked or simply used as scrap metal by wire artists:  craft wire. Craft wire usually has a copper core (varieties are also available with tin, bronze, or nickel), so it’s totally affordable. But the best part is that it comes in a variety of colors. Of course there is silver and gold-coated wire, but there's also a broad range in the color spectrum.

Where to Find It

Two major dealers of this colorful craft wire are Artistic Wire and Parawire. At every Bead Fest, I make sure I stock up on Parawire. I grab at least one silver spool in 20- or 24-gauge, and several colors—peacock blue, black, seafoam, amethyst, magenta, fuchsia . . . as you can probably tell, I like a lot of color in my work! And the best part about it is that it’s relatively inexpensive compared to silver and gold-filled wire.

If you’re just getting started with craft wire, or any wire in general, you must check out our latest issue of Easy Wire, chock-full of simple projects. Several projects require just a few materials, and a bunch specifically feature craft wire--so you can make and sell quality jewelry that’s easy on your budget! What’s more, you can substitute craft wire with sterling or gold-filled wire in almost any project in our Step by Step Wire Jewelry or Easy Wire magazines.

Why I Love Craft Wire

I find that the colored craft wire brings so much life to my pieces. In fact, I actually prefer colored wire to silver now. When I was making Christmas gifts last year,  I had some plain silver-plated jump rings lying around. I wanted to make a charm bracelet, but it was looking kind of dull. I picked up a thin mandrel and wound a coil of magenta wire around it. Then I had one of those Oprah-patented “lightbulb moments.” I cut the coil into small pieces, and slipped one of them onto a jump ring. Instantly, I saw how the color brought life that the piece so desperately needed. And the color never tarnishes, so the wire will stay looking vibrant forever.

So, I continued on and finished the base with a coil on every other jump ring, then added the charms. When I began putting my pieces online to sell, that bracelet was the very first thing that sold!

When Not to Use Craft Wire

There are a lot of pros to using craft wire, however, there are a few cons. It’s usually only available in 16- to 30-gauges and some people may be allergic to the copper (or other) base metal underneath the coating. Also, if you have a set of worn pliers or cutters, be careful, as they may mar the color coating, exposing the copper underneath. (Dipping your pliers in Tool Magic would be helpful in this case!) Keep in mind that craft wire isn’t good for soldering or fusing projects--save those for the quality metals.

Enjoy exploring the rainbow of craft wire in your pieces. Don’t be afraid to take that creative leap! Maybe you’ll have a “lightbulb moment” too!

New Project
Coily Colored Jump Ring Chain
Sara Graham

Add some pop to a charm bracelet by slipping colored coils onto your jump rings.  A simple way to add color to plain silver chain!  This 5-minute jewelry project is from the assistant editor of Step by Step Wire JewelryDownload Coily Colored Jump Ring Chain.  Note:  The free period for this project has ended; instructions are now available for purchase in the store.


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Sara Graham has been an assistant editor for Step by Step Wire Jewelry since its debut in 2005. She creates for her Lovestruck Jewelry line in her spare time, when she’s not indulging in music, creative writing, or planning for her upcoming wedding.  



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Comments

DebbieC@63 wrote
on Nov 24, 2008 12:05 PM
More a question than comment... I've been picturing making chandelier earrings to go with the little black dress--made of black wire and black swarovsky facets. Here's my question: is there a black ear wire available that would be hypo allergenic enough not to cause infection? My second thought was that for the ear wires, I could liver sulfur up some silver ones enough so they'd work with the black wires of the chandelier portion. Any thoughts? Thanks so much and just FYI, I thoroughly enjoy your website! Debbie BC
ricki@3 wrote
on Nov 24, 2008 1:51 PM
I've tried craftwire and have found it too soft for some of my projects. The wire bends, the jump rings open. Any suggestions.
DebWAZ wrote
on Nov 24, 2008 2:11 PM
Debbie, You could try a gun metal colored earring - if it's nickel free, it shouldn't bother your ears. I'd worry that liver of silver might cause a problem if your ears are sensitive.
elnordman99 wrote
on Nov 24, 2008 3:47 PM
ricki, one thing you can try (if you have the tools) is hammering the wire a bit. I really like the results, since the wire holds it's shapes better. It may not be the most practical if you're making a lot of jumprings though. Also, better quality craft wire should be less bendy, although I'm not an expert. On another note, I really appreciated this post! I've gotten into a wire-making jewelry phase, and have been wondering which brands are good quality craft wire. Now I have an idea of where to look. Thanks!
BarbaraH@105 wrote
on Nov 24, 2008 4:39 PM
I found that colored wire, such as Artistic Wire, chips and rubs off in jewelry with lots of movemen , such as bracelets and eyeglass leashes. It worked best when I knitted a tube for a necklace. Now I just used colored wire for myself, but not for paying cusomers!
Meredith@16 wrote
on Dec 5, 2008 11:44 AM
I'm wondering if you can hammer craft wire without exposing the copper? Thanks, Meredith
on Jan 6, 2009 1:08 PM
Hi Meredith, Yes, I have hammered the craft wire before and the copper core does not get exposed. You have to hammer a bit more gently and cut with more precision than you would with sterling or gold-filled, but it works out great...especially with heavier-gauge craft wire. Thanks for your question! -Sara Assistant Editor, Step by Step Wire Jewelry
TarrynM wrote
on May 6, 2009 10:55 PM
I realise that this is a VERY old topic, but I just stumbled across this link while looking for a colour chart for artistic wire and I thought I could help. I find that if I cut the length of wire I need, plus 1 to 2 inches extra (which will not get hardened because these are the bits that are in the drill or being held by the pliers!) then put one end of my wire piece in a hand drill (cordless ones are best, power drills go too fast!), then hold the other end with my pliers (wrapping it once around the pliers and then gripping the handles will prevent the wire from slipping out and hitting you in the face once the drill starts!) pull the wire taut (but not so taut that you yank it out of the drill!) and then start the drill up (this is just like using a pin vise but much faster and less labour intensive!!). Keep the wire taut and keep spinning for about 20 to 30 secs (or less depending on the guage of the wire). This not only straightens out all the tiny kinks that you get on the wire just because it was on a spool, but it also hardens the wire magnificently! (I've always found straightening wire with nylon jaw pliers can sometimes result in more kinks if I don't pay attention to what I'm doing!) If you arent sure if the wire has hardened up enough for you, stop the drill and feel it, if its still a little too soft for you, pull the wire taut again and go again - you wont mess it up I promise! Also you don't end up with any scratches or removal of the coloured coating like can happen with hammering it. I also use this method with two or more wires of contrasting or the same colour to make awesome twisted wire - it really adds an eye catching feature to my designs! Whew! Now, after all that typing I'm off for a coffee! Good luck all!
vjmeitl wrote
on Sep 2, 2011 12:29 AM

A question, I like to make wire links with beads much like a rosary except my loops are wrapped.  They just don't lay right, what am I doing wrong? They seem to want to twist and get kinked up on each other when you are wearing them.  Any ideas?  Thanks, Velma

Klaudete wrote
on Sep 19, 2011 11:26 PM

I can only guess Velma, but it sounds like your wrapped loops are laying in the same position on both ends. I did this once too. If you anchor both loops on the same link with pliers in each hand, then twist gently in opposite directions till the loops are opposite each other, or form a +, it should fix the kinking if you do this going in the same direction with each link in your piece. If you didn't wrap them together, if links are independent, try jump rings between the links. Worked for me :) hope it helps. Klaudete

on Aug 26, 2013 1:50 PM

I made a ring using 20 gage craft wire, silver colored, and it turned out really nice. However, I find that the silver color is coming off. It's ok that my ring is changing, but I made some for friends and I am concerned that their rings will  change as well. What is causing the silver color to come off and exposing the copper color? Should I be using a different type of wire? I am new at making jewlry, but still want to make pieces I can be proud of.  Laurie