A Quick Guide to Wire Gauge

May 1, 2011

If you've been making jewelry for a while, you're ready to expand your skills. For many beaders and stringers, that means moving into the realm of making wire jewelry. I know wire can feel a little daunting—I vividly recall my first class. You bend it which way? But remember when you first started with seed beads and you thought, no way am I going to work with those tiny things! Or when you started stringing and you thought, I really don’t understand how these crimps work. It’s just a matter of diving in and getting familiar with the materials and tools.

Cool Waters Bracelet
Steel wire beaded bracelet
Cool Waters
by Denise Peck

Wire Gauge

Gauge refers to the thickness or diameter of the wire. The smaller the number the thicker the wire. For instance, to bend thick wire into a bangle, you might use 4 gauge, which is a little over ¼” thick. But if you want to knit with wire, you might use 28- or 30-gauge, which are almost like thread. Use a wire gauge tool by slipping the wire in a notch to determine the gauge.

Here are some common wire jewelry-making components and the best wire gauges to use:

  • 12g-14g - heavier clasps
  • 12g-18g - links, medium clasps
  • 16g-20g - jump rings
  • 18g-22g - ear wires, simple loops
  • 20g-24g - coils, wrapped loops
  • 24g-30g - knitting

If you want to learn more about wire, check out my original post where I also cover wire hardness and buying wire: How to Choose the Right Wire Gauge

For those of you who are looking for beautiful wire projects, order the Easy Wire CD Collection, available in the Interweave store. Discover more than 350 pages of easy wire how-tos, beautiful wire projects (including my Cool Waters steel wire beaded bracelet pictured above)  from expert wire artists, along with tool buying advice and jewelry-making tips!

Is there a wire gauge you find indispensable? Share your tips and comments below!

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Cool Waters Bracelet

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Steel wire beaded bracelet


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Shaktipaj wrote
on May 2, 2011 8:44 AM

As you say, this really is " just a matter of diving in and getting familiar with the materials and tools." Why not lead by example?

This post is essentially a 'cut and paste' reminder of an earlier post you linked to, but I have to point out that you didn't get something quite right then, and didn't correct it here.

Wire gauges don't all work in the way you describe - and if people follow the off-handed description here, they can get it wrong - and risk the integrity of their work..

Using the American Standard Wire gauge for non-ferrous metals, the correct gauge is the first notch that the wire WILL NOT fit into. I realize this is counter-intuitive for most folks, but that is all the more reason to educate people properly in its use.

I bought mine  from Connie Fox a while back, and I HIGHLY recommend it. It is accurate and well-made.

Wire gauge is important - otherwise, this blog post would be meaningless, right? But it is also crucial to understand how to determine that gauge.

It would be really wonderful to just take the word of the supplier where you bought It  - but what about those stray bits that you want to use up? With the precious metals market going bonkers - knowing the gauge on these becomes almost an imperative!

Your readers look to your publications not only for information, but for substance. Please, make sure you are giving your readers enough accurate detail to actually make use of the information being provided.


Ellad2 wrote
on May 3, 2011 2:01 PM

Thank you very much for this article!!! I am in a "beading world", but I also need all kind of wire...