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Jewelry Wire Metals: What Are They?
As a jewelry medium, wire is one of the most versatile materials you’ll ever use. It is both functional and fashionable. Because of its practical nature, it provides the jewelry maker with all kinds of methods for constructing and connecting jewelry components, from a simple jump ring to a more elaborate wrapped loop. However, wire is aesthetically pleasing as well, adding line, form, and even color to jewelry designs.
Before jumping into the world of wire jewelry making, it is a good idea to get to know this material. This way, you are more knowledgeable when it’s time to purchase wire, and you will also have a better understanding of its use when you design your jewelry pieces. At the top of the “get to know wire” list is the metal: What is jewelry wire made of?
These days you can find wire made of all kinds of metal-related materials from inexpensive copper to high-end platinum. There is even colored wire available; however, most jewelry makers prefer to use either sterling silver wire or gold-filled wire. Below is a list of some of the more common types of wire currently available to the wire jewelry artist:
Sterling silver wire is 92.5 per cent silver wire and the rest of the metal is made up of alloys such as copper or zinc to help give it strength, as pure silver (also known as “fine” silver) is pretty soft. Generally speaking, sterling wire is easy to handle and not overly expensive to use.
Gold-filled wire has the look of gold without the price. Unlike plated gold wire, which normally has one layer of gold over a base metal such as copper, gold-filled wire has multiple layers of gold over a base metal. Therefore, if cared for properly, it will last many years.
Copper wire is very inexpensive, so you can get a lot of practice in without having to worry about the cost of your materials. When you first start out, it is a good idea to purchase some practice wire, which you’ll use just to learn techniques. Copper is available at some hardware stores and many jewelry suppliers as well.
Colored wire is made of a base metal, such as copper, and then covered with an enamel coating. This method provides a way to create all kinds of wonderful colors that you normally wouldn’t see with precious metals. While colored wire is a great way to add unique color to your jewelry, be careful when working with it because metal tools can mark and cut the enamel coating on the wire.
Galvanized wire is another option for the beginning jewelry maker who wants to play around and experiment. It can be found at most hardware stores, but one draw back to it is that it is not as soft as wire such as sterling sliver. Therefore, you may find it difficult to simulate the techniques you’d use with silver wire.
The wire materials listed above are only a list of the more popular types of wire used for wire jewelry making. Obviously, once you get confident with your techniques, you could branch out into real gold wire or even platinum. Obviously, though, the price of these more high-end wire materials is prohibitive to most jewelry makers, which is why most find that sterling silver and gold-filled meet the majority of their needs and that they can create wonderful wire designs with these metals without requiring a large out-of-pocket expense.
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