Jewelry Wire Size (Gauge)

Jewelry wire gauge is a measure of the diameter of the wire.

The larger the gauge number, the smaller the wire.  For example a zero gauge wire is roughly the size of a pencil, while a 30 gauge wire is roughly the size of a human hair.  And as with wire hardness, you should use the wire gauge that is most appropriate for the piece of jewelry you are creating or wrapping.

For making wire wrapped rings, I usually use 14 to 16 gauge wire, while bracelet and necklace wire components are generally made from 16, 18 or 20 gauge wire.  And when creating earrings or earring components, I use 20 or 22 gauge wire.

When binding jewelry components or wires together, I use half-round of the same gauge or one gauge smaller than main wires used in the wire wrapped piece.  For example, if I wrap a cabochon for a pendant with 20 gauge wire, I use either 21 or 22 gauge wire for the binding wires — except for the bail bindings, for which I usually use the same gauge as the rest of the frame.

Also keep in mind that the very thin wires break easily if over manipulated.   More than once, I’ve had to open or remove binding wires, remove a broken wire, and replace it with a new one – not a simple procedure, and certainly not fun.

Often, wire components and connections between wire components will include a bead or two on the connector.  Most but not all glass and gemstone beads are made with a hole that is large enough for a 20 gauge wire, but will probably not fit on an 18 gauge wire.

Some glass beads, almost all freshwater pearls, and some gemstone beads will have smaller holes that require the use of wire smaller than 20 gauge.