Wire Glossary


Gauge is the most common measurement of wire thickness used in the U.S. The smaller the gauge, the thicker the wire. For example, 16 gauge wire is thicker than 22 gauge.
Approximate gauge to metric conversion:

12ga = 2.0mm 14ga = 1.6mm 16ga = 1.3mm 18ga = 1mm 20ga = 0.8mm
22ga = 0.6mm 24ga = 0.5mm 26ga = 0.4mm 28ga = 0.3mm 30ga = 0.25mm

Sterling Silver Wire

Silver is a natural precious metal. When silver is combined with copper in a 92.5% / 7.5% ratio, it is considered sterling. Adding copper to silver makes the silver harder and easier to work with. Sterling silver wire will tarnish over time but can be polished easily.

Silver-Filled Wire

Silver-filled wire is made by fusing a layer of .925 sterling silver to a brass core, resulting in a permanent bond. The sterling silver layer is 1/10 or 10% by weight of the total material. More durable than silver plating, which contains only a fraction of the silver content by comparison, silver-filled products are a beautiful, low-cost alternative to sterling silver. Silver-filled products will tarnish over time but can be polished.

Fine Silver Wire

Fine silver wire is 99.9% silver. Because it has a higher silver content than sterling, it is much softer. Jewelry designers find fine silver wire ideal for making ball headpins and fusing rings. Because it does not contain the copper that sterling silver does, fine silver will not oxidize and turn black when heated.

Gold-Filled Wire

Gold-filled wire is made by fusing a layer of 14kt gold to a base metal—usually brass – that results in a permanent bond. The gold layer on gold-filled products is thicker and will wear better than gold-plated products. Although gold-filled wire is considered hypoallergenic, some people who are especially sensitive to metals may still have allergic reactions to it.

Rose Gold-Filled Wire

Rose gold-filled wire is created in nearly the same way as gold-filled wire, except that copper is added to the gold to create a pink-tinged alloy that is fused onto the base. Some people who are especially sensitive to copper may have allergic reactions to rose gold-filled wire due to the copper present in the alloy.

Base Metal Wire

Base metal refers to any metals other than precious metals. They are usually alloys of non-precious metals. Base metal wire is usually made of tin, copper, bronze or nickel. It can be coated or plated with precious metals such as silver or gold. It can also be coated with a permanent color coating. Base metal wire is available in gauges 16 through 30. Some people may have allergic reactions to base metals. For full-color charts of colors and gauges available in three brands of colored wire at FusionBeads.com, please download our free PDF documents on Artistic Wire, Parawire and Soft Flex Craft Wire.

Twisted Artistic Wire

Twisted Artistic Wire is made by twisting three strands of round Artistic Wire together, creating a unique texture and feel to the wire.

German Style Wire

German-style wire has a copper core and features an anti-tarnish coating. The wire is half-hard, giving it the perfect temper and finish for most jewelry wire wrapping uses.

Dead Soft Wire

Dead soft, which refers to the hardness of wire, is usually used to describe sterling silver or gold filled wire. Dead-soft wire has not been hardened at all, making it the most malleable. It is most often used when a design calls for making several bends and loops. Wire becomes harder as it is manipulated, so using dead-soft wire will enable you to manipulate it longer before it becomes too brittle to work with.

Half Hard Wire

Half-hard wire has been hardened but is still very malleable. This term is usually used with sterling silver or gold filled wire. Because it has been hardened, half-hard wire will maintain a loop, bend or shape under some stress. Half-hard wire is commonly used when making wire-wrapped jewelry or simple loops.

Beading Wire

Soft Flex and Beadalon are flexible beading wires made of multiple strands of stainless steel covered with clear or colored nylon, which makes them strong and durable. The material of choice for most bead-stringing needs, beading wire has an attractive drape, doesn't kink, and is available in many diameters from .010" (very fine) to .024" (heavy). Beading wire is firm enough that it can be used without a needle. You must use crimp beads to securely fasten it to a clasp. See our crimping and beading wire reference chart to find out which sizes to use together.

Memory Wire

Memory wire is a hard, permanently coiled steel wire that retains its coiled shape. Because of its hardness, it can only be cut with the Memory Wire Cutter. It comes in various diameters appropriate for necklaces, bracelets and rings. Our memory wire is approximately .8mm in diameter, so can be used with most of our selection of beads.

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