Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wire Gauge/Thickness Guide for jewelry shoppers-- Part I (earrings)

sterling silver white pearl earrings

Every once a while, I would have a customer asking me the thickness of my ear wires.One customer said she bought from another artisan a pair of handcrafted earrings using wire that was too thick for her piercing and she eneded up being unable to wear them.I thought I would write a simple post here explaining how we jewelry artisans decide the thickness of the wire we use for our jewelry.

The wire gauge numbers tell you how thick the wire is.The smaller the number, the thicker the wire is. Commercial earrings usually use 20 gauge(0.032", or 0.81mm) or 22gauge(0.0254", or 0.65mm). Occasionally 24 gauge ear wires(0.02", or 0.51mm) are also used for girls' jewelry or more delicate(and expensive) solid gold jewelry.

The standard(most common) earring wires are 22 gauge.

If you wear a lot of thicker gauge earrings or heavy earrings, your piercings may have been streched and can allow thicker gauge wires to go through(18 gauge, or even thicker than that).Otherwise, you probably can only wear 20 or 22 gauge ear wires like me. Any wire thicker than 20 gauge simply won't go in my ear. Sometimes, if I have not worn earrings for some time, even 20 gauge can feel a little tight for me.

All pearl hook earrings(see the picture above) on my website use the standard 22 gauge wire, because the drilled holes in the pearls will only allow 22 gauge wire to go through.

I do use 20 gauge wires for forged wire earrings such as the geometry fun earrings and all hoop earrings . The reason to use thicker wire is so it can create an illusion of volume when the wire is hammered flat.

sterling silver wire swirl earrings

handmade forged sterling silver hoop earrings mu-yin jewelry
Some artisans use 18 gauge wire as ear wire, either because they have larger piercings, or because thicker wire gives more volume when being forged (hammered flat).Even though I love the look of these 18 and 16 gauge ear wires, I have decided to dedicate my works to average piercings like mine.

My solution is to combine wires of different gauges for my earrings.In the following picture, you can see me holding a pair of the pussy willow branch earrings. The thicker "branch" dangles use 18 gauge wires, which are suspended from 22 gauge commercial ear wires.

pussy willow branch sterling silver wire wrapped earrings

Next time, ask the artisans what gauge they use for their ear wires before you make a purchase! (If they use commercial ear wires, it is most likely 20 or 22 gauge)


Anonymous said...

I love your pussy willow branch earrings!

mu-yin jewelry said...

thank you!They're one of my favorites too :)

Anonymous said...

That was a very useful post. I hope I can remember that - 20 or 22 gauge, okay I think I have it.

mu-yin jewelry said...

yes, 20 or 22. Also, most commercial hoop earrings and post earrings use 20 gauges, I think that's because they are less likely to be bent compared to 22 gauge.

loriyab said...

YOu inspire me!!! You do beautiful work!

Leah said...

Great article - I use either 20g or 21g when I make earrings. Like you, if I want more volume, I will attach something made from thicker wire to an earwire made with either 20g or 21g. I rarely use 22g unless requested by a customer, because 20g feels much sturdier to me.

Dazzled Beader Designs said...

Good advice. I've been using 20 gauge for my ear wires, but am thinking of starting to use 21 gauge. It seems like a good middle ground. :-)

Anna said...

I'm glad you are writing about the practical side of jewellery-making and the importance of the right fit for the wearer.
I love making earrings, but I don't wear earwires at all. I don't have pierced ears and I never will. I use clips or screwbacks that I inherited from my mother and grandmother.
So I am always interested in learning how different women like their earrings. I use a postal scale and carefully weigh the earrings I make.
Best wishes
Christina Wigren

piddix said...

Super helpful article. Thanks!

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