A useful handy Wire Gauge Chart which quickly lets you convert wire gauges to inches and millimeters. Covers the AWG and SWG gauge rating systems.
Jewelry Wire Gauge Chart
|Gauge Size||Ø in inches||Ø in mm||Ø in inches||Ø in mm|
|32||same thickness as general sewing thread|
Note on Wire Gauges
Wire Gauge (sometimes spelt as “Wire Gage”) does not have universally agreed conversions to specific measurements. Hence the wire gauge chart above can only be a best approximation. Wire gauges are also perversely counter-intuitive.
The larger the gauge, the thinner the wire
Because of these inconsistencies and that suppliers do not always tell you the wire gauge and if they do, they might not be able to tell you the rating system on which it is based, it is very handy to have some way of measuring wires. That is usually easily done with a handy wire gauge tool.
Wire Gauge Rating Systems
- AWG (American Wire Gauge) aka BS (Brown & Sharpe)
– for precious metals (copper, gold, silver, etc.)
- SWG (Standard Wire Gauge). The long name being Imperial or British Standard Wire Gauge
– used mainly for industrial metals (steel, aluminium, brass, etc.)
- W&M (Washbum & Moen) aka US Steel Wire, or Roebling Gauge
– for steel
- Birmingham Gauge aka Stubs Iron Gauge
– for iron
Of these, the AWG and the SWG will be the 2 systems you will most likely see in relation to jewelry making. As noted in table above, the same gauge number in each system does not convert exactly to the same real measurement (inches/mm).
Hence when purchasing wire, if the exact wire diameter is crucial to you, you should find out which system is being used.
Tip: For precious metals, the system used is probably AWG.
Which Wire Gauge Should I Use?
The wire gauge you choose to use can dramatically affect the final result of your work. While this can become part of a personal choice over time, the following provides a basic guideline for wire gauges vis-a-vis functionality.
|Wire Gauge||Usage Guideline|
|14 – 16||Very Thick. Heavy Wire.
Require heavy duty, strong tools.
Uses: standup, rigid forms; free-standing shapes; napkin rings; bracelet braces; strong neck wires
|18 (Stem Wire)||Fairly thick wire.
Can use regular jewelry tools. Can be bent with hands. Might require looping pliers to form loops and proper angles.
Uses: for wire work; for forming stems to which flowers, leaves, and petals are to be attached.
|20||Medium thick wire. Good general purpose wire.
Can use regular jewelry tools.
Uses: wire wrapping large-holed beads; for beaded flowers, leaves, petals
|22||Medium wire. Good substitute when 20ga is just a bit too thick.
Can use regular jewelry tools.
Uses: wire wrapping large-holed beads; for beaded flowers, leaves, petals. Will fit most crystal, stone, and seed beads (sz 10 & 11) comfortably.
(Sidenote : In formwork, if using steel wire, use the thinner 24 or 26 ga steel wires. 22ga steel wire would be too stiff on fingers.)
|24||Medium thin wire.
Use regular jewelry tools. Has tendency to kink so might need (plastic) wire straightening pliers. Will fit pearls and seed beads (sz 10 and 11) comfortably.
Uses: for wire wrapping most beads but not fine gemstones, fragile beads, nor small briolettes.
|26||Thin wire. Use pliers with fine tips. Tends to kink.
In wire wrapping, loops must be wrapped closed to maintain shape.
Uses: In any project where 24ga might be too heavy. Will fit pearl and size 10 & 11 seed beads.
|28 – 30||Very Fine Wire.
Use tools with very fine tips. Wire tends to kink.
Uses: wire weaving; crochet; knitting; wrapping with small beads; wire wrapping fine gemstones
|32||Very Very Fine Wire – only as thick as sewing thread. Weak. Must keep as straight as possible because wire breaks and kinks easily. Nonetheless, do not cut with scissors as it will still do damage to scissors.
Uses: lacing together rows of beads (e.g. in joining beaded leaves and flowers)