Thursday, March 21, 2013

What About Craft Wire

I've seen lots of articles and tutorials calling for the use of "craft wire." If you are new to the wire world, you may ask yourself, "What is craft wire and what makes it different from other types of wire?" That's a good question...really!

When I first started working with wire, I was right there with you. I didn't know a craft wire, from a Parawire, from a pair of wires. I thought wire was wire, other than I knew there was Sterling, copper, and gold. Boy, did I ever need an education. To be honest, I am still getting one. Whenever I think I just about have all the wire knowledge I need, someone invents a new wire, or at least a new metal that wire is made out of.

First of, craft wire to many of us wire geeks, has many definitions, but here is one I found. Craft Wire: A permanently color-coated copper-based wire, which is soft and very malleable. It retains its shape moderately well, particularly in the larger gauges. I found this particular definition at Ross Metals website.

Most, but not all, craft wires have a copper metal core. Copper, by nature is a relatively soft metal that is easily maneuvered, bent, molded, or stretched. It is harder than zinc, but softer than iron. While copper may be the most widely used core for craft wires, that isn't always the case. There are less expensive metals that can be found at the core of craft wires, such as nickel. This raises some issues that need to be confronted if you are new to the use of wire.

There are several reasons to know what is at the core of your craft wire. Have you ever had anyone ask you if your wire items were made with nickel? I usually have at least one person at every exhibition ask me that very question. There are a lot of jewelry lovers out there that have allergies or sensitivities to certain metals. Nickel is one of the most common metals to cause people misery when it is put close to their skin. I can attest to that personally.

I got braces on my teeth in my forties. I didn't think to ask my dentist if the braces had any amount of nickel in them and I have metal allergies. Within minutes of them being placed on my teeth, the inside of my mouth began to itch, burn, and swell. Poor man, he had to immediately take them off and replace them with titanium. I was then fine, as titanium is a hypo-allergenic material. Ugh...but this could happen to your customers, as well. It pays to know what your craft wire is cored with. A simple email or call to the supplier or manufacturer is all it takes if that information isn't on the label. Most of them are happy to supply you with the necessary information.

Another reason to be informed is that you can offer up that information on your own to your customers. That lets your customers know you are informed about what you are using to make your product, and also tells them that you are willing to share that information with them. It is in your favor to be up front and honest. It helps to build the relationship. Trust me, if if they don't buy at that time, when they are ready, they will feel more apt to buy from you because you have already built a bridge of trust with them.

Back to the wire, itself. Most craft wire is color coated, either by enameling or color bonding of another sort. Some craft wires are then coated with a "clear coat" to help protect the finish from wearing off. Again, be informed. There are some very good craft wires on the market and there are those of lesser quality. Some do not use a clear coat and some do not care how quick the color comes off. Like everything else, you usually get what you pay for. The color, however, can wear off over time, leaving your wire's core exposed.

There are "permanently colored" craft wires. They do not, however, have color all the way through the wire. I really thought they did when I first started. Woohoo! I thought I had hit the mother load but I was dismayed the first time I seriously nicked the wire with my pliers. Just remember to do your research or do some testing on your own. Permanently colored craft wire still has a core that is most likely copper or another metal, and over time this core can or will be exposed.

Plated wire is different from colored wire. Silver craft wire is not the same thing as "silver-plated" craft wire. Silver-plated craft wire is supposed to have a very thin layer of actual silver ore bonded to the outside of the core wire. Like I said, it is thin, very thin. You should know that somewhere during the lifespan of an item made with silver-plated wire, it, too, will eventually wear down and expose the color to the core. Silver craft wire is silver-colored wire. The color can come from metals such as nickel or even tin, another very soft metal, or be enameled with a silver color.

You may say that you have a piece you've worn for years made out of silver craft wire and it still has its silver color! Great! But the color you might now be seeing may be tin or zinc. Sorry...Or it might be that you did a bang-up job of selecting a superior craft wire for the project. You decide.

Please understand, I am not slamming craft wire, at all. I have just noticed a lot of questions out there about the subject, so I wanted to help put some of the mystery of this wonderful, very usable product to rest. On the other side, craft wire comes in array of colors that can add depth and imagery to your jewelry and provide you with the uniqueness you may be seeking. All I ask is that you do just a wee bit of research so you know exactly what you are placing in your products and then have fun!

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. I would be happy to answer them all.

Till next time...Stay Wired Up!! Gail


  1. Thanks for the info. In my naiveté (read ignorance) I thought that because there was a coating on the wire that it wouldn't really matter if it had a nickle core. I don't have any allergies but my daughter and sister do, so good to know.

  2. Thanks, Janice. I've been there, too. Hugs!

  3. Is there a way to restore silver color to wire that has changed to copper color OR to remove what little silver remains so the wire is all one color?

  4. From my experience, you can use a jewelry cleaning material to take off the rest of the silver. I'm not sure how it will look afterwards if you do the whole piece of jewelry. If it is a silver plated craft wire, the silver plating is very thin and wears off easily with natural wear and cannot be replaced, unless you are good at electroplating. :-)