There are many uses for different gauge sterling silver wires in jewellery making. It is used in attaching beads to one another or to a chain or finding, and in securing a stone without a drill hole, as well as weaving and crochet work.
22 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire
The diameter of 22 gauge sterling silver wire is 0.65mm and is very popular for making unusual earring hooks and attaching medium to larger sized stone beads. It is very versatile in soft or dead soft hardnesses. Hard version of this wire is greatly used to make loops and ovals that require the wire to retain its shape. You can also hammer the formed wire to make pendants and enhancers. Square 22 gauge sterling silver wire is the most common for creating elaborate frames around pendants.
24 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire
The most common use of 24 gauge sterling silver wire is wrapping to connect smallish beads in what commonly called “wire wrapping”. The ideal bead sizes range from 3mm to 8mm for stones, and larger if the beads are lighter, such as wood or plastic. Any larger than this, the wire stands a chance of unravelling under the weight of the beads in the jewellery piece. However, the harder the wire, the stronger it is, but the more difficult it is to manipulate and more tiring it becomes to do large quantities of wraps. 24 gauge sterling silver wire has the diameter of 0.5mm, thus it can go through most pearl drill holes. However, most Indian cut semi-precious bead holes are much smaller and this would not work. The thickness of this wire makes it less ideal for crochet work as it is harder to manipulate even when it is “dead soft”, a category labelled for softest annealed sterling silver wire. But I have seen it done for making “nest” pendants and rougher crochet cuff bracelets. 24 gauge sterling silver wire is the most common gauge of silver wire to work with and is very forgiving.
26 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire
This wire is very good for wire wrapping smaller beads and pearls. 26 gauge sterling silver wire has the diameter of 0.4mm and can go through many Indian cut semi-precious stones, though often not the small briolette drill holes. It is popular in weaving and go through seed pearls very easily. Since it is lighter than the 24 gauge sterling silver wire, this is a good substitute for large quantity production. It is easier on the wrist and more economical. The strength of hard 26 ga wire is similar to soft or dead soft 24 ga.
28 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire
I often use this wire for Indian cut stones because it is almost guaranteed to go through the smaller holes that I often find for their small rhondels and briolettes. However, the wire is quite soft and I almost use it exclusively for this. 28 gauge sterling silver wire has the diameter of 0.32mm, and most drill holes for machine cut stones is 0.7mm. It is too dainty for beads over 5mm, although I’ve seen it used. 28 and 30 gauge sterling silver is excellent for weaving and crochet work if it is soft or dead soft, but I would not use it to secure pendants and even medium sized stones.