Sterling Silver Wire Hardness
Sterling Silver Wire is generally available in 4 grades of hardness: hard, half hard, soft, dead soft.
When to use Harder vs Softer Sterling Silver Wire
With thicker silver wire, it is better to work with soft or dead soft wire. Hard silver wire, in thicker gauges is very difficult to manipulate. For thinner sterling silver Wire, you have more flexibility. Depending on your project, you should select sterling silver wire hardness accordingly. If you wire wrapping many little light weight pearls or beads, you should use soft or dead soft if the beads are very small. The harder the silver wire, the more difficult it is to manipulate, so if you’re making many wraps, it will get tiring if the sterling silver Wire is hard. If what you’re wrapping is heavier, and you need it to be more secure, use harder silver wire. It won’t bend or unwind as easily. If the holes in the beads are larger, then you can use thicker sterling silver wire that is soft. However, the sterling silver Wire will cost more.
How to make Sterling Silver Wire Harder or Softer
The process of making silver wire harder is called Tempering. You can do this yourself by hammering, or tumbling. The more you manipulate sterling silver wire, the stiffer it becomes.
The process of making sterling silver wire softer is called Annealing. This would be done by exposing the sterling silver wire to high heat, such as a flame. This will re-align the molecules of the sterling silver wire. Annealing is one of the basic techniques learned in a silver-smith class. It is essential to working with silver, and it is not as easy as tempering, and requires a lot more equipment. Fortunately, Sterling Silver Wire can be ordered already soft.