Determining what gauge to use


I seem to be able to find anwers to many of my questions but I have
yet to find any general about how to determine which
gauge of wire and sheet to use in fabrication of small jewelry
pieces. I know that the standard wire gauge for earrings is 22 or 20
but I am never sure what gauge is appropriate for sheet. Obviously,
it will depend on what I plan on doing, but is there any infromation
out there that discusses what gauges are appropriate for certain
items and techniques so that I have a better idea of where to start?
So far I have just been winging it, but I often get into a project
and find I wish I had started with a thicker or thinner gauge.

Any help or resources would be greatly appreciated!


weight is the consideration for earrings- 24-26g is strong enough and
light enough at the same time.You can also try using spring silver
with which you can use very light gauges that are quite hard when
treated properly (spring hardened) H&S has a discussion of this
topic on their website and in their catalogue.

is there any infromation out there that discusses what gauges are
appropriate for certain items and techniques so that I have a
better idea of where to start? 

Tracy, many jewelrymaking books and magazines recommend making your
first attempt out of base metal (e.g., copper, brass), which will
generally let you know if you’ve started with the appropriate gauge.

But there’s always guesswork involved, and after 30 years, I’m still
guessing. It’s part of the fun. Write down your results, i.e., make
a reference work for yourself.

Judy Bjorkman

but I often get into a project and find I wish I had started with a
thicker or thinner gauge 

Tracy, a while back there was a bit of discussion about how some
people had posted here and gotten no reply… Happens like that,
sometimes. I thought about this thread this morning, thinking there
would be something on it…

The easy answer, and the one Tracy is looking for, is that 22 gauge
silver is the workhorse of most sheet metal jewelry. If not that then
I’d think most people will usually go thinner rather than thicker
most of the time -unless the whole piece is that much larger or needs
real strength and weight, like a belt buckle.

The deeper answer is, “What gauges?” Who uses gauges? It’s when you
get past the “tyranny” of mill products that you become a real

I don’t use gauges and much of the time I don’t use any measurement
at all - “I want it about yeeeaaah big”…

When you work like that, then your work is truly handmade and custom

  • well, I’m not trying to start a fight, but there’s custom and then
    there’s custom. I realise that newbies are comfortable with gauges,
    and it sure is convenient. Something to shoot for, anyway…

And if you say 22 gauge is standard for earrings, I’ll take that as
some truth. I know in India it’s more like 16 gauge, much of the
time. Every= thing is relative, that’s why it’s art…

In my studio, since most of my students pour their own ingots and
roll out their own stock, the B and S thickness gauge, kept below our
big Durston D2 mill, is used as a method of “common vocabulary” to
more accurately describe sheet or wire thickness. When a project is
planned, we consider the inherent strength of the metal being worked,
and the requirements it needs to be, such as thickness, width and

Say we are making a fine silver bezel for an extremely high stone,
and another for a small flat stone. The higher stone needs more
thickness as well as heighth, so we might roll out the bezel 8 mm
wide, and perhaps 20 gauge thick, making a high but strong bezel. The
thinner stone needs a thinner gauge bezel, maybe only 3 mm wide, and
only 22 ga. thick. These have to be custom made, as they don’t exist
in any catalog I am aware of. If these bezels were being soldered
onto a back plate, then you would have to take the strength, finished
weight ( earrings versus pendant, for instance) and even likelihood
of warpage when soldering into consideration when rolling out the

With the rolling mill, we are able to generate exactly the
thicknesses, widths, and lengths needed for each project, and need
not be concerned with what is commercially available that “could

I feel that fabrication for one-of-a-kind work should flow easily
between design on paper to fabricated metal. So, a system that allows
you to create the metal stock which best matches the design
requirements, would give you the best advantage, I think.

There is also a wonderful freedom in knowing that if something
doesn’t work out as you had planned, just a little more time is
required to make new stock. Nothing is “ruined” and must be

John Donovan is right. At a point, you will just “feel” with
experience, what gauge or thickness is best for each project, as you
create your stock.

Jay Whaley

At a point, you will just "feel" with experience, what gauge or
thickness is best for each project, as you create your stock. 

True no doubt. But since this is the internet age a common measuring
unit like the B&S gage allows us to communicate over this forum when
not sharing the same personal space.


For newbies and others with little experience, who don’t have the
knowledge or facilities to to create their own stock, it is very
helpful to have some guidelines to start with, even if they are not
precisely designed for a particular project. Just handling the
material. over time, yields the one needs to know about
what gauges to use. But this does take time, and it is useful to know
what to begin with. It might help to look at other jewelry, where
possible and carry a small gauge measure and keep measuring things to
get the ‘feel’ of different thicknesses.

I have had similar problems with sheet wax which I often use as a
base for my pieces. Knowing that the silver is ten times heavier
than the wax,and that the wax will shrink in the casting process, and
that I want to keep the piece as light as possible, really
complicates things. But after awhile it does seem to become easier to
decide what to use.

Elegant Insects jewelry

When determining gauge of sheet for constructing jewelry, the maker
has to be aware of how the piece is going to be worn. Earrings should
not pull on the earlobe and stretch the hole, pendants shouldn’t
make the chain or pearls hang taught until they break.

I usually use 24 gauge sterling sheet for earrings and pendants, 22
gauge sterling sheet for pins or plates for rings that a shank is
going to be soldered onto unless you are making a ring totally out
of sheet- then I’d probably use 18 gauge. You can get away with
lightening the gauge one size for gold- 24 gauge would then be 26
gauge for example, as it is heavier than silver.

If fold-forming or shell forming- probably lighter as the construct
adds to the strength.

B&S Wire gauge is a very handy, dandy tool to keep at your bench.
Not an expensive investment either.

Ruthie Cohen

One thing I learned a long time ago was that my students tend to
always start with metal that is too thin. Then, if they don’t protect
from firescale, the metal becomes paper thin as they try to get rid
of it. But Sandra is so right…it is important to have a reference
when starting out. I love hefty pieces my self and in my own
practice, rarely use anything less than 24 ga in my pieces. Most are
20 ga and in some cases even 18 ga! My general comment to such a
question is, “Always use more metal than you need. It is easy to take
off the extra or roll it down but more often than not you cannot
add!” Yes, that costs more $ but over the long run, its worth it.

Cheers from Don in SOFL

About gauges, as well as almost everything else you’ll want to know,
Tim McCreight says it better in “The Complete Metalsmith”. Get
yourself a copy; it’s a good reference tool.


I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and ideas. I am going to
try using a gauge to get a feel for thickness of finished pieces that
might have similar construction to pieces I am interested in making.
I am also looking through a number of books I have to get an idea of
thicknes used for certain projects. I realize that with more
experience, I will begin to get a “feel” for what to use, but this
is really helpful for now. I have a rolling mill, but don’t have a
set up for pouring my own ingots so I think buying mostly 18-20 gauge
sheet will be a good start, knowing I can always roll it thinner to
meet my needs.