Hello Elle, In my opinion 22ga sterling is too thin for a bale.
When you construct something you need to balance the inherent strength
of the material-- tensile, hardness, maleability-- against the demands
required of it, considering as well the design, weight and amount of
usage a piece will receive.
Sterling is a relatively soft material and a bale is one of those
places that receives a lot of wear and abrasion-- the action of the
moving chain-- compounded by the weight of the piece which is
concentrated at this one point. Moreover, it is the sides of the
bale, especially a wide one, that are worn the most, the chain rubbing
here the greatest.
20ga is about .8mm thick, 18ga is 1 mm thick and 24ga is about .5.
22ga is somewhere around .6 or .7, and depending on the weight of the
pendant is just not thick enough.
Bending and forming a bale in 20ga or even 18ga sterling shouldn’t
pose too much of a problem. I usually cut my bale blank from sheet,
file it roughly to shape and then bend it over, soldering the joint
closed before soldering to the pendant. Any defects are removed by
inserting a small awl, punch or old tapered bur into the bale. It’s
much like rounding up a ring. While I realize that the bale opening
is not round–like a ring-- the top curve is easily worked over the
punch and the rest of the bale can be worked w/ pliers.
Good luck, Andy Cooperman