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Question about sterling silver wire

Hi! I’m Debbie and I’m new! As I stated in my intro I am very much a
beginner when it comes to making jewelry so my questions will
probably be very basic to the rest of you on this forum.

I want to make a very simple sterling silver bracelet using just
plain round SS wire. I want to put ball ends on the ends with at
least one of them that will screw off and on. I want to put beads
and SS charms on the wire. The one example that I have seen sold
already made used wire that was 2.1mm in diameter. The only thing I
know about SS round wire is that it comes in different gauges and
also is classified as dead-soft, half-hard… I know this refers to
the hardness/flexibility of the wire, but I don’t know the
specifics. For my bracelet I am thinking that the wire will have to
be fairly hard and keep it’s shape (not like memory wire though). I
figured the gauge should be 12,14,16, or 18g. The only SS round wire
that I have seen in those gauges is labeled dead soft. Can anyone
help me with the following questions?

  1. What exactly do the terms dead-soft, half-hard, and if there are
    other classifications mean?

  2. Am I right about the gauges I should use? What is the gauge that
    will fit the hole of most beads?

  3. Does anyone know if I can get these gauges in a hardness that I
    need or will I have to harden them myself.

  4. If I have to harden them myself, can that be done if I don’t have
    jeweler’s equipment?

  5. Does anyone know where I can find screw on ball-ends?

I am so sorry to ask so many questions, you can see how naive I am
about all this, I would really appreciate any advice and info.


  1. Dead-soft and half-hard you are talking about the metal’s
    hardness or you could also think of it’s stiffness. The very first
    piece I made I used half-hard 12 gauge round sterling.

You don’t want to do that unless you like pain. I’d suggest dead-soft
and as you shape it you will be work hardening it. If you think your
piece needs to be hardened further you can heat harden it. If you
have a tumbler toss it in with some steel shot, I suggest stainless,
and that will further work harden it.

  1. It’s your piece the gauge is up to you. keeping in mind the inside
    diameter of your links in relationship to each other and whatever
    else you wish to attach to it.

  2. It’s less painful to use dead-soft then harden it yourself.

  3. If you have a regular kitchen oven and about 2 hours that should
    do it. Set oven to about 540 degrees for about 2 hours.

  4. Fire Mountain, Rio-Grande, Hoovers&Strong there are many sources.

I hope this helps,

Hi Debbie, I am going to attempt to answer at least some of your
questions! The gauges you listed are all available in all three
"tempers" (what we call hardnesses). Hagstoz metals in Philadelphia
can help you there. I do hoop earrings and and bracelets like you
are searching for and use “full hard” metal only on these items.
These tempers refer to a standard hardness scale, dead soft being
about 0, half-hard 2, and full hard 4. Of course, if you anneal any
silver (or gold) you go back to the dead soft state automatically.
The more you work a metal, the harder it becomes (called “work
hardened”) until it becomes too hard to do anything meaningful with
it, thus we anneal to relax the molecules back into a more pliable
state. You can do more movement with dead soft metal, and forging
will harden it up. Those who forge spend alot of time annealing.
There is a way to harden sterling in your oven or kiln and will let
someone else tackle that (or you can go to your Rio Grande catalog
where they give a little explanation). I prefer to order it hard to
begin with. As to the little threaded ball on the end. You won’t just
need to have a threaded ball, you will have to have a threaded wire
end to screw it onto. This will involve a tap and die (relatively
expensive for a beginner). Have you thought about simply ending the
barcelets with a wirewrapped small swirl? You could forge it out
also and your beads would not come off. Otherwise, I believe that
"Rings and Things" already sells the bracelets that are threaded for
beading with the ball and threaded wire end for about $10.00 each. If
you still elect to make your own, the gauge of wire you use will
depend on the size hole of the beads you are placing on them. I
would not suggest anything less than 16 gauge full hard. Hope some of
this helps, Suzanne