A 101 for jewellery making wire

Aug 23 10:35 2011 Michael Dennison Print This Article

Information on jewellery making from how it's made to its uses.

No matter what medium handmade jewellery makers work in,Guest Posting nearly all will use wire at some point – it’s fundamental to jewellery making. And whilst most jewellery makers will start out buying wire from the manufacturer, many form their own wire in custom shapes, sizes, and harnesses. With some simple tools and a little know how, it’s easier than you may think.

Shapes and Sizes of Wire

                You can order wire from a manufacturer in standard shapes – square, round, half-round, triangle and rectangle – and those shapes come in many sizes. Standard round and square wire sizes range from 0.5mm to 7mm. Rectangular wire, which is often called sizing stock, because bench jewellers use it to size rings, is available in almost any measurement. You can order wire in specific dimensions if you buy directly from the manufacturer.

                Other shapes such as half-round, low dome, oval, triangle, bezel and strip-bezel, may be limited to specific standard sizes, depending on the manufacturer’s equipment. Nonstandard wire sizes are available from most manufacturers by special order.

How Wire is Made

                Wire begins as molten metal that is poured into an ingot mould and allowed to cool and solidify. In small-scale production a goldsmith repeatedly passes the ingot through grooved rollers of a rolling mill, forming square wire. With each pass the wire becomes smaller and longer. This process, called extrusion, is possible because of the metal’s ductility.

                Once the ingot has been milled into wire of a manageable size, the goldsmith reduces it further using a drawplate. In the case of square wire the drawplate also makes the wire perfectly square, because the grooves in the rolling mill will have slightly faceted the wires corners.

                Standard drawplates for handmade jewellery are steel and have a series of holes in graduating sizes. The holes have different profiles which can transform a wire’s shape while making it smaller and longer. For example, you can pull square wire through a round hole to make round wire.

                To draw large diameter wire, a goldsmith uses a draw bench. The draw bench is a channel of steel or aluminium with a notch for a drawplate at one end and a boat winch at the other end. The boat winch provides leverage to make the process easier. Turning the winch handle turns a belt or chain attached to draw tongues which slide along the channel, pulling the wire through the drawplate. A typical draw bench makes only short lengths of wire, usually about 30-40 inches.

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Michael Dennison
Michael Dennison

Michael Dennison is the Director of Jewellery Design for Hanfords of London.

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