Wire Wrapping Metal Choices
In this lesson, I will be talking about the different types of metal that are commonly used in wire wrapping as well as make suggestions about what metals are best for beginners.
Let’s discuss base metals, starting with aluminum. Aluminum is lightweight, shiny, very easy to work with and comes in a multitude of colors. Because it’s so malleable, it usually comes in larger gauges, which is why only one bonus project in this course, the Stackable Rosette Bangle Bracelet, uses aluminum.
Next up is copper. To start, copper is a shiny, bright orange (just like a new penny) but oxidizes into an auburn russet color quite quickly, especially in hot and humid climates, like Southwest Florida, where I live. This is why when shopping for copper wire, it’s important to know whether or not it has been treated or coated. I personally love the look of oxidized copper, but it’s something to consider when determining the final look that you want. Copper wire is also available antiqued, which looks oxidized, but has been coated so it’s colorfast.
Copper is one of the most malleable base metals, but depending on the body chemistry of the wearer, raw copper may leave a greenish tinge on the skin. This washes off the skin easily, but again, this is an important consideration.
I definitely recommend copper for the beginning wire wrapper (I’m a huge fan), but I didn’t use it for any of the projects in this course because I wanted to leave that choice up to the maker.
Enameled and Silvered Copper
Enameled copper wire has been treated with a colored plastic coating. Enameled Silvered copper wire usually has the brightest colors because there is a coating of fine silver under the plastic coating. No surprise, silvered copper tends to be a bit more expensive than basic enameled copper.
And then we come to the gorgeous and versatile stainless steel, which sports a beautiful, shiny dark silver color. Stainless steel isn’t very malleable and can be a little difficult to work with, but it’s hypoallergenic and super easy to clean and maintain. This is why I recommend using stainless steel for the earwires in this course. It’s a little more expensive than aluminum or copper, but it lasts indefinitely (unless you submerge it in saltwater for a decade). That’s why I won’t say it’s exactly good for beginners, but it’s definitely acceptable.
Plated and Filled Metals
Plated metals start with a core of a base metal (nearly always copper for wire and brass for jump rings). It’s then coated in a miniscule layer of pure gold or silver. By miniscule, I mean that the amount of gold or silver is not enough to be included in the item’s final weight, ultimately no more than 0.05% of the total weight.
So, they initially have the look of precious metal and they are much less expensive than precious metal, but the plating wears off very quickly to show the base metal underneath.
Plated metals are very easy to work with and they start out looking fabulous. I think they are a very viable option for beginners, which is why these are the materials for all of the projects in this course. It’s just important for you to know what to expect when you choose to use plated metals.
Filled metals usually start off with a brass (not copper) core but the percentage of silver or gold in the final ratio is much higher, ultimately 5% or 1/20 of the total weight.
Filled metals generally maintain their color beautifully over time. They are less expensive than sterling silver and significantly less expensive than karat gold. Filled metals are relatively malleable, but can be a little pricey for beginners.
* Personally, I have found that gold filled metal doesn’t change color over time, but silver filled does tend to yellow a bit with the brass underneath. Although the filling process is the same for both silver and gold, I generally spring for the 925 silver instead of silver filled since silver is not nearly as costly as gold.*
Sterling Silver and Argentium
Since pure silver is far too soft in its natural state to be much good for anything practical, sterling silver includes 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper (hence the 925 stamps you see on jewelry). This strengthens the metal while still maintaining its color.
Argentium sterling silver is a relative newcomer in the world of metal (it made its debut in 2005) and has come to be respected as the most tarnish resistant silver on the market. This is accomplished by adding the chemical element germanium to the mix. This results in Argentium being a brighter white than sterling, a harder metal than sterling, more tarnish resistant than sterling, and of course, more expensive than sterling.