Earring Wire Guidelines

© by Rena Klingenberg; all rights reserved.

An earring wire needs to be comfortable and durable. Here’s a quick guide to the recommended metals and wire gauges for pierced earring findings.

A variety of fish-hook style earwires.

Recommended Earwire Gauge

(In wire gauges, a higher gauge number = thinner wire. For example, 12 gauge is a fairly thick wire, while 26 gauge is very thin.)

The most common earring wire sizes:

20, 21, and 22 gauge.

  • 21 Gauge -
    If I had to choose one size that would fit most pierced ears, and be compatible with most earring styles – I would pick 21 gauge.
  • 20 Gauge -
    Most people can wear 20 gauge (one size thicker than 21 gauge), and it makes a nice, sturdy earring finding. But a few folks (like me) find that 20 gauge wire is slightly too large to fit comfortably through their ear piercings.
  • 22 Gauge -
    For small or lightweight earrings, 22 gauge (one size thinner than 21 gauge) can make a good earring wire. You may want to tumble or work-harden it a bit to keep it from being too flimsy.
  • 18 Gauge -
    At the larger end of the scale, I’ve seen some earring styles (mainly hoops) made with wire as thick as 18 gauge. If you’re planning to sell your jewelry or give it as gifts, remember that a lot of people won’t be able to fit 18 gauge wire through their ear piercings.
  • 24 Gauge -
    And at the smaller end of the scale, some pierced earring findings are made from 24 gauge wire – but (depending on your customers) that may too thin to be sturdy enough to use in designs you sell.

Metals for Earwires

Metal allergies can be a serious problem, especially for people with pierced ears. Here are my guidelines for using metals in earring findings:

  • Nickel causes allergic reactions in many people – so I recommend avoiding any nickel-containing metal for earring wires (or any other component that touches the wearer’s skin).
  • Surgical steel – I recommend avoiding surgical steel for ear findings. Although it’s widely thought of as an “allergy-free” metal, unfortunately surgical steel sometimes contains small amounts of nickel – and does cause serious skin reactions in some people.
  • Aluminum is OK for most people, but a small percentage of the population is sensitive to it.
  • Copper is an allergen for some people, although it’s a less common metal allergy than nickel. (Copper earwires can also turn pierced earlobes a harmless shade of green!)
  • Brass is also OK for most people, but can cause allergic skin reactions for some folks.
  • Gold – although many allergy-prone people can wear high-karat gold earring findings with no problem, gold has been cited as an allergen for a very small percentage of people. So do let people know when your earrings contain gold or goldfill, just in case they have a known sensitivity to it.
  • Fine silver or “pure silver”, generally 99.9% pure, is OK for most people to wear.
  • Sterling silver, 92.5% silver, is usually OK for most people to wear. However, although the remaining 7.5% of this metal is usually copper, it sometimes also includes nickel.

Recommended Earwires for
Metal-Allergy People

Many people with allergies find that the only materials they can wear in their piercings are:

  • Niobium – look for “pure niobium”, “.999 niobium”, or 99.9% niobium.
  • Titanium – look for “Grade 23 titanium”, “ASTM F136″, or “implant grade titanium”, which are various designations for the most pure form of this metal.
  • Nylon
  • Plastic
  • Teflon.

If you’re making earrings to sell or give as gifts . . .

you may want to stock some earring wires in one of these materials, so you can change out the earwires on your regular earrings for metal-allergy folks.

People with allergies always greatly appreciate it when you understand their situation and are willing to accommodate them!

Making Your
Handmade Earring Wire Designs
Comfortable

If you make your own pierced earring findings, be sure to carefully file, buff, or tumble them to remove any sharp / rough edges from the tip that will go through the piercing.

Earring Stoppers from Rings-Things.com

Also, if you’re making earrings for other people, it’s a nice touch to include clear plastic “earring stoppers” or “French wire keepers” that slide onto the end of the earwire and prevent the earring from accidentally coming out of the ear.

Want to Learn How to
Design Your Own Earwires?

Design and Make Artistic Jewelry Components Class In my Design and Make Artistic Jewelry Components video class, you’ll learn how to get great ideas for jewelry component designs – and then follow my easy system for turning those ideas into successful pieces of jewelry.

By the end of this online video class, you’ll be designing and making your own artistic earwires, clasps, connectors, and pendant bails.

You’ll also learn my tips for making wire jewelry more easily, with more professional looking results.

 

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this! I discovered three years ago that I’m allergic to nickel, amongst other things, and my dermatologist told me that I “should be OK” with either platinum or stainless steel. My partner has been saving up for a platinum engagement ring for me but it looks like there might be better and cheaper options now!

  2. You’re very welcome, Lisa! I’d be interested to hear what your final metal choice is for your ring. :)

  3. Me too! I keep nudging him along! Haha :P

  4. Dear Rina,

    I just want to thank you so much for giving such great tips and information. I have been taking your advise in building my jewelry business, since last winter, and it is such a tremendous help to be able to get so much useful info from you. I could have made some costly mistakes without your guidance.
    I am really glad that I stumbled upon your website and newsletter and always look forward to your emails and updates. You are like the big sister I never had, watching out for me and giving your expert advise. Mahalo Nui Loa from Hawaii~

    Warm Aloha, Diana Novoselic
    Owner/ Designer
    MaDi Designs Hawaii

  5. hello where can i buy niobium wire,i opened a shop and started making earrings and im allergic myself and i want the wire that we dont have a problem with,thank you jane.

  6. Hi Diana! Thank you so much for you lovely message! I really appreciate that. :)

    Hi Jane! If you do Google searches for “niobium wire” and “niobium earwire” – you’ll find a lot of suppliers.

    Wishing you all the best! :)
    Rena

  7. Well this has cleared a lot of things up for me – and I’ll be getting those plastic stoppers today!

  8. Be careful with stainless steel because some SS has nickel in it. The Sterling Silver that is Argentium Sterling Silver has been compounded without the copper. The replacement is Germanium. This is hypoallergenic and works for almost all people. Aluminum ( which we use exclusively ) is very good and I have not found anyone yet who is allergic.

  9. Dear Rena,
    I am learning how to make ear wires, but I am not sure about the choices of sterling silver wire. Is it best to use dead soft or half hard sterling silver wire? What are the differences in using either one?

  10. Hi, Rena,

    I love your waterfall earrings so much that I wanted to make a pair for myself. I also want to begin making my own ear wires. Can you tell me what hardness you like best, generally? And what do you think about using fine silver for ear wires? Too soft?

    I am so grateful for you generous help. I had almost given up making jewelry when I ran across your website. Thank you. Can’t wait for your wire class.

  11. Thanks so much! Donna and Patti, I prefer to use half-hard wire for earwires. It’s sturdier than soft wire and holds its shape well. Also, I know a couple of artists who make and use fine silver earwires – and they either heat-harden or tumble-harden them.

    And Patti, so happy to hear the waterfall earring project “spoke” to you – and that JMJ has helped you so much! Looking forward to seeing some of your creations when you’re ready to share them! :)

    And if you’re the same Patti who asked about the beads in the waterfall earring tutorial, I left you an answer there about what they are and where I got them.

  12. This is a great article! I love Copper colored Niobium ear wires as a substitute for Copper when I am making jewelry that uses copper parts and dangles. The only drawback to it is that it’s close to the same cost as Sterling Silver. I have never used Titanium but may try that out as well.

  13. You are golden! I’ve searched all over (wire and jewelry books included) for the info about allergies and gauges. I almost started going around with a set of wires to measure piercings of all my friends (my own ear has 10mm plug and doesn’t react to anything so not much use of it in this case).

    Thanks!

  14. I’m so glad to hear this earwire info is helpful, dandellion Kimban! I find that earwires in sterling silver 21 gauge (0.72 mm) suit most folks. My own crybaby ear piercings can’t even handle 20 gauge (0.81) – I admire your ability to wear 10 mm! :)

  15. I do a lot of Indian Heishi animal birds ,fish small animals in several colors ,but you can’t find them in a package deal mixed. I thought maybe I would try to make them, takes to much time.

  16. Carole says:

    Rhodium plated brass is also a very good jewelry making wire as well, and what I use most often. It is chemically inert, available in a shiny (looking very much like sterling) or matte finish, and is tarnish resistant.

  17. This is wonderful information. Thank you so much.

  18. I’m having a hard time finding posts to use for my earrings that don’t bend. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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