Galvanized Steel Wire: Does It Make Nice Jewelry?

by Jane Blancher.
(South Eastern Ontario)

I found that Galvanized steel wire in the hardware store is surprisingly inexpensive… 150′ for $1.25.

Please explain to my why it’s not suitable for jewelry making.

Thanks!

Jane Blancher
Working on that…

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Comments

  1. The chemicals used in the galvanizing process are toxic. In fact, it can kill a parrot! So for me, it’s not something I would want on my skin. And you certainly don’t want anyone to put it in their mouths! Wouldn’t you hate to have to tell your customers, “Oh yes, that one is very nice, but don’t put it in your mouth at all because it’s toxic”? Also, once you start using it (when I first started, I had gotten some to practice with before I knew about how toxic it was, now I would never even use it for practice), you will see that it has a very dull, ugly finish to it. Now I know not everything has to have a bright shine, in fact, some of my favorite pieces are a matt finish, but this isn’t just a matt or brushed finish, it’s just got this really ugly look to it. Also, after you work with it, you will have this sort of dusty grime on your hands – and all of that is toxic.

  2. Mary Anne says:

    Yes it makes beautiful jewelry. Steel wire has become the hottest new jewelry-making material around. However, because there is lead in it, and who knows what else, it is strictly used for “adult” jewelry. There are excellent books on the subject– Amazon is full of them via key word search “steel wire jewelry.”

    For jewelry that is not on the skin …say earrings…(but not for the post/ ear wire) why not? I love the finish….and so do others. People use this wire a lot! I make my own personal jewerly out of it. I am hesitant to make and sell jewelry out of these materials….and if I did..I educate the customer. Its not for children (there are laws about this— research!) and certainly not for pets…both are known to suck, gnaw and chew on all kinds of toxic objects.

    Note you can also coat the wire in a coating for further protection…spray varnish, comes to mind, or a jewelry wax. This cuts down on the “ugly” white oxidising. Yes, some of the steel wires turns whitish. Others corrode…you can change patinas I have read.

    It is a great way to create a base …an armature which to bead on top of (one example of several I can think of). I personally would not make a ring out of it, but a pendant that lies on top of a blouse…yes. I occasionally wear a bracelet I bought…it has all the jump rings made from steel wire.

    Give it a try—its wonderful stuff to experiment and create with. For skin absorption hazards, toxicity, and interstate selling (California is strict on this sort of issue) selling though, I would do all the research you can first. There were huge threads on etsy a few years ago about the new safety laws about lead filled materials. Perhaps someone can remember what the law is called and can add to this conversation.

  3. Mary Anne says:

    I forgot to say that hardware stores sell the “Annealed ” wire…and that can be a nice solid black color. That will not oxidise or corrode into white. The “galvanized” cheapest wire is gray.

    Now, I did some research. First, there is no longer any lead content in American sold steel wire. The EPA forced its removal. The toxic culprits seem to be zinc, and the coatings covering the wire at the factory. You should always wash your hands after working with steel wire. If you work with a torch…the fumes are very toxic.

    “Galvanized wire is steel wire that is dipped in molten zinc. The iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) cause a galvanic reaction bonding Zn to Fe. I won’t go into the technical details but it is similar to a plating process. The result is a silver colored material that is corrosion resistant. (http://www.finishing.com/71/64.shtml)

    “Zinc, however, is not without its hazards. It is NOT recommended for intimate human contact like jewelry would be used.
    Use metal alloys designed for this purpose.”

    Google search these for more complete info:
    material safety data sheet galvanized steel wire
    material safety data sheet anodized steel wire

    Excellent information!

    You can also get MSDS from the manufacturer shown on the wire’s packaging.

    Most are PDF files…
    For the Microsoft Documents, I used the free “Open Office” to access.

    Hope this helps!

  4. I also find that the wire has an odor to it. Not pleasant.

  5. Like many “hardware store finds” that so many jewelry crafters find so appealing, galvanized steel wire is not intended for prolonged human contact, let alone jewelry, and is, at least potentially, toxic.

    Anyone using non-traditional (non-jewelry-intended) materials needs to do some hard research first. Don’t just rely on anecdotal information. Even if you use only traditional materials, it’s a good idea to know exactly what you are using, and any legal restrictions associated with them. MSDS files are a good start. Here’s another good resource about the law and lead content in jewelry materials:
    rings-things.com/resources/cpsia-federal-lead-law.html#.UH2tjkaHDBR

  6. Note: Don’t confuse ‘galvanized’ steel wire with STAINLESS STEEL wire. Stainless Steel is a completely non-toxic, shiny wire that looks like sterling silver at a fraction of the cost and makes beautiful jewelry.

  7. Linda Abellera says:

    I had a thought about this…from looking at garden implements that are galvanized…it the coating chips or gets rubbed off in any way, and the metal comes into contact with any moisture, (especially human perspiration since it is also salty), it will rust! From what I understand about galvanized metal is that it is treated/coated to resist rust, but the inner core will rust. I certainly would not want to take the chance of selling any item of jewelry and having it rust on one of my buyers! Stick with stainless steel or surgical steel wire, and be sure that you won’t have any embarrassment of it failing to meet your standards!

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