Earring Wire Guidelines

Β© by Rena Klingenberg; Β© 2003-Present Rena Klingenberg. All Rights Reserved

Earring Wire Guidelines - by Rena Klingenberg.  An easy guide to recommended metals and wire gauges for pierced earrings  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

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.

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.

And if you’re making earwires, I recommend using half-hard wire.

  • 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.
  • Colored, Coated Craft Wires / Artistic Wire – I have not used colored craft wires for earwires. But if you’re interested in doing that, contact the manufacturer first and ask whether they recommend their colored craft wires for use in piercings.

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.
  • Argentium Silver – easy to find in an online search, or at most jewelry suppliers who carry wire.
  • Nylon – often unavailable anywhere.
  • Plastic – often unavailable anywhere.
  • Teflon – often unavailable anywhere.

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

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.

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 earlobe:

Earring stoppers for hook-style pierced earwires - Rena Klingenberg

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  • Lisa says:

    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!

  • You’re very welcome, Lisa! I’d be interested to hear what your final metal choice is for your ring. πŸ™‚

  • Lisa says:

    Me too! I keep nudging him along! Haha πŸ˜›

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Hi Diana! Thank you so much for you lovely message! I really appreciate that. πŸ™‚

    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! πŸ™‚

  • Pat Gray says:

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

  • Bob Keil says:

    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.

  • donna haupt says:

    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?

  • Patti says:

    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.

  • 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! πŸ™‚

    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.

  • Giftbearer says:

    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.

  • 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).


  • 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! πŸ™‚

  • Brenda says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • Lynn says:

    This is wonderful information. Thank you so much.

  • Lms says:

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

  • Lexa says:

    I’ve found I have allergies to pretty much anything other than sterling silver in my ears, but recently I’ve been wearing surgical steel without problem. I have also tried Rhodium plated – It seems okay so far! πŸ™‚

  • Lexa says:

    … I should also mention white gold contains nickle, and if you have nickle sensitivity it can ruin your ears for weeks!

  • Joy says:

    I found this information very useful, especially because I don’t know the differences of using wires. I made ear wires with 18 gauge and I tried to put it on. I could one side but struggled on the other side, but I did put it on. The gauge was too big. I think I’ll try the 21 gauge. I enjoy your site. Mahalo!

  • Melanie says:

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!! I decided to turn some of my knitted items into jewelry and have been looking for instructions on what kind of earhooks to buy (I have allergies, so this is of particular interest to me) and you answered ALL of my questions! Thank you so much!

  • Thank you all for your lovely comments on this earwire info! I’m so glad you’re finding it helpful. πŸ™‚

  • Tabby says:

    @Lisa… I feel you on that for sure. I’m allergic to everything on the list in my ears except for pure silver and surgical stainless steel. Everything else gives me knots in the piercing, turns into a sore, then gets infected. Its a pain. I quit wearing earrings, because I’d buy them, they’d cause a reaction, then I’d buy another, rinse and repeat. The store owners would argue to the end of the earth that it’s pure silver. It wasn’t, my ears don’t lie. On to your point, I have the same allergy on my neck and hands. I can’t wear gold unless it’s really high quality, which these days is just to expensive. I’ve been wearing a sterling silver engagment/band set for 6 months now. No reaction, no green finger. My ears can deal with sterling silver for about 4 hours. It’s weird my finger doesn’t react, but I’m not complaining. Anyway, thought it may be worth a shot for some of you, so you aren’t forced to expensive jewelry, simply because our skin is stuck up. You can get sterling silver stamped/signed with 925 on eBay for as little as $1.00 to try it out. Watch out for silver filled or plated.

    @Bob… I’m allergic to aluminum. My skin is not in agreement with my wallet.

  • McKay says:

    Thank you soooo much for this information! It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. Very appreciated : )

  • McKay says:

    Sorry, me again! I have a question maybe you can help me with. I am fascinated with the jewelry made by the women of certain tribes, such as the Himba and the Maasai, and have seen many photos of women of various tribes wearing simple beaded earrings that appear to be strung on cord or string and then just tied through the ear. Not sure if I can post a picture here to show you what I mean…but I’m wondering if you could suggest some type of thin cord that could be used to recreate these that would not irritate the ears and could tie into a knot easily? These are being made for a friend who will not be removing them for a while; she understands she will probably have to cut the knot in order to remove them eventually. Hope I explained myself ok! Thanks for your help : )

  • Thanks for your interesting question, McKay! However, I don’t have experience with using cord or string in ear or body piercings – so I don’t have any info on what would be the healthiest option to use for that purpose. I would be interested to hear what your friend decides to use, and how it works for her.

  • Erin says:

    Is it safe to coat earring wire with clear nail polish to prevent them from turning your ear green? I have seen that recommended and wanted to know for my personal use. I am not selling earrings.

  • Hi Erin, I have heard of people using nail polish on earwires – but I would NOT recommend it – it doesn’t sound like a healthy thing to use in ear piercings; definitely ask a dermatologist about it before proceeding with the nail polish.

    Have you tried using a different metal for your earwires – one that doesn’t turn your skin green?

  • Rainbow says:

    Hi. I’m glad I found your site! Got it bookmarked!

    I just started making wire earrings. I am wondering if stainless steel is harder than silver filled wire? I am brand new at everything, so I am learning a lot and again, glad I found your site. The first earring I made came out pretty good. Second not so much. lol


  • Heather says:

    Thanks so much I just realized after all these years I can wear the cheap brass ear wires but wondered why the recommended hypo allergenic gold plated surgical steel always make my ears itch! I’ve read that coating the ear wires with Vaseline may help!

  • Michelle Asiu says:

    awesome article I make a lot of earrings using antique brass. so far the earrings I have to friends and family no reaction. Love your webpage God Bless

  • Hi Michelle, I’ve also had some friends and family who didn’t react much to jewelry I gave them. But I discovered that there are many other folks who really do love my handmade jewelry – and they’re the ones who are worth finding and keeping supplied with the pieces we love to make! πŸ™‚ Keep on making your beautiful jewels, Michelle!

  • Sharon says:

    Isn’t aluminum wire too soft for jewelry making?

    Absolutely love your site and appreciate all your posts and everyone else’s contributions.


  • Thank you, Sharon, for your lovely comment! πŸ™‚ You’re right that aluminum wire is pretty soft. In heavy gauges it’s easy to work with for making rings, pendants, etc. However, depending on the gauge being used for earwires, aluminum wire may be too soft to hold up very well.

  • Monike O'Reilly says:

    I’m just doing some research at the moment and this is priceless info… Absolutely fantastic! Thanks so much πŸ™‚

  • Monike, you’re very welcome! πŸ™‚

  • Catherine says:

    Thank you Rena for the great tutorial on ear wires. I’m never sure what is best. I’ve got stainless steel and sterling silver premade ear wires, but it would be nice to make my own once and awhile. I have a small coil of Argetinium silver that I’ve never used yet. Would you recommend that? I’m not sure what the difference is between that and sterling silver, but I ordered some last month and haven’t used it yet. Thank you.????

  • Catherine, thanks for asking! Yes, I would use Argentium silver for earwires. πŸ™‚

  • MARIA HARRIS says:

    Hi Rena, or anyone

    Do you know where I can buy fish hook ROPE-style wires as seen on the picture here?

    Thanks in advance for the info.

  • Hi Maria, I think the rope-style earwire you’re looking at in the photo is at the far right – correct? That style is made from twisted wire. You can twist your own square wire to get this rope-like look. Or you can purchase ready-made ones. Do a search on Etsy.com for “twisted wire earwires” to find them. Also do the same search on Google to find other vendors for them. πŸ™‚

  • Barbara says:

    What a fantastic article, in addition to the accompanying notes! I have read some articles previously about metal sensitivities, but your article contains additional information … plus it is all in one place! Thank you!

  • Barbara, thank you for your lovely comment! I’m so glad you found this post helpful. πŸ™‚

  • Hi Rena,

    Since this post was written Argentium has become more common. It is a 935 (sometimes 960) sterling with a small percentage of the copper replaced by germanium. It is less reactive though I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say hypoallergenic yet. I am still trying to decide whether dead soft or half hard is the way to go, because even dead soft it’s still harder than regular sterling.

  • Hi Patricia! Thanks for adding this information.

  • Mary says:

    Rena: Can you make ear wires out of 20 gauge HALF ROUND, half hard jewlry wire? Just wondering since the half round costs about half that of the round.

  • Hi Mary, thanks for asking! I have never made earwires from half-round wire, so I’m not sure how comfortable that might be. You might want to make one earwire with half-round wire and then try it on to see how well it works. You may be onto something! πŸ™‚

  • Barbara A Schrade says:

    Hi Rena…I have been receiving your newsletter which I love. I do have a question and having difficulty in trying to find out what would be the best type of ear wire to use with copper earrings. I want to attach a wire (for design purposes) to the copper metal clay earring that I am making and then want to put both in the kiln. Is this possible? I realize that perhaps soldering might be a better option but I have not attempted that yet so thought I could perhaps put it in the kiln instead. Your thoughts/expertise would be greatly appreciated. Regards, Barbara

  • Hi Barbara! Thanks for asking. I haven’t experimented with this, so I suggest that you do a test run on a small scraps of the materials you’re considering. Then you can see how the technique will (or won’t) work on the samples, without ruining your actual piece. Another benefit of doing the test run on a scrap first – you’ll probably discover some things about the technique that will help you get better results when you do the technique on your actual component! I hope this helps, Barbara – and I’d love to hear how your test comes out! πŸ™‚

  • Sheila Thomas says:

    I find this newsletter to be very informative with not only ideas on how to handle difficult customers, but also how filled with new techniques. The article on the different types and thicknesses of wire was very informative.

    Thank you,

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