Silver and gold wires are available in almost any thickness you want.
You can get copper wire simply by removing it from old electric cords or by removing the rubber casing from lengths of electrical wire. You can also buy copper wire in coils, but it often has a coat of lacquer, which is not desirable when it is used for jewelry making. Copper wire is useful for working out the exact dimensions of a piece and to show how the design will bend up and how much wire will be needed and how thick it should be.
To make working with wire easy, it should be kept annealed. Always use the correct pliers so that the wire is not marked by accident, and make jigs if necessary to bend the wire uniformly.
You can obtain wire of any section square, round, oval, triangular, D-section, or rectangular and the shapes are made by drawing the wire through heavy industrial rollers. However, you can create your own shaped wire by pulling it through a draw plate. This is a steel plate, measuring 3/4 x 9 inches and approximately 1/4 inch thick, which has a series of holes in decreasing holes, squares, rectangles, and so on in one side. On the other side of the plate, the holes are slightly opened to allow the larger wire to be inserted in the hole.
The plate should be held in a vise. Make sure that the jaws of the vise do not overlap any of the holes. By drawing down wire and Chenier to widths of your own choice, you can make jump rings to specific sizes, and once you have a selection of jump rings, all kinds of ideas for chains will occur to you.
If you need to straighten out a length of wire that has been bent or wound, make sure it is annealed, fasten one end tightly in the vise, hold the other end with a pair of serrated-edge pliers, and pull tightly until you feel it stretch, which means that it is completely straight.
Round wires twisted together can be used as a decorative border around a setting for a cabochon stone or around the top and bottom edges of rings and bangles. Square, rectangular, and triangular section wires can be twisted by themselves to create effective edging, although round and oval wires must be twisted with another wire to look effective. You can also use different sections together, either twisting them separately before twisting them together or twisting them all together.
Before bending wire to shape, run solder along the length. If you do not, the twists will open out and loosen. Flux needs to be applied along the whole length of twisted wire, and paillons of solder should be positioned every few millimeters so that the whole piece is evenly soldered. Try not to use too much solder, or the twisted wire will look heavy and overworked.
Working with fine or cloisonné wire
This fine wire, between 9/1000 and 12/0oo inch thick, is made specifically for enameled cloisonné work. It is supplied on spools in lengths of about 65 feet.
It can be difficult to anneal cloisonné wire with a torch, because the wire nearest the flame is liable to melt while the rest of the coil is heated. The best method is to cut off the required length from the reel and coil it loosely into a clean shoe polish or tobacco can. You can then place the can in a kiln, heated to about 11100 for a minute or two. Only anneal fine wire if it is to be used as shown below. It is not necessary to anneal wire that is to be used for enameling.
This kind of wire can also be used to make fine "lace-type" and knitted work, and there are some beautiful examples of jewelry made primarily from knitted or crocheted wire, including pieces made by Mary Lee Hue.