Is ParaWire Good Jewelry Making Wire?

Choosing jewelry wire is a very important part of the jewelry making process.

ParaWire and handmade stacking wire rings

 Jewelry wire can affect

  •        how easy it is to make your project,
  •        the visual appeal
  •        the cost of making the jewelry and therefore the price (if you are selling) and
  •        how long the finished jewelry will last.

With so much depending on the wire you choose, it makes sense to find a good quality jewelry making wire. Read on for my recent experience using ParaWire.

A little background first. I started off using sterling silver wire. Sterling silver was pretty cheap at $8 an ounce. My jewelry making progress was stagnant for many years.

When I switched to bare copper electrical wire, it felt like I found new life in jewelry making. 

plastic container with wire scraps from jewelry making

I wasn’t afraid to experiment or ruin wire. As you can see from my recent scraps, there's lots of experiments in my craft wire scrap bin - not so much in my gold fill scrap.

Craft wire didn't used to be as nice as it is today. I recall the precious metal colors looking fake and it getting scratched easy. And it was either too flimsy to hold shape or too hard to bend. 

I've also used jeweler’s brass wire. It is a harder temper than copper so it was tough on my hands, and uncoated (raw) copper and brass both can turn your skin green when you wear it. 

ParaWire is one of several brands of non-precious (base) metal craft wires on the market. It is widely used for wire wrapped jewelry including making findings and jump rings, but also for intricate wire weaving and braiding including wire crochet, kumihimo and viking knit.

A spool of black colored ParaWire Craft wire

ParaWire is an especially good wire for beginner jewelry makers. Since I changed over from sterling silver, I always suggest beginners start learning jewelry making using craft wire. It is inexpensive which makes it easy to experiment.

ParaWire has been around since 1998 when they began offering tarnish resistant colored copper wire and tarnish resistant silver plated wire, but the company has a much longer history in metal production.  ParaWire is made in the US, which I really like, by companies that have been making metal products such as metal wire, sheet metal and tubing made from copper, brass, aluminum, nickel silver, stainless steel, and other metals since 1916. That’s a long time, and I’m sure their experience results in a superior product.

I started using ParaWire consistently last year while I was working on the projects for my book Wire Wrap Jewelry Making for Beginners. The stacking rings in the top photo is one of the ring projects for the book.

I wanted the book to use materials that are widely available, affordable, easy to use and give great results. I like that ParaWire has so many different colors available. You can choose a different color to adjust the projects and make them to suit your own style.

If you would like more information about the basics of choosing wire for jewelry making, such as the meaning of temper and frequently used wire gauges, the article in the link will help.

Unless otherwise indicated on the packaging or their website, all ParaWire is soft temper. Soft temper wire is easy to bend and shape with minimal spring or bounce back. 

The material used to make ParaWire is lead-free and nickel-free. Nickel is a metal that can cause skin irritation from metal allergies. No lead in the product means you don’t have to worry about prolonged contact with your skin causing lead poisoning.

ParaWire color options

ParaWire makes coated colored wire in what seems like the entire spectrum of the rainbow and a large variety of natural colors (i.e. gold, silver and copper). 

Most ParaWire has a coating to make it tarnish resistant. The ones that are not tarnish resistant are indicated on the website that they will patina with age.

ParaWire has two different types of colored copper wire – metallic colors and silver-plated colors.  According to their website, the process to create both types is the basically the same – they apply a tinted, flexible, baked-on coating to color the wire and make it anti-tarnish.

Collection of ParaWire metallic colors in sizes 18g to 26g

My analysis of the difference between the two types is the vibrancy of the color. The silver-plated colors are bright and vivid including hot pink, turquoise, deep purple, peridot and seafoam green. The natural colors in the silver-plated category are beautiful and clear, able to imitate more expensive precious wire.

The colors in the metallic category are more subdued and earthy shades of brown, green, amber and blue. 

For my book, I used the silver-coated wires in gold and silver. I also used the natural colored copper wire with the anti-tarnish coating. I have the rose gold colored wire too, which is a pretty pinkish gold, but haven’t made any projects with it yet.

ParaWire craft wire compared to 14k gold fill

If you're curious, the photo above shows how the silver plated gold wire compares to 14kt gold filled wire. I thought they might be a little closer, but craft wire is a bold gold compared to the real thing (or as close as I get to the real thing).

To make jewelry, I use round wire from 16 gauge to 26 gauge the most often. ParaWire sells round wire from 12 gauge to 34 gauge (which must be like a wire thread!). They also have a smaller selection of shaped wire including square, twisted square and half round. 

ParaWire 1/2 round wire and round wires

I have some of the shaped wires from ParaWire, but I haven’t used them yet. I was surprised by the 18 gauge half round wire though. I think it is literally 18 gauge wire split in half, so the gauge is no longer 18, but more like 22 or 24 gauge. 

It seems strange, but I have heard of other companies doing this. I thought it would be helpful for you to know. See the photo above for a comparison of 18 gauge 1/2 round, 18 gauge round and 24 gauge round wires.

ParaWire surprised me a bit that the finish holds up to hammering to flatten and harden the wire. I am more gentle hammering coated craft wires than raw copper, brass or silver - but I have not experienced problems with the ParaWire coating flaking or peeling when I’m bending the wire or after hammering. I don't do this very often though. 

The only minor issue that I have experienced with ParaWire has to do with prolonged daily wear. I always "wear test" any new jewelry styles I make – which means I make a piece and then wear it every day, non-stop to see how long it goes before I experience some sort of problem. 

ParaWire ring after two weeks nonstop wear

I made lots of the stacking rings in my book from non-tarnish silver plated gold and copper ParaWire. I asked my daughter to test them out. 

After a little more than 2 weeks, being worn 24 hours per day, the gold wire started to show signs of wearing off and the copper color started to show through on the ring band on the back side of the ring. 

It didn’t turn her finger green though, so the interior must not have worn away as quickly. The front of the ring still looked good.

In my opinion, that’s not too bad since most people don’t wear their rings every day all day. Also, if you buy costume jewelry, even from name brands, they often won’t last that long before the finish wears off.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised using ParaWire for prototyping designs and for items that I sell. It is easy to work with, affordable and has a lot of practical and fun color and size options. 

In the future, I plan to review some other similar products for comparison, such as Artistic Wire, Zebra Wire and the BeadSmith’s wire.

Trying ParaWire’s bright colored wire is on my to-do list for this year. Do you use ParaWire? If so, I'd love to know what your experience has been using it in the comments.

You can buy ParaWire online from ParaWire.com, Amazon or Fire Mountain Gems

I’ve also seen ParaWire available in local bead shops and sometimes they sell at bead and gem shows. 

It does not appear that large retail chains like Michaels or Joann carry ParaWire online or in their stores.

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2 comments:

  1. Lisa, This was an excellent article. I have been using Parawire for the last 3 years which is as long as I have been learning how to make jewelry Everything you said is exactly what I have discovered and prefer this wire since it is tarnish resistant. Thank you. P.S. I purchased your book and as the posted reviewer said is helps beginners like me and it has techniques I have not tried.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with ParaWire and my book. Happy to hear both!

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