I work with wire. Lots and lots of wire, so I am very familiar with wire gauges. When I post a new item and write out my description I usually mention wire gauge and then wonder if anyone even really knows what I'm talking about.
So here's a quick rundown on wire gauges which can be useful for potential shoppers and newbie jewelry makers alike.
As far as the number goes, the higher the number the thinner the wire. There's also dead soft, half hard and full hard. (Hey are we still talking about wire here?)
Normally ear wires are between 22 and 18 gauge, with 20 gauge being the most typical size. When I make my ear wires I use half hard 20 gauge round. They also go in my tumbler which hardens them a bit more.
I like using half hard 18 gauge for some of my hoops. Most people can wear this gauge comfortably. But it may be slightly to thick for a small number of people. I also like using 19 gauge for some pieces as well.
When I make clasps I use 16g and sometimes 18g for smaller lighter weight pieces.
For 24g to 28g, these I typically use for wire wrapping small stones and briolettes. I always use dead soft. I tried using half hard when I first started making jewelry but felt it was too springy for what I was doing with it.
I use the thicker gauges like 14g and 12g for making hoop earrings, pendants and bracelets. Again I always tumble my pieces which shines them up nicely and hardens them for durability.
There's also different shapes for wire, including half round and square. I usually use round wire and haven't yet experimanted with those.
Hope that helps!