Most earrings come with the option to choose your preferred earwire. It generally means there is a material and style option.
- Hook earwire
- Kidney earwire
- Stainless steel (hypoallergenic)
- Sterling silver/Argentium silver
- 14K Gold filled
Earwires may be oxidized (darkened) to match the earring. (It is a surface treatment done with patina that can be sanded off.)
Argentium silver is like sterling, but with a slightly higher silver content with tiny amount of germanium (sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% of copper). They are used interchangeably depending on stock.
14k Gold filled wire has a gold fill that is 1/20 ratio weight of gold over brass core (which means it is a thick coating, 100 times thicker and more durable than a so called plated wire). This gold filled wire is made in USA.
Copper wires are pure copper (not an alloy). Copper is a soft metal and even when hardened a bit softer than other earwire materials. Keep that in mind if you are hard on your earwires, since it is easier to bend.
Brass is and alloy of copper and zinc (usually 60-70% copper).
The thickness of the wire used in making earwires is usually 20-21 gauge. (most commercially made ones are 21 gauge) I use 21 for everything else except stainless is 20 gauge. It is very solid and great for those who want a really sturdy earwire. Some delicate earrings sometimes use a slightly thinner 22 gauge wire.
Read more about jewelry earwire materials in my blog post.