Wire for Spiral Decoration

Note: Almost all the following information is gathered from the Finnish Iron Age Facebook page. I am not an expert and can be totally wrong about any of this. 😛

Wire is categorized into soft, half hard, and full hard. Soft metal bends more easily but does not hold its shape as well. Full hard is great for holding sharp corners and such but it is more brittle and harder to work with. For Finnish coil decoration it is recommended to get half hard wire, which is in the middle. It is stiff enough to hold the shape, but soft enough that it isn’t brittle and is easy to work with.

The exact metal composition of the bronze doesn’t seem to be that important, as they didn’t have the technology to do exact mixes anyways. But note that there IS a difference between bronze-colored art wire (probably made of aluminum,with a colored outer layer), and actual bronze wire made of bronze. The “art” wire is much lighter, and any sort of scratching on it will show the silver-colored aluminum underneath the colored layer. It’s probably still fine generally (not at all period, though), but bronze wire isn’t that expensive considering how much time and effort you’ll be putting in to this, so you might as well get the real thing, IMO.

Copper verdigries faster than bronze. Brass also can work.

The wire they used is smaller than you would expect. The absolute biggest wire was 1.5mm (about 15 gauge) that was used as single rings (not coils) on the edge of a shawl (not an apron). For aprons, you should probably go with 0.5 – 0.7mm (20-24 gauge) for the interior decoration, which was done in the later period. The size of the wire on the edges of the apron is slightly larger (and in bigger coils) than the size of the wire on the decorative pieces. You can use 0.7- 1.3 mm (16-20 gauge) wire for this.

In short- The later time periods used smaller wire than the earlier time periods. The interior decoration used smaller wire than the border. The interior decoration was a later development than the border. Not everyone would have an interior decoration either.

The wire should be round, from what I can tell.

As a source, I like: https://www.etsy.com/listing/161646629/bronze-wire-premium-half-hard-round . It’s a reddish/ coppery-colored bronze. The seller answers questions and ships quickly. After your first order, she’ll give you a 10% discount code, so you might as well just buy a single roll to make sure you like it, and then order more with the code (shipping is free)

See the comment that is posted below for a better source than what I had.

You will need more than you think, because the coils are pretty dense, and they use up wire quickly.

2 thoughts on “Wire for Spiral Decoration

  1. This source (https://ijsinc.com/c-348-round.aspx) is about 1/8 the cost of the one you mentioned. You’ll have to register on the site first, buy at least a coil (0.3 lbs or 145 feet at 22 ga) and pay for shipping, but you’d still be coming out ahead. The quantity the Etsy seller offers (20 feet) is really far too small to make many coils. My supplier calls the alloy red brass, which is 85% copper and 15% zinc. In other words, it’s technically brass, not bronze, but it’s a nice, warm, golden, bronze color, unlike ordinary yellow brass (60-70% copper and 30-40% zinc), which is a more greenish yellow. The alloy is actually similar to Northern European Iron Age copper alloys for jewelry, which often contained more zinc than tin. You can specify which hardness you want. I always order dead soft, which I believe is the default. If you want half-hard, you need to ask for it. Coil on!

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