Materials & Techniques

Plain and Decorative Wire

Wire can be made by drawing metal rods through the successively smaller apertures of a drawplate until the desired diameter is achieved. The late Romans knew of the drawplate, but earlier jewelry makers made plain wire by rolling a hammered strip of sheet metal between two hard surfaces. They might simply work a length of sheet metal, or hammer a cast rod or hollow tube. The characteristic longitudinal striations found on modern drawn wire help to determine forgeries.

Decorative wires were manufactured in a variety of ways. Two or more single strands could be twisted together, or rectangular strips of sheet metal could be twisted to form several different spiral patterns. Beaded wire may have been made by soldering a string of gold spheres together and finishing the length with tools, or by hammering metal strips into a mold. Wires that are square or rectangular in section were most likely hammered.

Excerpt from

Barbara Deppert-Lippitz, with contributions from Anne R. Bromberg and John Dennis, Ancient Gold Jewelry at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art in association with the University of Washington Press, 1996), 23.