Body Jewelry Gauges and Measurements

Understanding Gauge Sizes for Piercing Jewelry

How is body jewelry measured? You will hear about different gauge sizes for body jewelry but if you are new to these measurements, you'll want to find out how to eyeball them. What is typical for body jewelry gauges?

Gauges for Body Jewelry

The word gauge (pronounced GAYj) is used to refer to the thickness of body jewelry, how wide the shaft of a post is rather than how long it is. It refers to how big of a piercing hole is needed to accommodate the jewelry.

Gauge is abbreviated g. Gauge sizes are usually a number followed by g or the word gauge.

Gauge sizes work in reverse, meaning that higher numbers (like 16 gauge) are thinner than smaller numbers (like a 6 gauge). This smaller-is-bigger and bigger-is-smaller rule of thumb is counterintuitive, so you'll have to actively remember that fact.

When discussing gauges, a larger gauge means bigger around, but it is expressed with a smaller number. If you're told that you need a larger gauge than 14, you need to look at 12 or 10, not at 16.

The word gauging refers to increasing the size of a piercing hole to accommodate larger jewelry. You are stretching the piercing.

Range of Gauges for Body Jewelry

Body jewelry gauges usually range from 18 g to 00 g. As the jewelry size increases beyond 00 g, the size of the jewelry then is expressed in its actual measurements, such as with 1/2-inch plugs.

Here is how gauges compare to diameters in inches and millimeters:

  • 18 gauge = 0.04 inches (larger than 1/32-inch), 1.0 millimeters (ear, nose piercings)
  • 14 gauge = 1/16-inch, 1.6 millimeters (tongue, navel, labret, nipple, septum piercings)
  • 8 gauge = 1/8-inch, 3.3 millimeters
  • 2 gauge = 1/4-inch, 6.5 millimeters
  • 0 gauge = 5/16-inch, 8.3 millimeters
  • 00 gauge = 3/8-inch, 9.3 millimeters

    Finding the Gauge of Your Body Jewelry

    If you need to know what gauge your own piercing jewelry is, the best thing to do is go back and ask your piercer. Unless you request something different, most piercers have a standard size they prefer to use for starter jewelry. Most starter piercings are usually either 14 or 16 gauge, although some may go as large as 12 or as small as 18.

    The thing to keep in mind is that in most cases, larger gauges are going to be your best option. A very small gauge like 18 or even 16 runs a greater risk of migration because it can act very much like the wire of a cheese cutter, slicing its way through skin and causing a lot of pain and possible rejection. As long as it's pierced properly, a larger gauge such as 14 or 12 will be much more stable.

    Some will avoid larger gauges because they assume that getting pierced with a 12 would hurt much more than getting pierced with a 16. This is really not the case as its going to be uncomfortable either way but neither is unbearable. It's also worth it to ensure a piercing you won't have to remove a few months down the line because of migration.