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tie wires for ceilings

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Drop ceiling systems and their fixtures (lights, signs, etc.) are typically suspended with tie wires from the framing above.  In seismic areas like California, they typically add periodic diagonal tie wires in all four directions with occasional compression elements to prevent uplift.
Looking on architectural details, it appears that the census is for the use of #12 wire with a minimum of 4 turns in 1.5" for both the vertical tie wires and for the diagonal sway wires. 
I have heard a rumor that #8 minimum wire is required.  Which is correct?
What is the capacity of a #12 wire with the 4 turns in 1.5"?  What happens if the turns are spread out over a greater distance?  If more or less turns are present? Is there any resources or gurus I can consult on this?
Mike O'Brien, SE