Breakage of thin solar silicon wafers during handling and transport depends on the stresses imposed on the wafer by the handling/transport device. In this paper, the stresses generated in solar silicon wafers by a rigid vacuum gripper are analyzed via a combination of experiments and numerical modeling. Specifically, stresses produced in monocrystalline (Cz) and multicrystalline (Cast) silicon wafers of different thicknesses when handled by a vacuum gripper are analyzed using the finite element (FE) method. With the measured surface profiles of the wafer and the gripper as input, the handling process is simulated using FE modeling and the stress distribution obtained. The FE modeling results are validated by experimental data of wafer surface profile during handling. The results show that while the vacuum level does not have significant impact on the stress distribution, the initial surface profiles of the thin wafer and gripper play a dominant role in producing regions of high stress in the wafer.