Explore the Elements of Jewelry Design

From Jennifer: Even though this blog was originally written about metalsmithing and jewelry-making, I found it to be appropriate for those of us who work primarily with seed beads as well. We all want to create artistic and beautiful jewelry, and Lexi's tips about the five elements of design (line, color, shape, value and texture) can help all of us make our jewelry more appealing!

Lexi Erickson is a contributing author to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine.

One thing I've noticed as a jewelry teacher is everyone wants to know of how things are done and the techniques used, but very few ever ask: "How do you design jewelry?" Everyone thinks you just start putting beads on a string or cutting a plate of sterling. It's really not that easy, though, is it?

The 5 Elements of Design 

This piece of handmade jewelry combines all of the basic elements of design into one spectacular piece.

You can make designing your next piece of jewelry much easier and more fun by paying attention to what are known as the elements and principles of design. These amount to just a few simple ideas that will help make your designs more successful.  All artists work with these principles, and they will help jewelers, too. Whether you work in silver, high karat gold, or glass beads, you can apply these principles to your designs every time.

 Line, color, shape, value, texture are the principles.

Line draws the eye around the piece. Think about the line of your piece: will it lie gracefully against the body when worn?

Use color to create an emotion, something the wearer will emotionally enjoy. This is a very powerful principle to employ.  Create different emotions with different colors.


The shape and texture of this stone cut by lapidary artist Gary Wilson illustrate how these elements of design can impact your finished jewelry.

Shape is pretty self-explanatory. Is the shape of a pendant graceful, dramatic, pleasing, or otherwise interesting?  How does it work with the line of your piece?

Value describes how light or dark a color is. You can use color and value to create a range of feelings.

Texture is the actual or perceived texture of the surfaces of your work. Texture is life, and it adds interest to the piece.

Pattern and More 

The pattern of dots in this brooch provide a line for your eyes to follow that goes all around the piece.

Artists also work with the design elements of rhythm, repetition, movement, proportion, balance, variety, harmony, unity, and emphasis. Once the eye sees a particular shape, when that shape is repeated, it makes the eye comfortable. Repeating a shape more than three times in a regular design makes it a pattern.

Patterns are enjoyable, and if you can use them without causing too much hardship (like having to cut out 12 silver daisies), pattern makes your design more organized. Of course, those of you who string know this already. 

Emphasis is the placement of a single element, such as a stone or other focal element, to draw in the eye. The effect is to make that point special by showcasing it.

Proportion and harmony are important to give a piece balance, and variety keeps the eye interested.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, but the more you think about these ideas as you work through a design, the more you'll understand how to use these elements and principles, and the easier designing will become for you.




Are you a budding metalsmith or silversmith? Whether you've had a couple of metalsmithing lessons or are just starting from scratch, you'll want to have a copy of Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers handy. This comprehensive reference shows you the basics of sawing, soldering, filing and wire work and takes you into more advanced techniques like casting and adding textures to your handmade silver jewelry. If you're thinking about taking the plunge into the world of silversmithing, don't do it without a copy of Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers!

Bead Happy,


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