10+ Wireworking Tips to Simplify Your Wire Jewelry Making
One of my all-time favorite quotes is from a story Lapidary Journal ran many years ago about the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts. A student interviewed was describing how helpful his education there had been, and one remark has stuck with me for decades.
“Trial and error,” the student said drily, “is greatly overrated.” Indeed!
Just because making jewelry with wire is a simple idea doesn’t mean everything about it is obvious, especially if you’re new to the craft. There are many little tips that you can either learn the hard way, or let someone with plenty of experience clue you in about. Here are about a dozen helpful hints gleaned from the pages of Step by Step Wire Jewelry. Any one of them could solve today’s challenge for you, so check them out. Besides, they all come from wire jewelry projects, and if you don’t need the tip, you’ll still enjoy looking at the design.
ABOVE: Nancy Wickman created these embellished hoop earrings by treating sterling silver wire in a way similar to how you might use embroidery floss.
Wire Tips 1 and 2: Work with the Curve
In “The Art of Wire Earrings,” Lilian Chen attaches crystal pendants as accents for elegantly curved wires. Wire is sold coiled, and her tips are based on this fact.
“Ensure that the wire maintains its curve, and take advantage of its natural curve to bend the wire into horizontal and vertical positions of that natural curve.
Wire Tip 3: Improvised Ear Wire Form
In “Changeable Dangle Earrings,” Sally Stevens creates decorative loops from which you can swap out any number of beaded dangles. Her suggestion:
“Don’t have a pair of stepped pliers? You can easily make the ear wire curves by using a Sharpie marker as a dowel.”
Wire Tip 4: Alternate Wire End Finish
Nancy Wickman has a simple filing work-around, which she describes in “Embroidered Hoops.” (Don’t let the name fool you: in this design, sterling wire takes the place of embroidery floss.)
“If you don’t have a metal file, an emery board can be used to smooth the ends or ear wires.”
Wire Tip 5: Make Soft Wire Harder
Conjuring up romance and fortitude in her “Be Steel My Heart” design, Sharilyn Miller also ensures excellent wearability for the earrings. One idea for that: “While I suggest using half hard wire to make the ear wires, you can work-harden dead soft wire by hammering it a few times with a hard plastic or rawhide mallet.”
Wire Tip 6: Organize Your Materials
Anything called June Bride Necklace has to be special, right? Mai Sato-Flores designed this 5-strand piece with freshwater pearls, white topaz, and crisscrossed sterling wire. The complexity makes it a real standout — as long as you don’t get any of your wires crossed the wrong way, so to speak. Her recommendation:
“It is helpful to sort the pearls into the five strand groups before making this piece.”
Wire Tip 7: Best Face Forward
In this Fantasy Pendant, Julie D’Amico-Beres transforms a hoop ear wire into a neckpiece. It’s not difficult, but it does require some adaptations. Here’s one you might need:
“If your focal bead is flat, you may need to support it to keep it facing the right direction. This can be done by making two passes behind the bead, forming an X with the wire.”
Wire Tip 8: Perfect Earring Fit
Char Jorgensen’s Go Backless is an earring/earring finding design rolled into one. First, a decorative wire front gives you the flush-against-the-lobe look of a stud on a post. She forms a spiral, but you can form any shape you like, then dangle whatever you like from it. The surprise is that behind the ear, the wire just climbs up for greater comfort, especially when you’re on the phone. Further suggestions:
“You can adjust to ear thicknesses by pushing the back wire closer or farther away from your ear. Make sure the front of the earring is firmly against your ear lobe. You can also make a more curved L shape so the earrings better conform to your ear.”
Wire Tips 9 and 10: Snug Closures
In Aura Weave Earrings, chain maille artist Michael Blanchard brightens up his weave with sparkling crystal beads. To make sure everything stays where it belongs, he recommends these ideas for jump rings and head pins:
“Closures should be flush so there isn’t a space between the two ends of the rings. When closing a ring, run your finger over the closure. If you feel a little step, adjust as needed. A properly closed ring should look like it’s one continuous ring.
“Before you snip the excess wire from a head pin, line up the flat cutting side of your cutters to the loop. Angle them along the same angle as the wire on the back of the loop. If done properly, the end of the loop perfectly matches up to the wire at the start of the loop at the top of the crystal. This will prevent a large gap between the head pin and the end of the loop.”
Wire Tips 11 and 12: Use the Right Tools for the Job
Every master jeweler, instructor, pretty good craftsperson, and anyone who’s started out using the wrong kind of tool or just a poorly constructed one knows this tip! And anyone who’s a beginner knows it’s hard to figure out just what tools you need. So I asked our very own Tammy Honaman to come up with a quality starter set, which is available to you in our Essential Wireworking Tool Set.
And because Tammy loves tools as much as any craftsperson, she also selected a couple of other items for anyone in the market for wireworking tools that are a bit beyond basic.
They’re all waiting for you now at in the Interweave store.
Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and Editorial Director for the Interweave Jewelry Group.
Love These Projects?
All of the wire jewelry designs shown and more are available in three special collections. Find them in 10 Fabulous Wire Earring Projects, 10 Wire and Pearl Jewelry Designs, and 10 Wire and Crystal Projects, all available as PDF downloads.
Find More Inspiration
You can make great jewelry designs with nothing more than wire, pliers, and cutters, but some metalsmiths focus on wire not because it’s easy to use, but because they love the form. The March 2016 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist features several artisan jewelers who are partial to wire. Available as print or digital.
Find Jewelry Making with Metal and Stone in Many Forms in Every Issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist