Bangles, Cuffs & Brangles: 4 Expert Bracelet-Making Tips and Ideas from the Pros
Whenever the weather turns warm and the short sleeves start coming out, I proclaim it bracelet season. Cuffs and bangles, along with other bracelet types, are in style and technically “in season” all year, of course, but I prefer to wear bracelets with shorter sleeves so you can really see and enjoy them. We’ve been in bracelet season for a couple of weeks down here in the South, and my bracelets have been coming out of hiding–especially my charm bracelets, which I have a tendency to “play” like jingle bells.
“The ever popular bracelet never seems to go out of style,” says jewelry experts and Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine contributing editors Tom and Kay Benham. “They provide the finishing touch, whether dressing up for a night on the town or dressing down for an understated casual look. Several may be combined for a mix and match combo, or wear them singly to make elegant statement.”
Whether you stack your bangle bracelets by the armful, sport a single statement-making cuff, or enjoy a jingly charm bracelet, bracelets provide a large variety of styles to create and techniques to master while creating them. Here are four bracelet-making tips and ideas from expert jewelry artists to get you further along that path of mastery.
- Serendipity and a scrap of silver wire led Tom Werkheiser to create a copper and silver wire “inlay” cuff bracelet. After soldering two copper wires with silver wire in between, Tom’s rolling mill takes care of the rest. Who knew you could use a rolling mill this way? Clever!
Tom also shares several smart but simple bracelet-making tips, including one for using a mandrel to shape a cuff. Before the first swing of a hammer or mallet, Tom protects the inside of the cuff by applying blue painter’s tape to the mandrel. The painter’s tape provides a buffer between the cuff and the mandrel while hammering. It’s also easier to remove the tape from a mandrel than from a cuff.
- Bill Fretz shares how we can use pitch instead of stakes for cuff and bracelet making. “Think of the pitch as a flexible stake. The softer it is, the faster the metal will move under the hammer,” Bill says.”The pitch can be kept warm by running a torch lightly over the metal surface.” Alternately, he says, “You can create a hard supporting pitch by putting the piece in cold water. When hammering on rock-hard pitch, the metal is only compressed on the surface and will not sink into the pitch. This will allow you to texture the metal without changing its form.”
- Do you know what a “brangle” is? Connie Fox shares how her term came to be: “The concept of a ‘brangle’ was introduced to me by a customer several years ago. While playing with some jewelry, she commented, ‘I love the look of a bangle and the feel of a bracelet.’ Say no more, the brangle was born,” Connie says.
When making a brangle or other types of bracelets, Connie has good advice for beginners and more experienced jewelry makers alike. “The main challenge you will encounter is getting the brangle [and other bracelets] to fit your wrist,” Connie says, along with a helpful suggestion that will save time, money, and heartache. “Make your brangle in copper wire first. You will then feel free to snip, add, and play without the concern of wasting sterling silver. Your copper practice piece will provide you with a template for reproducing the brangle in silver.”
- Roger Halas is known for out of the ordinary jewelry designs–and he also has some out-of-the-ordinary ideas that make for great tips. Tired of flux allowing small components to shift out of place while soldering, he found a very out-of-the-ordinary solution: jeweler’s investment, “mixed into a paste and caked over the delicate components,” Roger says, to hold them in place. “You can flux, solder, and unclench those white knuckles once you see firsthand that this crazy technique actually works.” When you’re done, Roger says, just rinse off the investment, pickle your project, and proceed shaping your metal.
All of these bracelet-making tips and ideas were taken from the three project eBooks in our bracelet collection. “The projects highlight fundamental skill sets as well as offer the opportunity to acquire new techniques and designs to add to your toolbox,” Tom and Kay say.
Get all three of these project-packed eBooks (that’s 30 projects from multiple experts!) along with Jeff Fulkerson’s One-Hour Bracelets video, five bonus projects, and an oval stepped bracelet mandrel, all for a very special price in our Bracelets and Bangles Deluxe Collection. Don’t need the mandrel? Get everything else in our Bracelets and Bangles Ultimate Collection!