The Best of Jewelry: Top 16 Jewelry Making Techniques and Products of 2016

Happy New Year, friends! I love this time of year, when we look back at what you loved most about jewelry making in 2016.

These recap posts are always great reminders for me to go back to some of the jewelry making techniques or resources that I loved but that might have fallen by the side with all of the busy-ness of life. Writing a blog or newsletter three times a week means over 150 blogs per year–so by blog #139 or so, sometimes I forget how much I truly loved the book/video/magazine in blog #7 or #43.


So during the time of year when everyone pauses to reflect on the past year and prepare for the new one, let’s do the same. Here are your favorite jewelry products from 2016–and a prime opportunity to get any that you might’ve missed!

Ever-Popular Jewelry-Making Classics

It’s always gratifying for me to see how many “older” products show up in this list each year. I love knowing that you still appreciate and rely on these classic, timeless products, like Lexi Erickson’s essential Hand-Finishing Jewelry video. This is one of the videos that I, too, return to time and again for advice or instruction on how to get a particular finish on my metal, or just how to get the best finish on edges and such.

Lexi Erickson's favorite files and what they do


It was in this video that I learned it’s OK to skip the mirror finish on metal and how to get a matte finish with what Lexi calls soul. When comparing her mirror-finished work with the work of some of her students in Chile, she says, “theirs had a lot of feeling, what I grew to call soul. I liked the look, and how they achieved it was by not overworking a piece. There was no frantic buffing-wheel finish, but a gentleness to their handling and sanding of a piece. The jewelry now felt really good in my hands, and the ever-present angst over a scratch was not there–in fact some scratches were okay, because they gave the piece character.” That’s not to say it’s OK to be sloppy, and Lexi explains in detail how to get a high-quality matte finish.

If you haven’t seen Hand-Finishing Jewelry, the new year is a perfect time to commit to making more professional quality, well-finished jewelry and add this always-helpful video to your library.

making hollow forms with Lexi Erickson

learning to make hollow beads with Lexi Erickson

Lexi’s Make Open and Hollow Forms video also made the list–no surprise, since it’s full of timeless instruction on how to make hollow metal beads, tiny bowls, and other dimensional shapes in metal, which are essential skills for any metalsmith. When I first saw the DVD cover, I wasn’t sure how much it would apply to me–but after I watched it, I wondered how I’ve made it this far without knowing how to make that kind of dimensional work!

Other top performers in 2016 that have been topping the charts for more than one year include he five-star-rated Shell Forming for Jewelry Making with Hammers and Stakes with Andrea Harvin-Kennington and Handcrafted Metal Findings by Denise Peck and Jane Dickerson, aka “the book that saves me time and again when I’m making jewelry and run out of components.” It’s also ideal for those of you who like your jewelry to be exclusively yours and totally handmade, from tip to tip. The authors even share a tip list of which findings you should make and which it makes more sense to buy.

leather jewelry making

leather jewelry making with Melissa Cable

Leather Jewelry Making

Leather continues to be a popular jewelry-making material with no end in sight. It’s affordable, satisfyingly tactile, and accessible. You can find leather jewelry supplies at local craft or hobby stores, and it’s suitable for all skill levels and nearly all ages. I think part of leather jewelry’s appeal is how colorful it can be. Many artists make leather jewelry their own with the addition of coloring techniques, including inks and rubber stamping–and let’s not forget all the colors of leather and leather jewelry components on the market.

So it’s no surprise that Melissa Cable’s leather jewelry-making videos, Intro to Leather Jewelry Making and Intermediate Leather Jewelry Making, were among our top 16 products in 2016. Her techniques opened my eyes to unique finishes and surface treatments for leather, such a sanding and other ways to remove some of the color and shine on finished leather to add depth and character, as well as how to stitch it with colorful threads. If you’re looking for a fun, easy, affordable new jewelry making technique to tackle in 2017, take everyone’s advice and learn leather jewelry-making with Melissa!

how to use a flex shaft for jewelry making

learning to use a flex shaft with Andy Cooperman


Jewelry-Making Tools and Instruction

You guys got serious about metalsmithing in 2016 with professional-quality tools like rolling mills and flex shafts, and many of you let us help you learn how to use them, with these best-selling videos:

As you learned and grown in your metalworking skills, simple hammers were no longer enough for you go-getters! Many of our readers learned to use a rolling mill to make textured and dimensional metal jewelry (plus texture plates!) that would be very difficult or even impossible to achieve with hand tools. You also learned the myriad ways that a flex shaft can help your metalsmithing work, beyond drilling and texturing, to include cutting, polishing and finishing, carving, and so much more.

learn unexpected ways to use a rolling mill for jewelry making

learning to use a rolling mill with Richard Sweetman

Like many of you, I consider a flex shaft an essential tool for a metal jewelry-maker’s studio, and while a rolling mill is a decadent addition to the studio, I learned many common ways to get the most out of it in Richard’s video. So if you’re looking to expand your studio tools, these videos can help you before and after making a big-tool purchase like a flex shaft setup or a rolling mill.

learn to work with Argentium sterling silver with Cynthia Eid

Argentium sterling silver granulation with Cynthia Eid

New Metal in Town: Argentium Sterling Silver

Though Argentium sterling silver has been around awhile now, it’s still making its way through the jewelry-making industry, and thousands of you learned how to use it for the first time last year. Our two videos, the five-star-rated How to Make Jewelry with Argentium Sterling Silver: Intro and Soldering and How to Make Jewelry with Argentium Sterling Silver: Basic Fusing and Granulation, both with the brilliantly talented Argentium expert Cynthia Eid, were top sellers in 2016, and we got a lot of great feedback on our interview with Peter Johns, the creator of Argentium sterling silver. (What a job, right?)

I geeked out learning about how the new silver alloy was created, and I was so pleased that you all liked it, too! Argentium has so many qualities that make it popular with metalsmiths like us, but it also has special techniques and rules for use that must be followed–and Cynthia Eid’s decades of experience are the best way to learn those special considerations.

chain maille jewelry making with fold-formed metal accents

Double Fun chain maille and fold-formed bracelet by Jennifer Carlson

More Top Jewelry-Making Products

You also loved our special issues on hot topics last year, particularly How to Enamel Jewelry 2016 and the five-star Step-by-Step Chain Maille Jewelry 2016, which doesn’t surprise me one bit! Enameling is still a growing, very popular jewelry-making technique, as more and more makers learn special enameling effects that can be achieved with just a simple torch. New jump ring types and new tools are helping the popularity of chain maille continue to grow as well.

how to make a box clasp with Richard Sweetman

making a box clasp with Richard Sweetman

Rounding out our list of the 16 the best-selling jewelry-making products of 2016 are the video How to Make a Box Clasp with Richard Sweetman, for those who were looking for a challenge with an intricate but easier-than-you-think tutorial, and two beautiful books, Jeweler’s Enameling Workshop by Pauline Warg and Fine Art Wire Weaving by Sarah Thompson. All of our top products from last year are available in the special Top 16 Jewelry Products of 2016 shop in the Interweave Store, so you can pat yourself on the back for being savvy enough to get them–and snatch up the ones you missed!

–Tammy Jones



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