Chain Making: Take Wire from Functional to Fabulous, Plus 7 Tips on Caring for Chain
Since I've been working at Jewelry Making Daily (good times!), I've gained a whole new appreciation for wire. I used to have a pretty specific view of wirework, but slowly, thankfully, I've realized that wire is everywhere in jewelry making. You can barely make any type of jewelry without wire, as almost all earrings (ear wires), rings, brooches (the catch pin), necklaces and bracelets (chain and clasps) need wire in some form.
One of the most fun ways to use wire, I think, is to make your own custom chain, any size, shape, texture, or length you want. Spirals, coils, round links, square links, long links, short links . . . Dr. Seuss (and I) could go on and on about all the kinds of chain you can make with plain, simple wire!
One of the most fun ways to make your own chain is by fusing fine silver links together. Fine silver fuses to itself without the need for solder, so after you've made your chain loops and hoops, a quick soldering job (with a micro torch, even) will turn your wire into chain.
And then you can start mixing links for even more interesting chain. I enjoy making short lengths of chain (or harvesting bits of chain from old jewelry for upcycling) and then connecting all different kinds of chain into one necklace. If you space the chain out well, it's many necklaces (or bracelets) in one, because you can turn any piece to the back to show off another section in the front. A good tip for that is to create balance, pairing bold/heavy and small/delicate chain both visually and in terms of weight, so that the chain won't always slide around and have the same piece in front.
7 Great Tips to Maintain your Chain!
Here are seven great tips to help you care for your chain jewelry, from fellow Interweave jewelry editor Jane Dickerson.
1. Daily Care
When you remove your jewelry, wipe off the chain with a lint-free polishing cloth that has no abrasives. If you have been wearing perfume, rinse the chain with water, pat it dry, then follow with the polishing cloth. This is great for day-to-day maintenance: cleaning off fingerprints, skin oils, scents, and surface dirt.
Yvonne Padilla of Rio Grande recommends that you place your jewelry in an air-tight, ziploc bag along with an anti-tarnish strip. These strips are fantastic–completely safe and non-toxic. They absorb moisture and neutralize tarnish-producing gases in the air. They will last up to 6 months or longer if placed in a sealed environment. They work for silver, brass, copper, nickel, bronze, tin, and gold. Copper is the villain when it comes to tarnishing, so any metal that contains copper will tarnish. Clean your chains thoroughly, then store them with anti-tarnish strips and they'll be ready to wear for months.
3. Weekly Maintenance
Use an ultrasonic cleaner and a cleaning solution that is PH-balanced and ammonia-free. This will eliminate surface dirt, oil, lotion, and perfume. If you are cleaning a rope chain or snake chain where dirt might get into the crevices, use a soft toothbrush to get into those hard to reach areas.
4. Let It Soak
Soak your chains in a PH-balanced, ammonia free jewelry solution for stubborn tarnish. If you have chain with stones, make sure that the cleaning solution you are using is gentle enough to use on the particular gemstones or pearls. Don't use the ultrasonic cleaner as the vibration may harm the stones.
5. Tarnish Be Gone
There are some wonderful polishing pads and cloths that are embedded with microabrasives that get rid of tarnish and dirt in a jiffy. Just rub the cloth over the piece and watch it polish to a clean, brilliant shine.
Top: Brass chain cleaned with vinegar and salt solution. Bottom: Tarnished chain.
6. Go Eco
To clean silver, try Jean Campbell’s At-Home Tarnish Busting Remedy. For stubborn spots, use plain toothpaste (no gels or whitening) and a soft toothbrush, then rinse and dry with a soft cloth. I learned this trick from Kate Richbourg of Beaducation: For brass and copper pieces, use hot vinegar mixed with a few tablespoons of salt; let soak, then rinse and dry.
7. When in Doubt
If your jewelry has become really tarnished or you have concerns about any of the gemstones used in your design, take your jewelry to a professional jeweler and ask them to clean your pieces for you. —Jane
Learn to make your own unique chains with Janice Berkebile in her new DVD, Easy Jewelry Chain Making. Janice demonstrates specific chain-making jewelry techniques, such as fusing, texturing, and cold connections, and once you've mastered those basics, the sky's the limit to all the kinds of chain you can make! Pre-order or download your copy of Easy Jewelry Chain Making with Janice Berkebile now!
Have you ever made your own chain before? Share your best links by posting a photo in our gallery!