Editors’ Picks and 5-Star Favorite Jewelry Making Products

Everybody shops online these days. It’s quick, it’s easy, and you can find just about anything you need. But it can be hard sometimes to decide exactly which online products to pick when you’re faced with page after page of stuff–products for jewelry making included. If you’re anything like me, you use reviews from other people who’ve purchased the items you’re considering to narrow down your search. A bunch of five-star reviews can definitely help you make a wise purchasing decision.

The Interweave Jewelry editors took a closer look at several of the customer-reviewed, five-star products for jewelry making, and we’re delighted to present you with our favorites.

Handcrafted Wire Findings

Karla Rosenbusch
Managing Editor, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

When I’m working on my jewelry designs, I’m all about the findings. The best-looking clasps, ear wires, or bails can make a basic design really pop. Oh, sure, you can buy findings and hope you can find exactly what you want in the store or online. But it’s a lot more fun to make your own. I like to use wire for my findings, as it can be quick and easy to make amazing wire jump rings, ear wires, clasps, bails, and more.

I particularly like to make my own wire clasps. There are so many ways to make stunning clasps to finish off a bracelet or necklace—you can even incorporate clasps into rings. One clasp I really love is Lea Zinke’s Jazz It Up design. The simple wire hook clasp becomes a work of art with the addition of a lampwork bead. Amazing.

Lea Zinke’s Jazz It Up Clasp, Photo: Jim Lawson

Lea Zinke’s Jazz It Up Clasp
Photo: Jim Lawson

For a wire-only clasp, take a look at Sarah Thompson’s Coils & Spirals wire clasp. It’s really elegant, and it’s easy to change up the spirals to make the design completely your own.

Sarah Thompson’s Coils & Spirals wire clasp Photo: Jim Lawson

Sarah Thompson’s Coils & Spirals wire clasp Photo: Jim Lawson

Making a pendant? You can use wire to make bails for hanging your piece. Yeah, you can always just make a simple wire loop, but where’s the fun in that? There’s so much more that you can do. Two excellent examples of wire bails you can make yourself are Margo Farrin O’Connor’s Wire Bails and Mallory Hoffman’s Easy Wire Bail. Sure, they basically exist just to hang a pendant from a chain or cord or whatever. But they are definitely works of art all on their own.

Margo Farrin O’Connor’s Wire Bails Photo: Jim Lawson

Margo Farrin O’Connor’s Wire Bails
Photo: Jim Lawson

Mallory Hoffman’s Easy Wire Bail Photo: Jim Lawson

Mallory Hoffman’s Easy Wire Bail
Photo: Jim Lawson

Perhaps the most logical findings to make from wire are ear wires. But ear wires can often be more than just hooks. They can be the main centerpiece of your earring designs. For example, check out Julie Miller’s Ear Wire Evolution. The ear wires are more complex than you might think, and the entire design is based on them. Just add your favorite beads, and you have a new look every time.

Julie Miller’s Ear Wire Evolution Photo: Jim Lawson

Julie Miller’s Ear Wire Evolution
Photo: Jim Lawson

These are just a few examples of various wire findings you can make. There are so many more! And the best resource I’ve ever found for wire findings is Handcrafted Wire Findings by Denise Peck and Jane Dickerson. It gives you the basics for making your own jewelry findings—bails, clasps, ear wires, jump rings, and so much more. There are tons of projects that help you practice making findings. And then you can take the techniques and create your own unique finding designs. This book definitely has a place of honor on my workshop bookshelf.

Getting Started Making Metal Jewelry

Tamara Honaman
Editor, Beadwork magazine and Group Editorial Director, Bead & Jewelry

During my first trip to the Seattle area, I connected with Larry Scott, the amazing lampwork artist and all around terrific man. Larry and his wife Kathleen were gracious hosts who welcomed me into their home. Larry treated me to a lampworking lesson and an amazing lunch. Afterward, he took me into Tacoma to meet a friend. Turns out, his friend is Mark Lareau!

Mark and his wife Viki owned their bead store at the time and were raising their beautiful children. In addition, both mark and Viki were teaching, writing, and sharing their jewelry-making knowledge with everyone who was interested. Mark was also working on a book and designing tools and materials for wireworking. Mark gave me a tour of their store, shared his new tool ideas with me, and a few wireworking demos. To this day, I still make the clasp he showed me (it was one from his first book: All Wired Up).

Getting Started Making Metal Jewelry by Mark Lareau

Getting Started Making Metal Jewelry by Mark Lareau

Years later, Mark’s second book arrived at my door, Getting Started Making Metal Jewelry. This time, Mark took his teachings to the next level, sharing all you need to know about the basics of working with metal. Hence the title! Inside this 5-star-rated book, you will find a lot of jewelry-making basics, including information on the tools and materials you need for metalworking and the science behind the principles of the craft.

An excerpt from Mark: “This book is organized to help you learn your tools, develop your skills, and have a little fun along the way. I’ve also included some layman’s explanations of the science involved. Read those parts. Understanding the basic idea of soldering is as important as understanding that baking powder makes cakes rise. Understanding your materials and processes will give you the accuracy and control to turn your visions into reality and get professional results.”

This great volume is worth the space on your shelf and in your digital library—no matter how much you already know about the basics of soldering, sawing, and setting stones.

Make a Box Clasp with Richard Sweetman

Merle White
Editor-in-Chief, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Nothing makes me nuts faster than finding the perfect necklace for what I’m wearing, only to have so much trouble fastening the closure that I give up on it. And that scenario is actually better than the one where I quickly and easily manage the clasp, which later opens up without my realizing it. Suddenly, I’ve lost a favorite pendant.

Or, as legendary metalsmith, author, teacher and more Tim McCreight once wrote in Lapidary Journal: “In a perfect world, a clasp will hold securely, release easily, enhance the appearance, and cost almost nothing.” Boy did he nail it. Clasps are mechanisms. Though some types are simple in concept, easy to make, and reliable in some circumstances, the simplest ones aren’t appropriate for all pieces. More complex and secure mechanisms can be very challenging to build, while manufactured ones may not have the right look for your piece. Or maybe you just want to do it all on your own.

Eva Martin’s Argentium Sterling Silver Bracelet is fastened with a box clasp with two tongues for extra security. Photo: Eva Martin. 

Eva Martin’s Argentium Sterling Silver Bracelet is fastened with a box clasp with two tongues for extra security.
Photo: Eva Martin.

The answer is often a box clasp. It provides security where a hook or toggle may not. As the simplest of the more engineered closures, it’s also the one most jewelry makers learn to fabricate first. In its basic form it’s an inconspicuous finding, but if your skills permit, you can turn a box clasp into a richly detailed design element, too.

Ready to add that finishing touch to your next bracelet or necklace? Let a master walk you through it. In the video Make a Box Clasp with Richard Sweetman, this talented metalsmith and dedicated teacher of over 30 years shows you how step by step. He also offers ideas for changing a clasp’s look without compromising its functionality, including turning it into a focal. This video is a great resource for a very important item that is absolutely essential for many pieces of jewelry.

While you’re at it, check out this Box Clasp project by Tim McCreight. And find out more about what makes a good closure in Tim McCreight’s 4 Keys to a Good Jewelry Clasp.

Subscribe to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and learn something new with every issue!

Header photo: Getty Images.


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