Editor’s Picks: Top 10 Favorite Jewelry Making Tips and Tricks

A jewelry-making friend of mine once said, a good tip can be worth the price of admission to a jewelry making class, and I've expanded that to included the price of a book or DVD, too. After all, a really, really good tip can save you hundreds of dollars in materials and labor cost, not to mention mental anguish and aggravation!

So in honor of our spring cleaning contest, I've compiled 10 of my favorite jewelry-making tips of all time. As my friend Dana says when she's feeling sassy, you're welcome!

NOTE: The contest is over, but you can still enjoy these great tips along with dozens shared by our readers in the comments below!

Enjoy these tips and share your own in the comments for a chance to win a patina prize pack, a super pairing that includes the Textures and Patinas DVD with Helen Driggs AND one of my favorite books ever, the new Patina: 300+ Coloration Effects for Jewelers and Metalsmiths book with over 300 patina examples and recipes inside. Over 300! Oh my.

silver solder melt and flow on sterling silver flower ring


1. Solder flows toward heat. Solder flows toward heat. Solder flows toward heat! If your solder flows away from the joint, the piece was not heated evenly, so the solder flowed to the hottest part of the metal. Pickle the piece to remove all oxidation, file away the old solder, and start again.

make perfect ear wires in minutes  

2. To make perfect and perfectly matched ear wires every time, our 2012 Tip of the Year" from Eleanor Macnish (who got it from her friend Judy Jaramillo) is so simple yet so brilliant. Simply make them both at the same time using this clever technique and voila, you've just made a perfectly matched pair of ear wires in minutes. If you're making several ear wire sets at once, Ellie recommends keeping them attached until you need them for smart storage, too.

make perfect consistent wire wrapped loops   3. To make consistently sized wire-wrapped loops every time: When you've got the bead or beads on your wire and you're ready to make a loop, put a special bead on, maybe an 8mm or 10mm "spacer" bead (depending on how large you want your loops to be), and trim the wire above it. If you're making a wrapped loop, just use a bigger "spacer" bead or piece of tubing to allow length for wrapping, too. The key is to use the same spacer every time; then remove the spacer and make your loop. That special "spacer" bead measures out just the right amount of wire so that your wire loops will come out the same each time, as long as you don't stray too far up or down your pliers. If that's an issue for you, mark your spot with a Sharpie and always loop on that mark.
tip for using a jeweler's saw   4. From the June 2010 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, courtesy of a generous reader, Diane Brooks: Place a scrap of mat board used for framing pictures between the bench pin and the metal you're sawing. It will help you in several ways. Starting the blade in the mat board prevents the metal from skittering around when the blade bites into the metal. It cleans the blade as you saw. It supports the work over the hole in the bench pin so it doesn't collapse and bind the blade. It reduces chatter and results in fewer broken blades.One of the hardest things to master about sawing is getting the blade started smoothly and keeping it intact–so this is a great tip!
store and organize wire  

5. Here's a tip for storing and organizing your various gauges and tempers of silver wire, from Linda Larsen: Store different gauges and types of wire in separate, labeled plastic sandwich bags in an accordion-style folder to keep them neat and organized. And here's a bonus: Add a piece of plain chalk to each bag to prevent tarnish.

keep a coin with solder on your solder station  


6. For quick-and-easy soldering prongs or posts: "I keep a nickel or quarter covered in easy silver solder on my workbench. I heat it with a torch and, using cross-lock tweezers, dip the end of the post into the molten solder, and then onto the fluxed back of the setting." Brilliant! By Jim Dunakin in the December 2013 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

metal stamping guidelines   7. To stamp in straight lines and to get proper placement of metal stamps (and to avoid wonky stamped impressions like in the photo on the left), here are two great tips. Use clear tape to both hold down your blank and to serve as an easy line with which to line up your stamps for straight words. If you're completely new to metal stamping or have a new stamp set that you aren't familiar with–or just to practice a design–dab your stamps on an ink pad and use them like rubber stamps on paper to practice. 
use a bezel as a stamp   8. Here are two great resin tips: To insert paper ephemera in a bezel under resin, use your bezel as a stamp. Cutting out paper to fit inside a bezel isn't easy, so ink up your bezel on a stamp pad just as you would a rubber stamp; then use it to stamp on your paper. Remember to wipe or wash the ink off your bezel immediately. Then use scissors to cut along the inside the of stamp mark and trim as necessary. And . . .
disguise resin mistakes with a matte finish

9. A matte finish hides resin mistakes. If your paper isn't properly sealed, resin can seep into it and discolor or darken it, sometimes ruining your design. Bubbles can also really ruin the look of a resin creation. In her book Enchanted Adornments, Cynthia Thornton shared a great technique that's ideal for disguising resin mistakes: Simply rub the surface of cured resin with 600- then 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper until you achieve the desired frosty, matte effect. This looks pretty cool even if you aren't hiding a mistake, too! And here's another trick. If you have trouble sealing paper properly for use with resin, try using clear packing tape. It's quicker and easier than Mod Podge and other craft glues.

reconstitute dried up metal clay 10. You can reconstitute dried up, unfired metal clay! There's a complete tutorial here courtesy of Sue Heaser's great book Metal Clay for Jewelry Makers, but the short version is that you pulverize it into powdered form using a mortar and pestle, and then revive it by adding a tiny amount of water, mixing, and repeating until you have the proper consistency. Another method is to fire it as usual, and then you'll have a lump of solid metal, which you can melt, anneal and flatten, or recycle as you would any other metal.

Want to win the patina prize pack?

To enter the contest, leave a comment below and share your favorite jewelry-making tip. At 11 a.m. Eastern time on April 7, 2014, our panel of judges will pick one winner for best tip from the entered comments. Check back on April 7 to see if you've won. The Contest begins on April 4, 2014, at 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time ("ET") and ends April 7, 2014, 10:59 a.m. Eastern Time ("ET"). Due to the variety of rules regulating contests worldwide, we can only select winners from entrants that are U.S. residents (excluding Puerto Rico), 18 years old or older at the time of entry; and Canadian residents (excluding Quebec).





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