Five Things We Love: Great Jewelry-Making Supplies and Tools

As with any specialized hobby or job, the proper tools usually make all the difference. I'm a huge fan of repurposing everyday household items for use in my jewelry shop, and I love finding ways to reuse what might be trash into a jewelry-making tool. (Don't throw away those extra chopsticks!) But sometimes a new jewelry-making supply or tool is so effective, or makes creation so easy (or fun, or rewarding . . . ), there's just no denying it–or keeping it a secret! I've discovered and tried out a few such supplies in the past several months, so I figured it was high time I shared the news.

  Beautifully Backed Bezels

Nunn Design has beautiful jewelry and craft supplies and findings–that's not news to most folks, I'm sure! What I especially love about these newest bezels (Patera Ornate pendants and rings-making supplies) is that the backs are lovely, too. Kind of like Faberge hiding a secret gem in their eggs and the other jewelers who set a small gemstone on the insides or backs of their creations, these little bits of pretty are almost exclusively there just for the wearer's own private joy. The back design is extra handy for pendants that always seem to flip over when they're being worn.

Ready for a Close-Up

CraftOptics' magnifying telescopes are one of the cleverest tools for us creative types that I think I've ever seen. Say goodbye to the hunched shoulders, bleary eyes, and aching neck that's all too often the result of hours at the bench. With CraftOptics, you won't have to squint and strain to get closer to detailed work because the clever little scopes bring your work to you, so to speak. Since I don't already wear glasses, wearing them took a little getting used to, but once I got accustomed to having them on–and once I got comfortable with the idea of keeping them on while I worked and just flipping the scopes up when I didn't need them–I fully appreciated how helpful and handy CraftOptics are. They're fully adjustable and they even have a little clip-on light that makes an already-great thing even greater. Plus they're customized to your eyeglass prescription (if you have one).

Snip, Cut, Slice

Once you've worked with a really good tool, it's hard to remember how you managed using cheaper or lesser quality ones. When I started to notice that my Xuron tweezer-nose/chain-nose pliers were the ones I reached for all the time–when I was doing tasks they were made for as well as other tasks that I thought they'd be ideal for–I knew that I had found something special. They have long, strong, super grippy (is there any other way to say it?) tips that, honestly, I don't believe have ever slipped off of whatever I was trying to grip with them. I even use them to hold the ends of wire (you know how slick those can be) when I'm trying to wrap or pull wire through tight spaces.

I recently started using the Xuron high-durability scissors and fell in love with them, too. I adore being able to cut whatever needs cutting–wire, cord, foil, fibers, even sheet metal–without having to switch to another cutter. I keep these versatile cutters front and center on my table and almost never have to look for another cutting tool. They even have a spring that keeps them open after each cut; you can't imagine how handy that is until you've tried it.

Take a Shortcut or Two

I've shared my love of patinas on metal before, and in the past six months or so, I've really become appreciative of the ability to create the look of time, age, and history on metals quickly and easily. Honestly, it's getting harder and harder to find true old found objects and such in antiques stores, as they've become popular with jewelry makers, crafters, decorators, and all kinds of other folks, making them about as rare as hen's teeth, as Daddy says. All the more reason to appreciate being able to quickly create the look of old aged and weathered metal–and I have two ways to do it.

Our friends at Fusion Beads have introduced me to the new copper patina sheet metal by LillyPilly designs. Created using a combination of "earth, chemicals, and fire" (how fun is that?!), the metal sheets are available in a few dozen varieties (mottled, verde, azul, red wine even!), embossed with texture or not, 24- and 36-gauge sheets. You can cut them, shape them, texture them, fold them, punch them, dome them . . . so many possibilities.

If you've already got the metal shaped to your liking and want to alter it, there's an app-lication for that, too. I discovered Swellegant metal coatings and colorings earlier this year in Tucson. They're made for polymer clay, but they work well on other materials too, including wood, ceramic, resin, plastic, and even metal. There are five metal coatings, so you can give those other materials the look of brass, silver, bronze, copper, or iron. You can stop there (with a sealant) or continue with patina–verdigris, rust, or antiquing. There are also thirteen different dye-oxides that you can also use on the metal coatings or patinas to add a little color, but thinner, more like another patina than a layer of paint. The bottom line is Swellegant coatings are immensely fun and versatile, and you can use them in just about any combination to create nearly limitless metal effects on your jewelry designs–without waiting a hundred years!

Get a close look at some of the Swellegant patinas in Heather Powers' Humblebeads blog.

I'll stop there for now–I can't give away all my secret finds at once! Besides, there's an awesome deal I have to tell you about, too. Our sister site, Beading Daily, is celebrating their fifth birthday! Celebrate with us by taking advantage of some great $5 deals. Download popular eBooks, special issue magazines, and videos for just $5 each–and get a lot of inspiring ways to use your favorite jewelry supplies!

And watch for more great jewelry-making products in the Stuff We Love blog on Jewelry Making Daily!

Learn more about these jewelry-making supplies online:
Swellegant metal coatings and colorings: http://store.cforiginals.net/swmecoco.html
Nunn Design Patera Ornate bezels: http://www.nunndesign.com
Fusion Beads copper patina metal sheets: http://www.fusionbeads.com/shop/productchart/8261/
Xuron tools: http://xuron.com/
CraftOptics telescopes: http://craftoptics.com/

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