Heavy-Gauge Wire Jewelry Making: Collar Necklaces, Cuffs and Bangle Bracelets, and More

My how things have changed! This week marks my five-year anniversary at JMD. I remember, in the early days of JMD, writing that I wasn’t a huge fan of wire jewelry making. It’s definitely one of those, “What was I thinking?” moments, because I can’t even remember why I didn’t like it. I think it was as little as three months later, after seeing so many inventive, inspiring wire jewelry designs in our books, magazines, and videos, that I fully joined the ranks of wire jewelry-making fans. I work with wire just as much as metal now, and I’m always looking for new ways to use it, new shapes, new finishes, new designs.

A few months ago on a jewelry industry website, I read about the popularity of collar necklaces among other jewelry trends for this year. I immediately thought of the heavy-gauge (12- to 6-gauge) copper wire I have in my studio, both triangle wire and half-round wire (which provides the look of round wire but is slightly easier to work with in such heavy gauges and literally uses half as much material).

make heavy gauge wire collar necklaces

nylon and plastic jaw pliers for wireworkAfter MUCH annealing, I began to form the large wire into the shapes I envisioned. Because the wire was so large and (eventually) pliable, I was able to form it with my bare hands–which I always love doing. My nylon-jawed wire straightening pliers and bracelet bending pliers came in handy for small spaces and times when my hands couldn’t quite get it. They also helped smooth out bends and slight kinks. I’m still hammering, annealing, and shaping them, but I’m enjoying the slow forging routine. Hammering this heavy-gauge wire is especially fun, but it hardens the wire quickly, so it’s an ongoing process of annealing and hammering.

(Tip: When you make a heavy-wire collar necklace, be sure to file the ends until they are as smooth as a baby’s nose, before you even begin forming the shape. While you’re trying it on and shaping the wire, the sharp edges are a real problem.)

These heavy-gauge wire collar necklaces are fun, literally hands-on, and kind of Zen to make. They’re simple and fashionable–making them ideal for jewelry and craft shows. They don’t require clasps, bezels, or bails–just whatever organic or geometric designs you can imagine. On the other hand, the heavy-gauge wire forms a substantial base that you can embellish by wiring on crystals and beads, adding gemstones in bezels you solder onto the wire, wrapping on colorful cords and fibers, and myriad other ways.

make heavy-gauge wire cuffs and bangle bracelets

You might remember seeing this bracelet, which I made over a year ago during a jewelry-making playdate with a friend. Even in this state, before refining and polishing, I love the freeform, organic feel of it, as well as the substantial feel it gets from the same heavy-gauge wire I’m using in the neck collars above.

Be inspired to make heavy-gauge wire jewelry from jewelry artists who’ve mastered the task. Get Tracy Stanley’s Make Metal Jewelry with Heavy-Gauge Wire DVD or Janice Berkebile’s Easy Wire Stone Capture: 4 Alternative Ways to Set Stones DVD and see how versatile and fun heavy-gauge wire jewelry making can be. Today’s the last day to save 40% on these and hundreds of other inspiring jewelry-making products in the Jewelry Making Daily Shop using code COUNTDOWN, just in time for holiday crafting!

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