The Smart and Easy Way to Develop Jewelry Designs: Vary Them!

Embrace variation: a touch of change is your friend. Tweaking jewelry designs lets you spin one idea into many. Go back to the original and push in a new direction, or push each new tweak a little further, and soon you’ll have the start of a jewelry collection or line. If you sell your jewelry, that’s cause for celebration! Now you have the cohesive look that helps happy customers get happy all over again when they love your next piece as much as the last one.

ABOVE: Bill Fretz’s Domed Fluted Bangle; photo: Jim Lawson

Customers aren’t the only ones made happy by the emergence of your signature look. Life becomes a lot easier for you, too — whether you sell your jewelry a lot, a little, or not a bit. For something new, take advantage of jewelry designs that already work and just riff on them. When a radically new approach pops up in your jewelry design sketches, models, or wildest dreams, go for that, too. Who says you can’t have more than one line?

“Dramatically transform flat stock by piercing and bending,” advises Bill Fretz. “Each step moves the piece from static to interesting by taking advantage of the malleability of metal. Make it textured or smooth, raise it high or low, and vary the contours of your surface to bring that flat sheet to life. Add a patina for an entirely new character.” Brass Mobius Circle Pendant, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, August 2009. Photo: Jim Lawson

“Dramatically transform flat stock by piercing and bending,” advises Bill Fretz. “Each step moves the piece from static to interesting by taking advantage of the malleability of metal. Make it textured or smooth, raise it high or low, and vary the contours of your surface to bring that flat sheet to life. Add a patina for an entirely new character.”  Brass Mobius Circle Pendant, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, August 2009. Photo: Jim Lawson

Expert goldsmith, jewelry artist, and jewelry tool designer Bill Fretz has been successfully designing and making jewelry for decades. You can learn a lot just by looking at these jewelry pieces of his, and more by discovering how the jewelry designs took the turns they did.

Planished and formed with hammers over pitch in a variation of chasing and repoussé, Bill’s Argentium Hammered Bangle was originally published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, June 2008. Photo: Jim Lawson

Planished and formed with hammers over pitch in a variation of chasing and repoussé, Bill’s Argentium Hammered Bangle was originally published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, June 2008. Photo: Jim Lawson

3 Hammered Silver Bracelet Jewelry Designs

Hammering is the Fretz stock in trade. There is no end to the differences you can bring to a hand hammered bracelet. Bill explains: “Layering hammer blows makes it possible to produce many different handwrought shapes. The marks of the first raising hammer are replaced by the marks of the smoothing hammers. These blows are covered by chasing and texturing hammers. All traces of the first blows are lost to the final piece — but not possible without them.”

Intended for stacking, these Hammer Formed Fine Silver Bangles were originally published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist January/February 2016. Photo: Jim Lawson

Intended for stacking, these Hammer Formed Fine Silver Bangles were originally published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist January/February 2016. Photo: Jim Lawson

 

Copper prototypes for Bill’s stacking silver bangles. Photo: Bill Fretz

Copper prototypes for Bill’s stacking silver bangles. Photo: Bill Fretz

“It’s easy to vary these bangles. Use other hammers for texturing, start with a different stock width, or vary the curvature to totally change the design outcome. And,” adds Bill, “since bangles are often worn in multiples, the more variation, the better.”

The Hammered Wire Cuff was originally published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, April 2009. Photo: Jim Lawson

The Hammered Wire Cuff was originally published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, April 2009. Photo: Jim Lawson

“This project is a contrast between textured hammered surfaces and forming with hammers that leave no trace, and takes advantage of the design’s three dimensional possibilities.The curves of the end caps extend the curve of the cuff with small raised rings. The rings soften the transition from the heavy wire to the cones and end in lapis lazuli beads.”

In, Out, and How to Get There

This Handwrought Brass Bangle sparked a new tool idea and two new bracelet designs. Originally published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist July 2010. Photo: Jim Lawson

This Handwrought Brass Bangle sparked a new tool idea and two new bracelet designs. Originally published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist July 2010. Photo: Jim Lawson

Is it convex or concave? It depends on which way you’re looking at it, of course. The way Bill looks at it is more jewelry design exploration. First he created a textured brass concave bangle, which led to a more deeply concave bangle, and then to a convex bangle.

Black onyx bead photo: Jim Lawson.

Photo: Jim Lawson.

The concave design in this 3D Brass Bangle with Onyx Beads, above, published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist January/February 2014, creates a channel that allows beads or pearls (below) to roll around without falling out.

The concave design in this 3D Brass Bangle with Onyx Beads, published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist January/February 2014, creates a channel that allows beads or pearls to roll around without falling out. Pearl photo: Bill Fretz. Black onyx bead photo: Jim Lawson.

Photo: Bill Fretz.

Cuff photo: Jim Lawson

Photo: Jim Lawson

Earlier, Bill used the idea of capturing beads in a channel to make a torus pendant variation (below) of a torus-top cuff (above). Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist July 2012.

Photo: Bill Fretz.

This Domed Fluted Bangle uses the same blank as the bead-filled bangle above. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist May/June 2014, Photo: Jim Lawson

Photo: Jim Lawson

This Domed Fluted Bangle uses the same blank as the bead-filled bangle above. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist May/June 2014.

Deep Texture in Hand Fluted Silver

“Fluted jewelry takes advantage of metal’s plasticity and reflective qualities.” You can use a rolling mill to make flutes, Bill notes, “but that limits the design to uniform corrugations produced by the machine. Working against a stake makes it possible to hammer curved flutes on domed shapes. Also, the hammer marks from the technique add to the subtle handwrought feel of the finished piece.”

In Fluting a Pure Silver Cuff, Bill gave this bracelet a different look but still contemporary feel by varying the size and pattern of flutes. Originally published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist November 2016. Photo: Jim Lawson

In Fluting a Pure Silver Cuff, Bill gave this bracelet a different look but still contemporary feel by varying the size and pattern of flutes. Originally published in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist November 2016. Photo: Jim Lawson

It’s a Bead, an Enhancer, and a Pendant

Leaves & Beads appears in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist September/October 2018. Photo: Jim Lawson

Leaves & Beads appears in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist September/October 2018. Photo: Jim Lawson

“Designing a line of jewelry is about finding a theme,” Bill says in the latest issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Then he walks you through creating two pendant designs using one concept, setting you on your way to develop more of this line — and your own line, too.

Look at Bill’s drawings for the two designs. “Each starts with a basic freeform leaf. One interprets this form as a single-sided pendant with variously shaped beads at the top. The other piece is folded over to form a large, hollow bead.

Look at Bill’s drawings for the two designs. “Each starts with a basic freeform leaf. One interprets this form as a single-sided pendant with variously shaped beads at the top. The other piece is folded over to form a large, hollow bead.

On the back: the bead is convex on both sides; the leaf pendant is not. Photo: Jim Lawson

On the back: the bead is convex on both sides; the leaf pendant is not. Photo: Jim Lawson

“Creating the start of what could be developed into a jewelry line, the two finished pendants relate but are not the same.” While they have similar shapes and textures, they differ in other ways. “One is an enhancer for a bead necklace, the other is a unified piece” with a small torus and hollow bead above the bail.

“While shape and texture are important, color should not be underestimated. By varying the metals used, you can bring a new element to the design. Changing the size and shape of the beads would again change the mood. The main pendant profiles could be changed endlessly to keep the line fresh.”

Take Your Jewelry Designs Further

Now it’s your turn. Have something mind? Please share your design ideas for the next piece in this design line in the comments section below.

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

Find the Fretz Tool Sets for These Leaf and Bead Pendants

Get all the Fretz tools for making these leaf and bead pendants in one deluxe set. To make both the leaf and bead pendants but not the little decorative elements shown above the pendant bail, get the basic set. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist November/December 2018 with the project included.

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