Razzle Dazzle: Using Crystals in Wire Jewelry and the Latest from Swarovski

I recently received the Fall/Winter 2016/2017 Inspirations preview kit from the amazing Swarovski company, along with the current catalog of designs for clothing, jewelry, and other accessories. I love it when “the Swarovski package” comes–it’s like a mini Christmas with a present to unwrap. I never know what’s in it, but I know I’ll love it!

It’s such a treat to see their latest crystal designs, to feel and see the quality first hand, and getting them always sends me to my studio to find ways to use them. Here’s a great piece I found while looking through some back issues of Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry magazine for crystal and wire jewelry ideas and inspiration, featuring Swarovski crystals!

wire and Swarovski crystal Tsunami necklace by Lilian Chen

Tsunami, Lilian Chen. 16g colored wire, Swarovski Elements 6620 Avant-Garde. Photo: Jim Lawson

Razzle Dazzle: The Allure of Crystals

By Ronna Sarvas Weltman
(originally published in Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry magazine, Oct/Nov 2010)

What makes a crystal beautiful? Sometimes I think one of the reasons art intrigues us so much is that we respond to its inference of metaphor. It gives us a glimpse into possibilities, into the greater depth and meaning and layers of complexity that make up our lives. It was an examination of a Swarovski crystal that led me to a deeper contemplation of the importance of art jewelry–why creating jewelry is not a hobby or even simply profession, but rather a commitment to share what is beautiful and finely crafted, and resonating beyond the materials that it is made from.

Manmade crystals are created by cutting glass that has added lead oxide into facets. When light is reflected off the lead oxide particles, you are treated to the dazzling display that makes crystals so captivating. Swarovski crystals are celebrated for the precision that goes into their crafting, resulting in astonishing brilliance. They come in many shapes, colors and sizes, including beads and pendants.

Each facet reflects myriad lights and colors from its environment. One can’t help being pulled in to examine it a little closer. It’s sort of like the fascination we feel looking at a fire. Constantly changing, never predictable, always begging the question “What next?” Couldn’t we say the same about our lives?

Create jewelry with crystals, and you’ve crafted a world of intrigue and energy in one wearable piece.

Of course, just using a beautiful crystal does not insure that the finished piece will be attractive. It is in the artistry of the finished piece that the crystal comes alive. I think crystals are sometimes unfairly characterized as “too traditional” or boring. I’m therefore particularly delighted when wire artists use them in non-traditional design. Brenda Schweder is a Swarovski Elements Ambassador, meaning she is part of a network of teaching artists who share inspiration and techniques for using Swarovski crystal.

steel wire and crystal ring by Brenda Schweder

The Cage Contender Ring by Brenda Schweder. Steel wire, Swarovski Fancy Stone Article 4869 in Crystal.

Schweder’s Cage Contender ring is a riot of energy and intrigue. In this piece the wire is black and shiny. Several gauges of wire encircle a multifaceted bead, which reflect the dark wire and the light in the environment. The overall effect hints at darker worlds within in our own.

“I love to work with mixed media,” explains Schweder. “I love the juxtaposition of the brilliance and light of crystal with the luster and deep richness of steel. The luster versus the brilliance is a really nice contrast.”

Many materials have challenges, and the biggest challenge in working with crystals is their fragility. Generally speaking, they’re strong enough to hold up to the wear and tear of normal usage once a piece is finished, but care needs to be taken when combining crystals with wire, particularly with a stronger wire, such as steel, so the crystal is not chipped or cracked.

Schweder is quick to point out that steel is a super hard substance, and she is always cognizant of that when creating jewelry with crystals. “You need to choose a wire gauge that isn’t too big for the drilled holes,” she explains. “Sometimes I’ll work the wire away from the crystal. If I need to make a bend near the crystal, I’ll place a plier between the crystal I’m working with and then bend, so I’m bending against the plier and not the crystal.”

Since she is a Swarovski Elements Ambassador, Schweder loves to explore–and share–nontraditional ways to use crystal, particularly if she can use crystals in creations that are avant garde and edgy. She enjoys experimenting with Swarovski elements that aren’t beads, such as round, fancy and flatback stones.

wire and Swarovski crystal Wave necklace by Lilian Chen

Wave, Lilian Chen. 14g silver plated wire, Swarovski Elements 6620 Avant-Garde. Photo: Jim Lawson

Lilian Chen is also a Swarovski Elements Ambassador. She loves shine and sparkle, which is why she loves working with crystals. “Every piece is a challenge for me,” she explains. “When I make something, I want it to catch people’s eyes. I hope that it’s like nothing they’ve seen before. I like to use new shapes and colors of crystals in big sizes.

Chen’s inspired way with wire has graceful swoops and flourishes. Whereas Schweder’s style is an edgy counter to the crystals’ delicacy, Chen’s wire design plays upon the polish and delicacy of the crystal. Her airy wire style makes the crystal even more ethereal. (See Lilian’s Art of Wire Earrings on page 50.)

turquoise, garnet,and sterling silver necklace by Ronna Sarvas Weltman

Light on Stone by Ronna Sarvas Weltman. Sterling silver, turquoise, 8mm tapered Swarovski crystal and 4 mm tapered Swarovski Crystal in Garnet

Crystals are also a fabulous contrast to organic and primitive elements. The crystals, turquoise and primitive wire coiling in “Light on Stone” are all so physically and aesthetically dissimilar that none overpowers another. The turquoise focal stones are much larger than the crystals, but because each facet in the crystals catches and reflects their surrounding light and color, they are easily as dominant in the eye of the beholder. The precision of the crystals juxtaposed with the primitive coiling add more emotional complexity to the necklace.

wire and Swarovski crystal ring by Yolanda Tsen Espinoza

Deja Blue by Yolanda Tsen Espinoza. Sterling wire, 20mm x16mm Swarovski Crystal Cosmic Sew-on Rhinestone in Aquamarine

Yolanda Espinoza’s Deja Blue brings to mind the expression “Discretion is the better part of valor.” Sometimes a crystal can be so astonishing that the best design is minimal and restrained. Her lovely and simple symmetrical wire ring allows the crystal to be the sole focus of this piece, while the wire gracefully recedes into the background. In this piece, it’s all about the bling.

Another aspect of crystals that I find delightful is the wide assortment of color. Unless you work with colored craft wire, your color palette is limited to a few metal finishes. I love looking at the beautiful array of crystal colors, and the fabulous possibilities it inspires.

And if you’re feeling like you’d like a little more inspiration? Create-Your-Style.com is a Web site developed by Swarovski to share design ideas and techniques. It includes designs, products, instructions, events and even biographies of each of the Ambassadors.

It would be unfair to conclude an article about crystals without this solemn warning: Once you become enamored with crystals, there’s no going back. I have so many designs in my head that I can’t wait to play with. The crystals are calling to me. And I’m listening to their siren song. —RSW

Magazines are also a great place to get endless inspiration for making wire jewelry as well as all other kinds of jewelry making. Each issue is packed with project tutorials, galleries of inspiring designs, and the latest and greatest products related to your craft. Get convenient, complete collections that feature entire years of your favorite magazines (like this one from Step-by-Step Wire, as well as Easy Wire, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, and more), all on clutter-cutting, super-value CDs and digital downloads! Most of them are less than $10, now through November 30, 2015!

Artist Info
Yolanda Tsen Espinoza: lejaschic.etsy.com
Lilian Chen: lilian888crystals@yahoo.com
Brenda Schweder: brendaschweder.com

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