8 Tips on How to Make Wire Jewelry
I love how my eyes have been opened to the beauty and value of learning how to make wire jewelry. I didn’t give handmade wire jewelry enough credit in the past; to me, making wire jewelry meant either wire-wrapped jewelry, which I didn’t do, or making wire findings and other wire jewelry components.
I didn’t realize how important and widespread learning how to make wire jewelry is in almost all jewelry making, not just wire-wrapped jewelry, until I saw the fun ways jewelry makers used wire in their wire jewelry patterns and designs. Read these eight tips on how to make wire jewelry and join the fun!
How to Make Wire Jewelry: 8 Essential Tips
How to Choose the Best Wire Jewelry Tools
Image: Fine Art Weaving.
Nylon-jaw pliers are indispensable for straightening crimped or crumpled wire so that you can use it instead of tossing or recycling it. Good wire cutters will save your hands, especially when you’re wire-wrapping loops or making other wire-wrapped jewelry. The right round-, chain-, needle- or flat-nose pliers can make repetitive or tedious tasks go more easily, and marking your spot on round-nose pliers can ensure consistently wrapped loops and eye pins, every time. The flat side of a ball-peen hammer will flatten and spread wire; the balled side will add dimples and texture to it. Rubber or nylon mallets will harden wire.
Go Beyond Wire-Wrapping Stones
Learning how to make wire jewelry is more than how to wire wrap stones and other wire-wrapping techniques. With wire jewelry tutorials, you can learn to coil wire, make wire spirals, flatten wire, weave wire, knit or crochet wire, make chainmail weaves, solder and fuse wire into chain and other wire designs, make wire filigree and more. Any of these techniques can produce wire jewelry and wire design elements that can enhance any jewelry design, including bead or metal designs.
Hardening & Annealing Wire Like a Pro
Wire is sold in hard, half-hard or dead-soft varieties called “tensions.” If you have one but need another, you can change it yourself! Tumbling or hammering with a nylon or rawhide mallet will harden dead-soft wire and wire designs; heating hardwire with a torch to anneal it will make it softer and easier to work with. If you make your own wire findings (and you should) like ear wires and clasps, hammer them with a rubber mallet after you’ve shaped them to make them harder, stronger and help them maintain their shape. Soft wire will harden as you manipulate it and might have to be annealed again. So knit, weave or crochet with dead-soft wire; make findings with half-hard wire.
How to Make Wire Jewelry Findings
It’s easy, affordable and cost-effective to make your own ear wires, clasps, jump rings, balled or flat head pins, eye pins and even wire chain. Form ear wires using a doubled-up, U-shaped wire (cut it in half later) on a Sharpie marker “mandrel” to ensure perfectly sized, perfectly matched ear wires every time. You can draw a ball on the end of silver or copper wire by holding it in a torch flame; later you can flatten the ball end by securing it in a vise and hammering it flat to make regular head pins. Knitting needles make great mandrels for making your own jump rings; saw the coil of wire into rings instead of cutting with wire cutters to ensure flush wire ends.
Wire Gauges Demystified
Wire gauge is a wire’s diameter; the higher the number, the smaller the wire.
- Use 20-gauge wire to make ear wires (18 can be too large for some people and 22 gauge won’t hold its shape).
- Make head pins using 18- to 24-gauge wire in general, though the holes of the beads you’re using will determine the size of head pins you need. Pearls usually require smaller gauge wire.
- For jump rings, just about anything goes, depending on the project, but 18- to 22-gauge is most common. If you use a finer gauge (higher than 22), they won’t be stiff enough to be very secure. Larger gauge (lower than 18) can be too big for most projects.
- To make hook-and-loop or S-hook clasps, 14- to 18-gauge wire is required. If you use a finer gauge (20 or higher), you’ll need to harden them by hammering or tumbling so they’ll keep their shape.
Best Way to Organize Wire Gauges, Wire Types & Tensions
If you think you can tell a piece of 20-gauge soft silver-plated wire from a piece of 22-gauge half-hard sterling silver wire just by looking, then ignore this tip! But if you’re like me and you don’t want to guess, store your wire in an accordion file from the office supply shop and label each piece or section with gauge, tension and composition. You could also note the source, in case you want to buy more from the same place. Keeping the wire inside plastic bags will also cut down on tarnish.
Every Jewelry Maker Should Play with Different Jewelry Wire Shapes
Heavier-gauge flat or half-round wire makes great ring bands. Square wire picks up light more than round wire does and even adds the illusion of sparkle to wire-wrapped jewelry. You can make your own twisted wire by inserting two wires into the chuck of a drill, holding the other end in pliers and turning the drill on low speed.
Wire Jewelry-Making Materials
Jewelry wire comes in a range of materials — from precious metal to base metal. The one you select comes down to personal preference and the type of jewelry you are making:
- Precious metal wire is what you’ll use when making your fine, high-end designs. Options include .999 fine silver, .925 sterling silver and Argentium sterling silver—a tarnish-resistant alloy.
- Silver or Gold Fill wire is created by applying a thick layer of precious metal (silver or gold) to a less expensive base material. Fill (also called overlay) is significantly thicker than plating.
- Silver-plated or gold-plated gives you the look of sterling silver or gold, minus the cost. It is created by covering a copper or brass core with a plating of silver or gold.
- Enamel-coated comes in an assortment of fun colors adding a pop of color to your designs. It’s made from copper wire covered with a permanent colored enamel coating.
- Sold-base metal comes in a variety of metals, such as stainless steel, copper, nickel silver, brass and bronze. These metal wires can be used to make finished products as well as prototypes for precious metal settings.
- Memory wire is sold in coils, so it’s great for making bracelets and choker necklaces in a flash, It retains its round or oval shape.
Now you’re armed with tips and advice on how to make wire jewelry. Have fun experimenting and seeing all the ways you can use wire in your jewelry designs!
You can never run out of ideas and inspiration for your newest wire jewelry designs with Step by Step Wire Jewelry magazine. Discover new wire designs and advance your skills, from how to make wire earrings and necklaces to patina and texturing techniques. Every issue of our wire jewelry magazine is one you don’t want to miss!