Make Your Own Wire Jewelry Findings: Clasps, Ear Wires, Pins, and Jump Rings

26 Dec 2010

Tammy Jones editor Jewelry Making Daily
Tammy Jones is the
editor of Jewelry Making Daily.

The holidays are over for awhile (except for New Year's Eve and, of course, my birthday!), but there's a lot of winter left. Hopefully that means there will be a lot of snow days inside by the fire and opportunities to do all those jewelry-making projects there's never time for during the rest of the year. And you know what they say about idle hands!

But how many times have you been working along at your desk or bench and gotten so inspired, you outwork your stash? I don't know how many almost-done necklaces and bracelets that I have on my desk right now that are awaiting their final touch: the clasp. It's the same with a cup full of "earrings to be" that need ear wires from which to shine. Don't you hate when you hit your jewelry-making groove and then come to a screeching halt because you've run out of a vital jewelry-making component? Talk about frustrating!

Handmade Wire Jewelry Findings
A recent issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry helped me realize a solution: If I have wire, I also have jewelry findings. I can make my own S clasps, earring wires, eye pins, and jump rings--and chances are they're going to be more unique, more attractive, and more economical than manufactured ones. Bonus: By using handmade clasps and findings, my jewelry projects will be truly and completely handmade, all the way down to their utilitarian ends.

sterling silver coild wire handmade S clasps  
Design One-of-a-Kind Wire S Clasps
A simple S curve of wire and a jump ring becomes a one-of-a-kind S clasp with even a small amount of work. Hammer the wire just enough to flatten (with a ball-peen hammer), strengthen (with a rawhide or nylon hammer), and texture (with any metal hammer) the wire a bit, and voila! That tiny bit of work just turned a short piece of wire into a handmade one-of-a-kind jewelry clasp.

Another option is to cover the S-shaped wire with coils of finer-gauge dead-soft wire, like Martha Aleo did in her Clasp-tastic! S-clasp project from Step by Step Wire Jewelry Winter 2009. She added extra embellishment with spacers and metals beads; you could also try stacking on some textured jump rings or using another kind of bead. Finish the ends with one last flourish of curled wire and/or a ball of silver (just touch it with a torch flame until the silver end melts up into a ball).

  handmade wire earring wires
Create Easy and Unique Ear Wires
Stephanie Riger's Easy Ear Wires project from Step by Step Wire Jewelry Summer Preview 2007 reminded me that I can make my own ear wires and, more importantly, they don't have to be just hooks for the earring designs to hang on--they can enhance and be part of the design. Coils and swirls on the front ends take your earring designs one step further.

Making my own ear wires also allows me to experiment with their shape, making them extra long, angular, or giving them a slightly curved back side for a little extra style. Remember to create balance if you tamper with the standard fish-hook design or your earrings won't hang properly. A Sharpie marker is just the right size for curving the top of your ear wires.

sterling silver wire head pins  
Got Wire? Got Pins!
Whether you need eye pins or head pins, if you have wire (preferably half hard), you're covered. Eye pins are simple and self-explanatory enough: Use round-nose pliers to make a simple closed loop on the end of a wire turns the wire into an eye pin, with a custom-sized eye to match whatever your projects require.

Head pins take only a bit more effort. Make a small, tightly wound coil on the end of a piece of wire for a spiral-tipped head pin. A ball-tipped head pin can be created by just melting the end with a torch until the silver melts up into a tiny ball; make it a collection of about five tiny silver balls and you have a flower-tipped head pin. Creating and using head pins and eye pins with special features like these is an easy way to add an extra little something to your jewelry designs.

  sterling silver jump rings
Make Jump Rings by the Dozen
This tip is pretty well known but bears repeating: Coiling wire around just about any long round object (pencils or pens, knitting needles, chopsticks, metal or wooden rods . . . ) and then sawing along one side to cut them open will create custom wire jump rings in any size you want and in your metal of choice, faster than you can say "jump ring."

Choose the Right Wire Gauge
Making successful wire jewelry components depends on starting with the right gauge of wire. Clasps like S clasps (as well as hook-and-loop clasps) should be made using 14- to 18-gauge wire. Finer-gauge wires are generally too soft to function as secure clasps, but they can be improved by hardening them with a hammer (nylon or rawhide) or in a tumbler.

The best wire for earring wires is 20-gauge, half hard, though 18-gauge wire (even 22-gauge wire with some hardening) would work. Jump rings can be made using 16- to 22-gauge (at least half hard if not full hard) wire. Softer or finer-gauge wire will make less secure jump-ring closures. Depending on the size of hole in your beads and how sturdy and hard working the pin needs to be, head pins and eye pins can be made using from 18-gauge to 24-gauge wire.

Wire Jewelry Epiphany
Now I have a confession to make. I've never considered myself a wire jewelry maker, but that was narrow thinking. After some thought, I have trouble imagining a project I've made that doesn't have at least some wire in it. Wire is everywhere--as clasps, jump rings, pins, and earring wires, sure--but it's also the decorative coils and curls and curvy swirls, the bails and connectors, the sticks and dangles, even the finger rings I've made. I would have realized the importance of wire in my jewelry making sooner if I'd been reading Step by Step Wire Jewelry!

Do you make your own jewelry findings? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

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on 27 Dec 2010 4:54 AM

Love your emails. I have tried wire jewellry making, and after doing beading for about 20-25 yrs., I must admit that I thought it would be lighter work. But I've found that it requires quite a strong wrist and hand to acheive anything like what we see in magazines, or is it just me!  I would like to be taken step-by-step

through the required guages and what to use it for. Can you please help? Silvana.

joykruse wrote
on 27 Dec 2010 7:01 AM

I have made all my own findings now for years. Try using 20g square wire for earwires. It gives a clean straight line look. In your ear you cannot tell that the wire is square and they hold their shape wonderfully. Nice look for jumprings too. Enjoy making!! :) joy kruse    

on 27 Dec 2010 2:33 PM

I love working with wire. I started with beading but when I saw the lovely pieces achieved with wire, I was hooked. I tried a few times making my own findings, but not lately. So, I'm going right now to my table and try a few, after being inspired. And, as to needing a strong wrist, if you watch some tutorials on wire working and learn the proper way to use some hand tools, you will see that it isn;t so necessary for strength. I was using my hand tools in the wrong position and was getting tired way before the project was completed.

Awakachee Designs

on 27 Dec 2010 6:47 PM

I make my own eye pins but I like your ways of making head pins and jump rings

TammyJones wrote
on 3 Jan 2011 9:46 AM

Thanks everyone for your comments!

Silvana, Step by Step Wire editor Denise Peck went into more detail about wire gauges in a recent blog, hope it's helpful!

Joy, thanks for mentioning square wire. I used some in a pinch once, when I was out of round wire, and I loved it! It seemed considerably easier to work with in all aspects, maybe because the flat edges fit next to tools and mandrels better. Thanks for the reminder!

torchfairy wrote
on 4 Jan 2011 3:29 PM

I make my own findings all the time...also make my own glass beads...

It's like anything else  you do.. the more you practice & make things the

better you get...

Kathleen1955 wrote
on 20 Jan 2011 7:35 PM

I love Step by Step Wire Jewelry. I often feel inspired and validated while scouring my magazines. I love that Artist's often think alike. I've been making my own clasps and earwires for many years and have been teaching others how to do the same. I love it when students get that "ah ha" moment. It 's extremely rewarding.