|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.
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).
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.
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.
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!