Save Time and Money: Five Wire Jewelry-Making Tips

16 Feb 2011


While traveling to Tucson and beyond for the past few weeks, I've stayed in nine different places and hotels. Whew! Fortunately I don't mind the hotel hopping; the cute little shampoos/conditioners, lotions, sewing kits, etc. from each one are always a fun little perk for me, and I've gathered lots of tiny packets of cotton balls and teeny emery boards recently. I save them for craft projects, so I was happy to learn a great tip for using them in wire jewelry making while flipping through an issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry recently. . .


1. Filing Wire Ends
Did you know that those little emery boards can help file and smooth the ends of wires if you don't have a metal file handy? Or if you don't have a file small enough to fit in tight spaces? I wouldn't have thought they were strong enough, but they are! I always love sharing great products and ideas like that one, so I wanted to share some more of my favorite wirework tips with you.

Imagine this wire cuff made with sterling silver wire and wire that won't oxidize, then oxidizing the whole piece. Some parts would darken while others would remain bright, for a neat effect!

2. Oxidizing Different Silver Wire Types
German silver wire (an alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc also known as nickel silver) can be oxidized in liver of sulfur, but silver craft wire, which is plated copper and often non-tarnish, won't oxidize in liver of sulfur. This is good news and bad news; make sure you don't create a wire jewelry project using plated wire that you intend to oxidize or you'll be disappointed later when the effect won't appear; however, imagine the fun of making a piece of wire jewelry strategically using both kinds of wire. When you oxidize it in liver of sulfur, some of the wire will oxidize and the rest will stay bright, making for a very unique and striking effect.

Remember that all oxidation is not the same; water temperature, length of soak, and the age of the liver of sulfur can all affect the outcome. In addition to dark blackish tones, you can also achieve blues, reds, and purples.

3. Perfect Balled Wire Ends
When balling the ends of sterling wire, you might be frustrated with pitted or misshapen balled ends. I certainly have been! So I was happy for this reminder from Connie Fox in Step by Step Wire Jewelry's Wire Workshop section: Do over! Connie shares that it's simply a matter of reheating the ball to smooth out the surface and/or improve its shape. She also recommends using Argentium silver because it forms smooth, well-shaped balled wire ends.

Inspiration for swirled, curly wire-jewelry designs like this bracelet can come from nature's inherent curved lines.
4. Wire Inspiration From Nature?
You bet! Who would think that something as organic and random as nature could inspire designs in something as concrete and contemporary as metal wire? The editors of Step by Step Wire know inspiration can come from anywhere, including nature, especially when working with loops and curves of wire, hence this great tip: If you get disappointed or frustrated while bending wire and making curves in wire jewelry, head out to the garden and compare the curves in your wire jewelry designs to a plant's curves, which are likely smooth, gradual, and spiraling. Let them inspire your designs to be more fluid if you feel your curves are too flat or forced.

5. Sizing Wire Jewelry
I make a lot of wire-wrapped rings, and they hardly ever end up the same size they were intended to be, especially after I've coiled wire onto them or wrapped some loops around the focal part. Because wire (wrapped/coiled wire especially) is generally worked into more fluid designs than, say, metalwork designs, and with more moving parts, naturally it moves more and can stretch or shrink as you work it. So the last tip I want to share with you is more wirework philosophy and advice than a tip, but it certainly bears sharing: Don't worry if your first attempt doesn't fit you exactly, it's sure to fit someone you know!

Each issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry also features the Wire Basics illustrated guide to wire techniques, like this tutorial on making S clasps.
It was hard to limit myself to five! There's a nearly endless amount of inspiration and ideas in each issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry, so just imagine what all could be learned in an entire year! So if you'd like to join me in adding wirework to your jewelry-making repertoire, why don't you subscribe to Step by Step Wire Jewelry and enjoy all the wirework tips and wire jewelry projects, too?

Do you have any wirework tips of your own? Please share in the comments below!

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DanaH@19 wrote
on 16 Feb 2011 8:18 AM

Don't forget that German silver isn't appropriate for someone with nickel sensitivities as it isn't really silver at all.

For sizing wire rings try starting a half size larger than intended - if it's still too small sometimes a little tap with a  mallet with the ring on the mandrel will settle the wires enough to eek you out a little more wiggle room.

TammyJones wrote
on 16 Feb 2011 9:19 AM

Thanks for the added info, DanaH!

GinaG@22 wrote
on 16 Feb 2011 7:54 PM

Hi Tammy!

I was just in Tucson and I was in desperate need of a file. I didn't even think of a nail file! :-) I have a question for you. You mention the use of Liver of Sulfur and I wanted to know if you have used the Liver of Sulfur Gel? If so do you like it in place of the powder Liver of Sulfur?

TammyJones wrote
on 17 Feb 2011 9:12 AM

Hi Gina!

I haven't used the liver of sulfur gel, but I think I would like it better than the solution--it just seems like it would be easier to use, and I'm all for saving a step (especially a messy stinky one!). Have you used the gel?

GinaG@22 wrote
on 20 Feb 2011 7:53 PM


I have purchased the gel but i haven't used it yet. I need to play with it. I just haven't heard much feed back so I was wondering what a "jewelry making guru" like yourself thought:-)

TammyJones wrote
on 23 Feb 2011 2:37 PM

Please share when you've used it, Gina--I'd like to know what you think too!

Gems by Judy wrote
on 28 Feb 2011 10:14 AM

I found glass files are great for smoothing off wire burs, they come in different sizes, so they are easy to fit into tight spaces.