Jewellery making: getting started

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Welcome to the Cosy Craft Club's jewellery making month! We really want to encourage you to have a go at jewellery making yourself, and we'll be sharing the key things you need to know to get started. You can find all our jewellery making posts in one place here.

Jewellery making is a fantastic craft because it is so wide ranging, and so rewarding. You can make jewellery out of almost anything, and use a wide variety of techniques to do so. Almost everyone loves wearing jewellery, and the great thing about making your own is that you can make it exactly how you like it!

Today we're going to show you how to get started in simple wire and bead jewellery making. These techniques form the basis for many types of jewellery making, but they can also be used by themselves to make lovely jewellery for yourself or your friends.

Jewellery making supplies

First of all, let’s discuss what you’ll need to buy! To get started, you’ll need tools, findings and beads.

Tools

There is a large and baffling range of tools that you can buy for jewellery making, but to get started in wire and bead jewellery you really only need 3 tools:

  • Round nose pliers - these are used for making round loops in wire and head pins

  • Chain nose pliers - these are used for holding wire still, bending wire, straightening kinks, and so much more. I personally prefer to have two pairs of chain nose pliers to manipulate my work with.

  • Wire cutters - as you may be able to guess, these are used for cutting wire!

Other tools that may be useful:

  • Bead mat - this is a fluffy piece of fabric that stops your beads rolling away (very useful)

  • Nylon jawed pliers - these are useful for straightening wire if it’s a bit bent or kinked

  • Crimp tool - used for closing crimp beads

Photo:  Honeydew Club

Findings

Again, there are many different types of findings! A good way to start out is to choose a project to make and then buy the findings for it so that you don’t end up with different types of findings you never use. Here are some of the most common:

  • Ear wires - these are the part of earrings that go in your ear. You can attach beads to these to make earrings.

  • Head, eye or ball pins - these are short lengths of wire with a small cap, wire loop or ball on the end to stop beads from falling off. These are commonly used in earrings but are also used to hang beads from bracelets or necklaces.

  • Toggles and clasps - these are used to open and close bracelets and necklaces

  • Jump rings - these are small rings of wire which can be used to connect other components

  • Wire - this comes in many thicknesses, known as gauges. I would recommend  0.6mm (22 gauge) or 0.8mm (20 gauge) wire for most jewellery making applications. Wire is used for making frames and shapes, threading beads and connecting components.

When choosing your findings, there are many options in terms of materials and colours. I would recommend using craft wire or base metals (such as copper and brass) only for practising as they are cheap but will turn black fairly quickly. Invest in high quality findings and wire, such as sterling silver plated, silver- or gold-filled (a type of thick plating) or solid sterling silver for finished pieces.

Gemima from Honeydew Club says:

When you're learning something new it's great to experiment with a few different ways of doing things; watch Youtube videos, borrow jewellery making books from the library, and read tutorials to discover how you like to learn. Then practise as much as you can, and as base metals are cheaper you don't have to consider the cost too much. Even now when I'm creating a new design I make it in brass first, until I'm happy with it, then make it again in silver.

Beads

Beads are one way to make your jewellery truly individual and suited to you. There are thousands of different types and sizes! The best way to choose is to browse online or (even better) in your local bead shop to get a real feel for what options there are. Here are some of the common types of beads:

  • Seed beads - the smallest beads, usually made from glass. Used as filler beads or for very fine jewellery.

  • Glass pearls - easy to find, cheap and look great. Available in a range of colours.

  • Glass beads - these can can be very striking. There are lots of different types, from small round coloured beads, to large lampwork beads which are highly decorated.

  • Crystal beads (such as Swarovski or Czech) - faceted beads, which are perfect if you like to add a bit of sparkle to your jewellery.

  • Semi-precious gemstones - these come in a range of colours, shapes and prices but are perfect for creating jewellery to treasure.

  • Metal beads - these make great spacer beads, used between other beads. You can also get larger designs which make striking focal pieces.

 

There are so many different types of jewellery making supplies, and I have only listed here those relating to wire and bead jewellery making. Jewellery making provides a great opportunity for thinking outside the box, and using all kinds of materials to make jewellery with. Emma from Make and Fable says:

My Top Tip would be to explore all the different types of jewellery making- there are so many! But don't let that intimidate you. In fact you can tie jewellery making in with your existing craft skills: so if you already do needlecraft, try beadweaving; if you love ceramics look at polymer clay; if you like mixed media there is shrink plastic and resin and if you find any excuse to get hammers and power tools out then silversmithing and metalwork might be for you!

Where to buy your jewellery making supplies

If you are lucky enough to live near a bead shop, then you should definitely make a visit! There's nothing like browsing the beads and findings on display to get the creative juices going, and you can see what they look like together as well. Many craft shops also stock jewellery making supplies.

If you can't get to a shop in person, Mail Order Beads (by The Bead Shop Nottingham), Beads Direct and Beads Unlimited are great specialist jewellery making websites which will have everything you need (and so much more!).

There are some good shops on eBay which have a large range of cheap supplies. Please be aware that the quality may not be high but they are great for starting out and practice pieces.

For more 'serious' jewellery makers, Cooksongold and Palmers Metals are specialist websites with wide ranges of high quality supplies and tools for all types of jewellery making.

Gemima from Honeydew Club says:

Cooksongold are great quality for supplies such as findings and chain, and Amazon and Ebay are usually cheapest for tools

Don't forget that you can also buy our jewellery making starter kit, which has a great range of beads and findings, and the tools you need to get making!

Photo:  Honeydew Club

Jewellery making resources

Books

There are many, many books on jewellery making! Books are so useful, because they're easy to refer back to. Your library is likely to have some jewellery making books, so it's a great place to have a browse. If you'd rather buy a book, here are some that we recommend:

  • Making: A Complete Course For Beginners by Jinks McGrath

  • Compendium of Jewellery Making Techniques by Xuella Arnold and Sara Withers

  • The Encyclopedia of Wire Jewellery Making Techniques by Sara Withers

Gemima from Honeydew Club says:

I was given 'Jewellery Making: A Complete Course For Beginners' by Jinks McGrath as a present many years ago and still refer back to it now; it gives you an overview of lots of different jewellery techniques so you can get an idea of what you're interested in learning.

Videos

My absolute favourite website for jewellery making is Rena Klingenburg's Jewelry Making Journal. It is a wealth of information, and her videos on basic wire jewellery techniques such as plain wire loops, wrapped wire loops and pendants are very clear and helpful.

There are also many jewellery making channels on YouTube, but two to get you started are Jewellery Maker UK and Jeweller's Academy.

 

Websites

Again, there are loads of jewellery making websites to choose from, and they are a great source of inspiration and information. I've listed some great ones below - so go and have a browse!

Beading Gem's Journal

Fall For DIY

Honestly WTF

Lia Griffith

Lisa Yang Jewelry

Make and Fable

I have also created a Pinterest board full of ideas for jewellery that you can make yourself!

Workshops

Many bead shops and craft shops hold jewellery making workshops, so see if you can find one near you! Emma from Make and Fable says:

For resources, there are so many YouTube videos, books and blogs (including my own!) out there, but nothing beats in person workshops. Being able to watch an expert go through the steps and techniques with you is invaluable.

I hope you've found this introduction to jewellery making useful and inspiring. What are you waiting for? Go and buy some beads and wire and get started!

Rachel x

P.S. Thank you so much to Emma from Make and Fable, Gemima from Honeydew Club and Rachael from Crafty Rachael for their invaluable help in creating this post.