Jewelry Techniques for Making Handcrafted and Handmade Jewelry
History of Handcrafted and Handmade Jewelry:
The history of making handmade jewelry goes back 8,000 years. In about 6,000 BC, in the Babylonian city of UR, wire was made from metals including gold. In general, these metals were found in their elemental state and did not need to be refined from ore. Metals like gold were pounded in to flat sheets and then rolled to form wire. This wire was used to make a double spiral wire component that was strung on a leather cord and worn as a necklace. From that first example of wire jewelry, the techniques for making jewelry using wire and beads advanced in all succeeding civilizations. The Egyptians made many types of jewelry out of metals, including cast metals. The Romans developed many of the jewelry making techniques that we address here. Ultimately, the Romans developed solid wire, pulled from a lump of metal. The Romans also developed the techniques for combining wire components by wrapping wire around itself that we now call the hobby -- wire wrapping. Many of the techniques for making jewelry that we will address in this section of our web site were first employed by the Romans. Here we have tried to take the wisdom of these ancient civilizations and update it using modern jewelry tools, to bring the hobby of making handmade or handcrafted jewelry into the 21st century.
Jewelry Making Techniques That Are Covered in our Web Site:
To say that our web site has a plethora (an abundance) of articles on making handcrafted jewelry and handmade jewelry might be an understatement. We have articles in this section of our web site that describe the techniques for making jewelry using the following jewelry making approaches:
handmade jewelry with beads and jewelry wire using techniques often called
wire working or wire wrapping. In addition to general wire
wrapping information, we have information on making loops, making links, making earrings
components or ear wires, making
clasps, making coils, and we
have information on making a jewelry component called a bead dangle.
handcrafted jewelry by stringing beads on thread or beadstringing wire.
- Making handmade jewelry components out of wire using the Twist 'n' Curl
- Making handcrafted jewelry chain using the Spool Knitter Jewelry Tool.
- Making handmade jewelry by setting gemstones in jewelry
handcrafted jewelry using a WigJig jewelry making tool and accessories.
handmade jewelry spiral components using the WigJig Spiral Maker jewelry
- Finally, we have general information on jewelry tools, jewelry wire, jewelry findings, measurement, storing, polishing
and displaying jewelry.
- We also have a lot of jewelry making techniques described in our jewelry making "For Beginners" here. This is a separate section of our web site and includes a web page with links to instructions on all the jewelry making skills and techniques here.
Jewelry Making Techniques for Making Handcrafted and Handmade Jewelry Not Covered in our Web Site:
In many ways, it is easier to describe what jewelry making techniques are not addressed in our web site. The following techniques for making handcrafted or handmade jewelry are not addressed in our web site.
- Soldering of metal jewelry
- Casting of metal jewelry components
- Use of a torch in any manner, including using the
torch to make glass beads
- Making jewelry with sheet metal by cutting,
shaping or bending the sheet metal
- Making jewelry wire
- In general, any technique that involves heating either glass, plastic or metal will not be covered in our web site. We believe that the potential element of danger associated with the heat involved, makes these techniques better taught face to face.
Our hope is that some of the information that we provide in this section of our web site will help you, our reader, to improve their skills in making handmade jewelry. Our goal is to make the hobby of making handcrafted jewelry easy for everyone. One note of caution. For some people, one or more of these techniques may be difficult. If one approach is hard for you, don't assume that all techniques will be difficult for you. If working with wire doesn't turn out to be your "thing", try stringing beads on thread or beadstringing wire. There are many ways to make jewelry that we describe. Please find the one that works for you. When you are familiar with the jewelry making skills, please select here to view our jewelry making projects.
Instructions/tips on making jewelry with jewelry wire using WigJig jewelry making tools:
1. JEWELRY WIRE PREPARATION: As the first step in your jewelry making project, straighten the Jewelry wire. You can straighten the jewelry wire before you cut it from the spool, using the spool to help hold one end of the wire or you can cut your wire and make a loop in the end of the wire with the flush cut and hold that loop to straighten your wire. Start with straight jewelry wire and if you should make a mistake and get a bend in your wire then remove it from the WigJig jewelry tools and straighten it, then put it back on the jewelry making jig.
2. PEGS: Use only those pegs that you need and add pegs as you go. For most multi-peg patterns, start with two pegs and add a peg after you have completed bending the jewelry wire around the prior peg. Don't let unused or unnecessary pegs get in your way.
3. TURNING THE JEWELRY MAKING JIG: Making consistently shaped jewelry wire components is easier when you push the wire with your fingers as close to the pegs as possible. The technique that works best for us is to move the WigJig jewelry tool with your non-dominant hand while holding and guiding the jjewelry wire with your index finger on your dominant hand. Concentrate on keeping the wire straight until you are ready to bend it.
4. PUSH - RELEASE: Making jewelry wire components on a WigJig jewelry tool is a series of push the wire then release all pressure on the wire and check to see if the wire relaxes back to where you want it to be, then push the wire some more if necessary. With no pressure on the wire it should rest adjacent to the hole for the next peg that you will add to the pattern. You will need to push the wire slightly beyond where you want it to end up, then allow it to relax back to its final position. With 1/2 hard jewelry wire (as opposed to soft jewelry wire) you will need to push the wire further before allowing it to relax back to its finished position.
5. WIRE FLIPS: Many jewelry wire components made on a WigJig jewelry tool will lay flatter if you flip them over after making a loop around a peg. When done correctly most jewelry wire components can be made with only two layers of wire. Frequently, our instructions for making components will describe where and how to flip the wire over.
6. STRONG AXIS: You will need to note the strong axis of your jewelry wire component. With bracelets and necklaces it is very important that you use the strong axis of the piece in line with the bracelet or necklace. This will ensure that your jewelry wire component will not pull apart when being worn.
7. WIRE HARDENING: After removing your jewelry wire component from your WigJig jewelry tool, consider hardening the piece to set the design by either squeezing the piece in the jaws of your nylon jaw pliers or where appropriate by hammering the piece with a chasing hammer and anvil or "soft" hammer like a nylon headed hammer or a leather mallet. The Wire Whacker (Item 3219) can be used for larger pieces. (Do not hammer jewelry wire where one piece of wire crosses another.)
8. HAND FINISHING: Use "hand finishing" with your fingers by eye to make your pieces as similar and consistent as possible. Make minor adjustments to finish your pieces.