Jewelry Making Basics: How To Work With Metal Wires

With a few supplies and some basic techniques, you can create your own fashionable and inexpensive metal wire jewelry without blowing your budget.

Do you admire beautiful metal wire jewelry in stores, but don't want to spend a fortune? Did you know that you can make gorgeous jewelry yourself? It's true. All you need are the right tools and supplies, some basic techniques, and creativity.

Most of the tools and supplies needed to make metal jewelry can be found in your local craft store. First, you'll need some metal wire. Wire is sold in units called gauge, with thinner-gauge wires having larger numbers. I have found that 24 gauge is the easiest to work with, because it bends easily while holding its shape. If you want wire that's a bit thicker, 18 gauge is best. Wire is available in various colors, but silver is the most popular. It comes on several different sized spools. If you plan on attaching beads to your jewelry, buy some metal head pins. These look like short pieces of wire with flat, blunt ends to hold the bead on.

Now that you have your wire, you need a way to work with it. The circular, tapered jaws on roundnose pliers are essential to twist and bend your wire. The flat inner jaws on chainnose pliers are great for gripping wire. Beware of pliers with ridges on their jaws, because these can ruin your wire. Make sure that your pliers have smooth inner surfaces. You also need a strong pair diagonal wire cutters. If this sounds like too many pliers for you, relax. Many stores sell pliers that have roundnose tips, chainnose middles, and wire cutters all in one pair. If you want a very simple way to bend complex designs in your wire without pliers, you might be interested in buying a jig. This is a small board with a series of holes and pins in it. You can rearrange the pins in the shape you want, and then bend the wire around them.

While you're at the craft store, be sure to purchase any beads you want to make your jewelry with. You might also want some chain to make a necklace, or some earring hooks. For fancy jewelry, I recommend crystal beads. These come in an assortment of colors and sizes, and they look like real jewels. A variety of pearl beads are also popular. If you're not quite sure what you want yet, most craft stores sell inexpensive bead assortments you can experiment with.

You finally have all of your supplies! Now you are ready to learn the basics of metal wire. First, let's learn to loop. To attach your wire creation to anything, you need to make a secure loop to hold it on. Let's begin with a straight piece of wire, and refer to the end as the "tip" and the middle as the "stem." Grab about a centimeter below the tip with your roundnose pliers. Bend until you have formed a loop, with the tip now bent across the stem like an "x." With your hand, take the excess tip and wrap it around the stem. You have now formed a wrapped loop.

To hang a bead from your jewelry, you need to make a plain loop. First, place the bead you want on one of the head pins you purchased. Use your wire cutters to snip about 1 centimeter above the bead. Now, bend the wire against the bead at a right angle. Grab the remaining tip with your roundnose pliers, and rotate into a simple loop. If you want to make a wrapped loop, you'll need to cut less off of the original pin, and follow the steps in the previous paragraph.

Congratulations! You now have all of the supplies and skills needed to create your own metal wire jewelry. All you need now is creativity! Search for inspiration in craft shows, magazines, stores, the Internet, craft workshops, and more. Working with your wire takes a lot of practice, but don't be discouraged; you'll eventually get the hang of it. Your friends will be amazed and you will be proud that you can make your own fashionable and inexpensive jewelry.

© High Speed Ventures 2011