A simple spool of wire has so much potential! Pair it with a beautiful stone or five, and you can create a one-of-a-kind pendant to hang on a necklace chain. That’s a good thing for me. Because I love gemstones – the fact that they are old and discovered, then cut, drilled and polished to become beads. And the wire, usually copper or silver, also comes from the earth.
If you can make a simple loop, you’re off to a great start. If you can also make a wrapped loop, you will have some needed practice with coiling wire. Once you have mastered the wrapped loop, spirals and coils will follow easily so you have a variety of skills at your fingertips. Wire wrapping takes practice, so inexpensive copper wire is great for learning. And its warm color is beautiful to wear.
So, what do you need to get started?
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- Wire, of course. Start with copper. Gauge is the unit of measurement for the thickness of wire, with the numbers increasing as the wire gets thinner. For example, 14-gauge wire is thicker and takes some hand strength to work with, 18-gauge is a bit thinner and easier to work, 20-gauge is often used for ear wires, 26-gauge is delicate for intricate wraps and 30-gauge is almost thread-like.
- Pliers and cutters will help you shape and manipulate the wire and get consistent results. I recommend getting the best quality you can afford. There are good quality starter sets available, but if you make a lot of wire jewelry, the solid construction and smooth finishes of professional flush cutters, round nose pliers, chain nose pliers, bent chain nose pliers and flat nose pliers. If you know you will work with heavier gauge wire, consider a heavy duty cutter and save your smaller cutters for finer work.
- Needle files will smooth the ends of your cut wire to give you joins that appear seamless.
Our tutorial on how to make a wire wrapped pendant will take you through all the steps to make a pendant of your own to hang from your favorite chain.
Here are some other views of the wire wrapped pendant in the tutorial. The stones are beautiful on a variety of background, versatile for any wardrobe.
Here are more wire wrapped necklaces. Each is different from the others. One of the lovely things about working with wire is its malleability. I can bend it to work with any number of shapes. I have a thing for semi-precious gemstones, but if you like bling, go for crystals and shiny, faceted beads.
Silver Wire Wrapped Picture Jasper Pendant
I fell in love with this laser cut focal bead and several like it at my very first bead show. Each unique stone reminded me of a different landscape. They were works of art on their own merits. In a class with Tara Brisbine, I learned to shape, hammer, weave and coil silver wire to create my Silver Wire Wrapped Picture Jasper Pendant. It was a perfect way to work with unique beads.
With each student using different sizes and shapes of stones, the result was a lovely variety of work – no cookie cutter jewelry! Being able to adapt the basic wire structure to show off other beautiful stones opened wide the creative doors.
The “what ifs” provide endless possibilities. What if the focal stone has an irregular shape? What if oxidized copper creates the coil wraps instead of silver? Perhaps small gemstones could embellish the coil wraps And so on, and so on….
Silver Wire Wrapped Turquoise Pendant
These special turquoise stones were an anniversary gift from my husband. I took him to an Out of Our Mines trunk show, and he took the bait. I love the resulting Silver Wire Wrapped Turquoise Pendant, fashioned with sterling and fine silver wire.
Though each of these turquoise stones is different, I wanted to use them all in a single piece of jewelry to commemorate our anniversary.
First, I needed to find a pleasing, balanced arrangement for the stones. I had to consider color, size, shape and method of drilling. Different drilling methods require different wire wrapping techniques.
With the turquoise arranged, I needed to design a hanging structure. I decided to treat each bead independently while making the five focal beads work together as a unit, so I needed five places to hang the bead dangles. I laid out heavy thread to audition various shapes. Then I made alterations and adjustments before cutting into precious silver, using the length of thread to measure wire for cutting. I settled on a hexagon shape with loops.
Chenille stems (pipe cleaners) would work well, too, for auditioning shapes. They are readily available, inexpensive and hold their form much better than thread.
I added small round turquoise stones to the wire wraps on the pendant’s frame, then added the silver chain and clasp.
Lapis and Pearl Silver Wire Necklace
Lapis and Pearl Silver Wire Necklace is the result of another class with Tara Brisbine. During class, I hammered and wrapped antiqued sterling silver wire to form the framework of the necklace.
Hammered sterling spirals suspend the “trapeze” so that it moves freely. Tiny green pearls surround faceted round lapis beads. Small lapis gemstones perch on the horizontal bar of the silver frame. Fine silver wire holds them securely in place.
The focal stone is a mystery – I picked it up from a bowl of unidentified “last of” gemstones just because I love the shape and lustre. Lapis surrounds it, attached with wrapped fine silver wire. Fine silver is softer than sterling, so it creates smooth wraps.
I love the little clover leaf component dangling at the bottom of the piece. Top drilled teardrop shaped freshwater pearls compose the “leaves”. In different colors, they might mimic flower petals. If you prefer gemstone briolettes over pearls, you have even more options for the clover leaf component.
The same wire wrapping technique works for this teardrop or briolette shaped bead, regardless of the material. Take care to arrange your “leaves” or “petals” early on. You can then secure the component with additional wraps. Add a few wraps or many – you’ll know when it looks good to you!
Copper Wire and Mixed Gemstone Necklace
Liver of Sulphur oxidized the metal to give the Copper Wire and Mixed Gemstone Necklace an antique, vintage look. (When you use liver of sulphur, make sure your workspace is well ventilated – it’s stinky stuff! And never use your liver of sulphur container for food!) Tiny wire wrapped stones surround the large focal Jasper gemstone.
This stone is pretty on both sides, and this design allows either side to show. Individual wrapped gemstone links (a great way to practice those wrapped loops) make up the one of a kind chain with an interesting mix of colors and textures. A carnelian dangle picks up the rusty matrix color in the Jasper focal. Then a copper toggle clasp completes the piece.
Mixed stones arranged by color balance the chain’s design. I audition the components before construction by laying out the pieces on a soft surface (so the round beads don’t roll away from me!) Then I make changes before I connect the pieces to each other. A little time spent in preparation prevents time lost later fixing mistakes.
Measure twice, cut once. Lay out twice, construct once. Your cell phone or digital camera is a great tool in the design phase. Shoot a picture, rearrange, then shoot another picture. Repeat as often as necessary. Once you have a design you love, go for it!
Below are two stones wrapped in wire by Jan Thompson. Jan uses a different technique that wraps cabochons, flat-backed stones with no holes. The wire forms an external frame to secure the cabochons in place with an intricate framework. Here is her description of these works:
Since learning how to wrap stone in wire, I don’t look at any pebble, rock or stone the same way. I look to see what color metal will work best, or possibly a combination of metals. Each stone is unique and an amazing variation in color, movement and texture generously provided by mother nature. Flat-backed cabochons are perfect for the jewelry I love to make.
Contributed by Jan Thompson
A little more about Jan:
When asked why I make jewelry, quilts, wall hangings… anytime I am making something…I do it because I must….
Learning new techniques and putting them to use in unique ways is a driving force for me. Jumping from quilting to painting to jewelry and back is evidence of my need to do multi-dimensional work. At least with this addiction I have an end product that I can keep, give away or sell.
When I create, I use all my senses, I dream of things to make, I doodle and draw out those ideas, I enjoy the ‘making’ and it makes my heart sing regardless of the outcome. There are even times when I literally blow myself away with what I accomplished.
So when asked for an artist statement the best I can do is…. I create because I must!
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