So, to add some spice to the blog I’ve decided to start a series called, Let’s Talk Jewelry.  What I plan to do is share my knowledge and technique for jewelry making.  Each installment post will cover a different topic – and today we’ll start with the basics  of “findings”, beads, clasps and stringing media.

Findings can be bead caps, crimps and crimp covers, earring hooks, end pins, eye pins, jump rings, bails, drops, links – basically everything that doesn’t fit into the categories of beads, clasps and stringing media.  Findings may seem to be inconsequential, but they play a very important role in jewelry creation – I like to think of them as the nuts and bolts, or what holds the piece together.   Findings are the most critical part of the strength and durability of the piece.

I think of beads as the “guts” of the piece – the part that is most visible and most critical to the success of the piece visually.  The combination of beads you choose to create a piece of jewelry can either make the piece sing sweetly or make it off key and out of tune.   Color combinations are probably the most critical to success, but different textures and sparkle also play a very important part.  When I design a piece of jewelry, I start with the focal beads.  I think of focals as the stars of the piece, and the beads I add around them as the supporting cast.  (And of course, I am the director *wink*). 

The beads I use are generally handmade artisan lampwork beads.  They are hand shaped and formed in an open flame using long “canes”, or cylinders, of different colored glass.  I am in awe of lampwork bead artists, and I have developed a love affair with their creations.   Lampworks can be as simple as a single color, or they can have chaotic patterns of color and depth.  I can literally spend hours studying a single bead, marveling at it’s colors and wondering how the heck these talented artisans make such wonderful things!  Each bead is a OOAK (one of a kind) piece, and though they come in matched sets each bead in the set is a tiny bit different from it’s family.  I could go on and on about beads, but that will be for another part of this series.

Clasps are what opens and closes a bracelet or necklace – I think if them as the “gates”.  There are many types of clasp – hook and eye, lobster claw, toggle, magnetic, slide lock, “S” hook, snap, spring ring – there are a lot!  I choose my clasps for function and for decoration – if you look at my handmade jewelry almost all of my pieces have clasps that are somehow decorative and they are another way to add dimension and beauty to your jewelry. Clasps are added to a bracelet or necklace by making loops at the end of your stringing media with crimps.  You can hard wire them into the loop or connect them with jump rings.  I go the route of using jump rings – this way if the piece happens to snag on something and break there’s less chance of the strung part breaking.  It will break at the jump ring, and all you’ll have to do to repair it is replace the jump ring – it will save you having to have the entire piece re-strung and avoid the possibiity of losing any beads.

  Speaking of stringing media, there are many different types – semi precious metal (sterling, gold, argentium, aluminum, copper, brass, etc), steel wire (Accuflex, Tiger Tail, etc), fiber based  (waxed thread, hemp, leather, string, ribbon,etc), wire mesh and memory wire to name a few.  Selection depends on several factors – the weight of the finished piece, whether you want the piece to drape loosely or hold a certain shape rigidly, the type of beads you are using.  There’s a great blog post that goes into greater detail about semi precious wire types and how to select them here if you’d like to learn more.  I use Accuflex for my handmade lampwork creations, and semi precious wire when making hand forged pieces.  For a little history and more about stringing, here’s a good article on Squidoo here.

Putting all this together, this is what you can get.  When it comes to designing jewelry, the sky’s the limit on creativity – whatever you can imagine you can create!  A piece of jewelry can speak in subliminal ways – it can make a bold fashion statement or be a demure but noticeable eyecatcher.  It speaks to other people about who we are – your choices will tell  if you are shy or outgoing, fun or somber, organized or unpredictable, romantic or etheral.   Jewelry invites conversation and sometimes, if the piece is exceptional, awe and envy.  Jewelry can be a very powerful addition to your person – it can make or break an outfit – and it’s no wonder that even when times are tough we still buy jewelry.  It makes us feel better – it’s a way we can pamper ourselves when we need a little spice in our lives, or set the mood of who we are that day.  It’s a status symbol.  It’s to be loved, worn and admired, always.

So, that’s enough for today I think!  I hope you enjoyed reading this post.  Next up – Stringing!!!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 17:36:42

    Beautiful blue, green, yellow, purple …beads!!!!!


  2. cookala
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 00:17:41

    aren’t they gorgeous?! thanks so much for reading and commenting – I appreciate it!


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