How to Make One-of-a-Kind Jewelry That’s Uniquely You

Making your own jewelry is a fun way to create accessories that are as unique as you are. Your designs can be as simple or as complicated as you want to match your personal style. When someone compliments you on your jewelry and asks where you got it, you can proudly say, “I made it myself.”

Getting Started

strings of beads Jewelry can be made from a wide variety of materials including precious metals, beads, wire, paper, polymer clay and macramé cord. Jewelry-making techniques range from simply stringing beads together to manipulating wire to more complicated metalsmithing that requires specialized equipment.

If you haven’t made jewelry, before I suggest starting with jewelry wire and beads. These materials are easy to work with, widely available and inexpensive. Once you’ve mastered a few wire working techniques, you’ll be able to create pieces that don’t require a lot of time to make, but look sophisticated. A bracelet is a good project for beginners.

Basic Tools and Supplies

Wire

The wire you use will depend upon the type of jewelry you want to make. Some common options are:

  • Beading wire for making jewelry from strings of beads
  • Jewelry wire for wire wrapping and linking techniques
  • Memory wire for making round coiled bracelets that keep their shape

When choosing wire for your project, you’ll also want to pay attention to the wire’s gauge or thickness. The higher the gauge, the thinner the wire. For example a 22 gauge wire is a good all-around jewelry-making size, while a 10 gauge wire is very thick and hard to bend.

beaded necklace

Pliers

The most important tools for jewelry-making are pliers. While there are many other types of pliers, these are the most common for working with wire:

  • Needle nose pliers for gripping and bending wire
  • Round nose pliers for creating curves and loops in wire
  • Wire cutters for cutting lengths of wire and for trimming off excess

Beads

colorful beadsNow for the fun part – choosing the beads for your project! Beads come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from materials like glass, plastic, metal, wood and gemstones. The options are almost limitless.

One thing to keep in mind when you’re shopping is to make sure the wire you’re using will fit through the holes in your beads. There’s nothing more frustrating than designing the perfect piece, then realizing your beads won’t fit on your wire.

Working with Wire

gemstone heart wrapped in wireLearning wire wrapping techniques will allow you to make jewelry that’s truly unique. You can use wire to make loops to join beads or other components together to create bracelets and necklaces. The wire itself can be bent and manipulated to create designs. It can also be used to attach non-bead items to your work.

In her book Wild Jewelry Sarah Drew has some great ideas on incorporating environmentally-friendly materials like stones, shells and wood.

With your library card you can watch the “Wire Linking Basics” video on Creativebug. It’s a great introduction to working with wire in jewelry projects. Instructor Melanie Schow gives very clear, detailed instructions and offers tips and tricks to help make your first project successful.

Create Unique Accessories

The best part of making your own jewelry is no one else will have exactly the same pieces as you do. You get to choose the style, the colors, the materials and the techniques you use to create your own one-of-a-kind accessories. As your skills grow, you can experiment with precious metals and gemstones to make your jewelry really stand out.

Check out this booklist to start your jewelry-making adventures:

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Brea Black is the Art Librarian and Book Arts Curator in the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery. Her favorite thing is to share the wonderful world of artists' books with the community. She also leads the Arts & Crafts team and teaches workshops on book making and a variety of other crafty topics.