It's tailor-made for customizing, so go ahead and mix, match, loop, and string to your heart’s content.

By Alexandra Churchill
July 23, 2020
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Raymond Hom

Making your own jewelry is a revelation. When you admire pieces through a glass case in a shop, it's hard to imagine that you could actually create dazzling earrings, sweet charm bracelets, and elegant necklaces with gleaming stone pendants yourself. But most anyone can learn jewelry making. The meditative process of stringing beads, tying knots, and twisting wire does call for patience and practice, and along with a few fundamental techniques, you'll also need some specific supplies. Luckily, they are readily available at arts and crafts stores (if there's no store in your area, you can find everything you need online).

When you're just starting out, it's wise to experiment using inexpensive materials—buy wire made of a base metal and some glass or plastic beads, for example, rather than fourteen-­karat gold and semiprecious stones. Play around with the tools and techniques, trying our ideas. As you master the basics, you can turn your attention to the design of your creations—and that's the really enjoyable part. Do you like bold pieces, or more subtle ones? Is your sensibility classic, modern, or perhaps a little edgy? Whatever your style, people are sure to notice a piece you lovingly created by hand. And what a pleasure to say, "I made it myself."

Beads

Glass, wood, plastic, metal, or semiprecious stones—beads come in almost every material imaginable, as well as a vast variety of shapes and sizes (not to mention prices). Browsing at a specialty bead store is a great way to familiarize yourself with what's available and to get inspired. To keep beads from rolling around, plan your design by laying out the beads on a towel, felt, or a bead design board.

Chain, Clasps, and Wire

Chains, of course, are the starting point for many necklaces and brace­lets (and even belts). The links may be delicate and dainty or big and chunky. You can invest in 14- or 18-karat gold or sterling silver, which will stand the test of time. Another option is to pay less for gold or silver-­tone chain, or chains made of metals, such as brass, copper, or steel, or even plastic; any of these will make beautiful pieces. Chain is usu­ally sold by the foot (or the inch, for more expensive ver­sions), which means you need to add the clasp yourself. There are several styles, most of which attach to a jump ring, a simple loop used as a connector. (Or you can buy a chain necklace or bracelet with a clasp already in place.) Use lengths of wire to turn a bead into a pendant or to join beads to one another. Choose fasteners, jump rings, and wire in the same metal and finish as your chains.

Silk Cord

Use this strong cord for stringing beads for necklaces and bracelets. It comes in different colors and thicknesses and can be part of the design of a piece of jewelry (as when the beads are spaced along the cord and separated by knots); or it can be purely functional (as when the beads are flush against one another).

Pliers and Cutters

In order to manipulate the thin wires and small links, you'll need both chain-­nose pliers and round-­nose pliers, as well as wire cutters. Chain-­nose pliers have a tapered tip; the pincers are round on the outside but flat, with ribbing for grip, on the sides that touch. Use this versatile tool for open-­ing jump rings and crimping bead tips. Round-­nose pliers are also tapered, but the tips are completely rounded. Use them for making loops and wrapping wires. Use cutters for snipping wire. In any jewelry-making project, choose good-­quality tools that feel comfortable in your hands.

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