Personalized jewelry, such as weddings and engagement rings, are precious in their own rights. The personal touch makes them extra special, particularly when they are one of a kind and designed solely with the wearer in mind. However, it’s also possible to extend this same special feeling for one’s other pieces of jewelry. The key is mastering and knowing the techniques and materials used to make jewelry, so you can create your own.
Who says you cannot create jewelry? In the first place, jewelry is not limited to just precious stones and metals. Fashion jewelry, which is defined as the kind of jewelry that is in line with the latest trends in the industry. These are the kinds of jewelry that can be easy to make, and would benefit from personalization. Not only can you mix and match certain materials, but you can also come up with designs that will go with your everyday outfits.
If you’re planning to get into the jewelry-making business, or just curious about jewelry-making materials and processes, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ll discuss all the above and then some.
What Materials Are Used to Make Jewelry?
The good thing about jewelry making is that you can personalize it depending on your taste. If you are planning to expand your horizon and find a customer base, one way to get into the professional aspect of jewelry making is to know and understand the trends. While good taste elevates the design, designers are often grounded by what the market wants. This balances outlandish and avant-garde designs and those that appeal to the mainstream market.
Get The Right Tools
Before you get started, you need to know the basic tools for jewelry making. Unlike in fashion, where the main materials include a sewing machine and fabrics, jewelry-making can involve different kinds of tools, depending on one’s chosen materials. In addition, some of the tools to execute jewelry making techniques for metal may be more expensive for a start-up venture.
Beginners in jewelry making would often need the following tools to get started:
- Wire cutters
- Pliers (they come in round and flat-nose variants)
- Beads (these can be glass or fire-polished)
- Memory wire
- Clasps and ear wires
These are the most basic ones that can get you started, especially in the line of costume jewelry. Now, if you would like to move forward to more complex techniques, such as soldering, metal etching, resin casting, or gemstone work, you need to familiarize yourself with how these work and see if they are within your capabilities and preferences.
Choose Your Materials
So, how do you make different types of jewelry? The answer lies in two things: your preference and your capability to work with materials. Individuals who get into jewelry-making as a hobby may want to work with simple materials, including beads and threads.
Woven bracelets are a good entry point into the craft. It practices one to have the creative eye for pattern-making and teaches them to work with their hands to create an output. Bead work and wire jewelry require some finer motor skills, because it entails weaving together not only patterns, but also following strict techniques, such as twisting and shaping wires. At the same time, this is when one starts to examine whether this will be a hobby or a paid venture. Working with wire jewelry can be time-consuming, particularly if one is just beginning with the craft. It can be a self-taught skill, but the time it will take for one to learn and apply it to become a semi-automatic process will be a while.
Finally, one can go to greater lengths with even finer techniques. If you choose to work with materials like semi-precious stones and gems, you will need certification and a good eye for jewelry.
The question to ask before you go up those ranks is what exactly does jewelry making mean to you? If it is a hobby that can end with gifts for one’s family and friends, starting small with weave work and bead work is a good choice. If this is a career path that seems to be in line with your own artistic capabilities, then you may want to arm yourself with the basic knowledge moving up.
So how do you make different types of jewelry? Like what most people say, inspiration can strike anywhere. When you are working with accessories, it may even be easier to get inspired because there are many techniques and materials used to make jewelry that you can subscribe to.
Mood boards are a great way to find inspiration. Those that are already available online often have color motifs that you can follow, especially when working with beads. Browse existing jewelry blogs to get a sense of what is the current trend in the industry. Most designers often look to their fellow creatives to get the pulse of the hottest designs and add their signature to create their own spin.
It also pays to go outside of one’s comfort zone. Explore designs in architecture and fashion–a lot of the patterns can become great designs when translated into jewelry. If you travel, get a feel of the culture you are visiting. Oftentimes, they have distinct styles that can become a main motif in jewelry.
Making Different Kinds of Jewelry
Apart from choosing a niche in terms of material and style, part of honing one’s techniques in jewelry making is choosing one’s accessory focus. While it may be tempting to be a well-rounded jewelry maker who can create matching sets of rings, bracelets, and necklaces, it is important to first dabble and hone one’s self in a specialization. It also stands to reason that a jewelry maker knows the reason for wearing a piece of jewelry.
For those who love bead work, bracelets are a good starting point because it hones one’s eye for patterns. If you want to work your way up towards gemstone setting, start building skills and learning techniques for rings. Techniques like wire jewelry and soldering can form one’s foundations for when you work with precious metals and gemstones.
Standard Lengths for Standard Pieces
Once you have prepared all of the necessary materials and created your workstation, it’s time to get to work and learn how to make jewelry. Regardless of what kind of material or style that you would use, there is a standard that will rarely change. This relatively standard factor is the size chart for the most common types of accessories.
Sizes for Women
Granted, size can vary depending on one’s taste. At the same time, the difference between ready-to-wear jewelry and personalized ones is that there can be size fittings, to adjust according to the wearer’s preference.
Typically the normative size of necklaces for women of average fit would be between 17 to 35 inches, with an allowance of one to two inches for good measure. Chokers will be shorter at 14 to 16 inches, again with two-inch allowance.
When making bracelets and anklets, it’s important to have a good feel of the size of the wearer. Unlike typical necklaces, which can dangle further or higher up the front of an outfit without looking too out of place, bracelets and anklets will be harder to adjust, if one has not prepared for it.
On average, the size for bracelets can range between 7 to 7 and ½ inches, with an allowance of an inch for those with bigger wrists. The same goes for anklets, which can be pegged at 9 to 9 and ½ inches, with an inch of allowance for plus sizes.
Note that necklaces can be a different beast for women’s wear. Some would prefer it to be collar length, which is shorter and higher up than the choker. There’s the princess style, which is the standard that falls near the top of the breastbone. The matinee style is an inch below the princess style, while the opera style is two to three inches from the standard. The longest is the rope, which is usually used for chunky necklaces with many bigger beads and pieces strewn on it, because it can be the only ornament that an outfit needs.
Sizes for Men
Compared to women’s sizes, jewelry for men is at least two to three inches longer. This means that for necklaces, they will need to be somewhere around 20 inches. For chokers, it needs to be 18 inches. Bracelets measure around 8 to 11 inches, which is a pretty big range. And for anklets, you will need to measure out at least 11 to 14 inches.
Focus on: Bracelets
What is the best material for making bracelets? In costume jewelry, a common favorite are charm bracelets. It could either be a leather bracelet with an oversized charm or a metal bracelet with small charms placed all around the band.
A good material to start with here is to use precious metal clay. As the name suggests, it mimics the appeal of silver, pewter or even gold, but because of the material, it can be shaped and molded into different shapes for charms.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle to budding jewelry makers is that precious metal clay is learning how to operate an oven or a torch to shape the clay. In terms of techniques, it does not require advanced skills like forging, but it will take some time to get used to.
One skill that might come in handy is mold making. Since you will mold the precious metal clay, having a mold takes the time off molding each one into a specific shape. If you want to create personalized pieces or one-of-a-kinds, then this is not a necessary step. But if you are looking to make several charms of the same look, make sure you know how to create a mold to use for your precious metal clay.
Focus on: Gems
One danger that fashion jewelry owners encounter is tarnishing. When bracelets and necklaces are made of cheaper materials, they tend to experience discoloration. Worse, this is to be expected given how frequently one tends to wear fashion jewelry.
So what jewelry material does not tarnish? If you want to know such as much, one good focus would be making gemstones. Jewelry with semi-precious stones are usually set in sterling silver, which does not tarnish easily. This is where some talent and a bit of time perfecting the craft will come in. Working with handcrafted jewelry made of sterling silver, you will need some experience in silversmithing, soldering, and gemstone setting.
When you want to learn the techniques and materials used to make jewelry, these are probably among the talent-based ones, because they need specialized training and certification to accomplish. Usually, when one works with gemstones and sterling silver, it is no longer a hobby but a potential career.
Usually, silversmiths need to learn techniques in sculpting and casting. There are training programs that offer certification after six months to a year of training. It helps if you already have a previous degree in the fine arts. Most jewelry makers know that if you go on this route, you are more likely committing yourself to the craft, especially since you will be taking an apprenticeship to learn a signature style and, in the future, develop your own.
Focus on: Technology for Jewelry in 3D Printing
Like other industries, jewelry is not exempt from the disruptive power of technology. And with this comes the novel technique of 3D printed jewelry. Personalized jewelry is known for handcrafted materials that give them a one-of-a-kind quality. 3D printed jewelry does not really take this away by using a machine to do all of the work. It still churns out unique designs made by creative designers. And this industry is starting to grow, as can be seen in the graph below.
However, one aspect of 3D printed jewelry is that it can be just as personal as one wants it to be, especially with one’s design. At the same time, it is just as intensive in terms of techniques and training requirements. One can consider 3D printed jewelry to be a combination of different techniques, including casting, lost wax casting, and molding. One needs to prepare a design digitally, print the design, create the cast, and use it for creating the pieces. Human touch is not necessarily taken out of the equation since 3D printing also requires polishing the pieces for a smooth finish.
Today, jewelry making has expanded not only in terms of creativity and vision, but also in techniques and materials used. For aspiring jewelry makers, this is an exciting time to be in the industry. It ushers in new processes and inspirations, elevating the craft from a mere hobby to an ultimate form of art.