Thursday, 15 April 2010

Supplies Tips for New Jewellery Crafters

Hi I'm Anne-Marie from byAMOR. Starting out in handmade jewellery can be expensive. If, like me, you’re hell bent on working things out for yourself, the road ahead is fraught with costly pitfalls. These learnings from my mishaps may help those of you branching into the craft.
There is a confusing plethora of helper tools to make your beading, knotting, coiling, and wrapping life easier. But you only need a few basics to start. The must-have pliers are a round nose and a chain nose or flat nose. These are an extension of my own fingers. Flat, nylon jaw pliers are handy for re-straightening bent wire. A side cutter will snip a neat edge on wire and string. If using memory wire though, get a stronger pliers designed for it.
If I’d invested in a course at the outset, I’d have saved myself a fortune in supplies, not to mention clumps of hair torn out with frustration! I managed basic wirework, but tying flush knots in beading string can be tricky. Ultra fine tweezers didn’t help much and I never did work out the magical bead knotter I’d splashed out on. I threw more dosh at crimpers for crushing crimps on tigertail. I felt more crushed than the crimps, and defeated, signed up for a class.
So I learned to crimp and cover using the boring old flat nose pliers, but also discovered I didn’t need the bent nose pliers, the super coiling pliers or other gizmos I’d squandered on. Master the basic tools and skills and you can go on to develop a wide range of techniques by yourself. The only other tools I now use regularly are a hammer and anvil for hardening wirework, a metal file and a ring mandrel. The ‘wonder’ tools lie sadly redundant.
Though I recommend attending a few basic workshops, you’ll find plenty of free tutorials on the internet. I learned to wrap briolettes via You-tube.

If experimenting with wire, start out with plated craft wire, popular for costume jewellery. Leave precious metals until you are confident. Silver filled or gold filled wire is a cost-effective step between craft and solid silver wire.
The lower the gauge number (ga), the stiffer the wire. 22ga and 24ga wire are pliable and good for learning. 28ga and 26ga are very fine for wrapping small briolettes with tiny holes. 20ga (aka .8mm) is ideal for wrapping cabochons, rings and a host of other goodies. Get used to these before moving onto the tougher, 18ga for stiff wrapping or findings. Square wire will lie flatter, but round is easier to manipulate. Keep all your cut-offs and scraps that are an inch or two long and use them for forming links and charms.
Stave off tarnish by storing metals in airtight plastic lunch boxes (new), sealable lunch baggies and recycled vitamin capsule containers.Overspending on delectable beads and stones is tempting. You can refashion old or broken jewellery or repurpose everyday items like buttons, nuts and bolts or whatever inspires you. I love Magpie and Button’s creations.
If internet shopping, focus on bead sizes. 2mm beads may look huge in the macro photos but are really micro-sized. The most commonly used round beads are from 6mm to 10mm. Strands of teardrops and pendant discs are more economical than buying singly or in pairs. Some suppliers will willingly sell you half a strand if you can’t afford a full one. I also find it cheaper and more reliable, to buy chain by the foot and attach clasps securely myself.
Don’t be lured by too-good-to-be-true internet deals on gems and pearls unless you know what you are purchasing and its real worth. Read up on trade names and fake gemstones; Both and give information on their natural, man-made and enhanced stones. They also have free tutorials, bead size guides and other useful information.
There are heaps of decent suppliers with reasonable prices on Etsy and many shops have a de-stash section. I am currently having fun wrapping sea glass collected by Having snipped all excess buttons off my clothes for custom-made rings, I’ve nabbed some colourful ones from
Now, anyone want to buy a magical, nearly-new bead knotter....??


  1. hi Anne Marie, great article, it all rings true, I am broke from buying bits and pieces but I love it so there is no stopping ;o)

  2. What excellent advice Anne Marie - and I couldn't agree with you more. I made jewellery for a couple of years and was so glad that I invested in some high quality pliers because they never let me down. Your designs and work are beautiful. Great post. Thank you, Carol xox

  3. Thanks for sharing Anne-Marie, I have to say workshops are great if you can afford them.Never took any though! I started with a book and browsed the internet for all my tools. started with a set of pliers, jeweller's hammer, silver plated wire and semi precious beads...and now I'm into sterling silver and handcrafted lampwork...and I've got a couple of mixed media projects that I wanna get never know where this craft is going to take you!

  4. Anne Marie this is a great post, thank you so much for sharing your pearls of wisdom. I made some similar mistakes buying tools and fancy bits and pieces that I've never used, preferring my own tried and tested methods at this stage. I can't emphasise enough the value and joy of making a new piece of jewellery from something that's had a previous life - be it a repurposed piece of chain, a broken set of beads or the buttons off your old school blazer :)

  5. Thanks girls
    yes lilabelle - it is a consuming passion, isn't it?

    Wee cute Treasures - thank you. I admire your work...well, I should add that I admire all the Crafty Ireland Team's work. We're a competent bunch of crafters and suppliers eh?

    vivibijoux- it is an exciting craft alright. I started when I looked at a simple stacked design earring and said, hey, I could do that. I had no idea I'd end up selling my work.

    and Magpie and Button, thanks for the loan of your photo. You are an inspiration.

  6. What a wonderful tutorial! I'm not a jewellery maker nor do I make jewellery as a hobby, but I love learning how people do things and how things work. And this has definitely been an interesting and informative read.

    Thanks Anne-Marie and Etsy Ireland!

  7. Cheers - glad you liked it Rambles with Reese. Have you seen the How To Section on this blog? there are some great tutorials in things like paper craft and some more interesting articles there.

  8. Anne-Marie thankyou for your pearls of wisdom I love your work and your writing skills are great too! Well done

  9. thanks spiralgoddess. I hope you keep spreading the fairy magic far and wide.

  10. Hi there. Thank you for those very useful and clever tips. I love making things, in particular jewellery and cards and I'm always on the look out for the more economical buys. Thank you again for you inspiration. My new passion is wire jewellery :)