What feels like a lifetime ago (but was actually about fifteen years ago) I did a series of jewellery-making courses. I’d experimented with beading at home but wanted to make rings, so I enrolled on a mixed media jewellery course. I ended up buying some tools and equipment, so I could continue at home, but I haven’t done any silver work for years now. I’ve continued the beading, albeit sporadically, which is a lot less time-consuming (and easier on the hands and nails!) than metal work.
I feel like it’s time to start making jewellery again on a regular basis. Maybe it’s the imminent arrival of Spring that has stirred the desire to be creative. You may have seen some of the jewellery I’ve made before on the blog; it’s a total coincidence that I posted about my handmade jewellery almost three years ago to the day. After the wrap dress February flashback last week I’m beginning to think I’m seasonally programmed!
To kickstart my jewellery making I gathered up some pieces that I’ve made over the years for inspiration. I’ve always been drawn to big, bold jewellery, so the chunky semi-precious gemstone necklaces and bracelets are my favourites. I have so many beads in various colours and shapes just waiting to be made into something – I just need to get organised and start creating again!
Making beaded jewellery is actually a lot easier than you might think: if you can tie a knot and thread a needle you can make a necklace or bracelet. The rest is all about design. You just need a few basic tools like small pliers (unless using elasticated thread) to close the bead end caps. If you’d like me to do a tutorial let me know in the comments.
You don’t have to spend a lot on beads and findings (the metallic pieces such as clasps and bead end caps). I buy beads, findings and thread from various sources, including eBay, Hobbycraft, Jewellery Maker and even charity shops. I’ve bought loads of necklaces in charity shops and recycled them into new pieces. The gold pendant on the purple necklace above was an old, odd earring, and the centre piece on the bracelet was originally on a necklace.
The bronze ring and stick pin above were some of the first pieces of metal jewellery I made in class. We worked in copper first before moving on to silver. I really like copper jewellery, although it does tarnish very quickly. The silver bezel set rings in the photo below are among my favourites. They require a lot of time and patience to make, but they were very satisfying to finally finish.
Working with metals is much easer when you have a workshop as you need a blowtorch and heatproof brick to solder, plus an acidic solution to remove the oxide released during annealing (heating to make pliable). You also need various shaped files, hammers, mallets and a bezel setting tool to push the metal over and hold the stone in place. The ring under the crossover bangle is a plain silver band, still waiting to be finished after all these years!
Below is some of the more delicate jewellery I’ve made using Swarovski crystal beads and glass pearls. The bangle was a bit of an experiment; my original plan was to have three hoops to attach beads to, but after a few unsuccessful soldering attempts I stuck with one and used a scorper (engraving tool) to creat a frost-like pattern. It could do with a bit of refining and a proper polish…maybe a job for a rainy day.
There are so many different techniques to learn with making jewellery, and maybe one day I’ll take classes again. They don’t come cheap, but there are residential courses in beautiful countryside locations that look very tempting. Making things is very satisfying and often relaxing. Of course things go wrong, that’s all part of learning…it requires lots of patience! One of the best things about making jewellery is being able to choose your own design and colours…you can guarantee no-one else will have one the same!
Speaking of learning new techniques…I recently picked up my knitting needles after a two-year hiatus and made my first ever hat! I was very apprehensive about knitting in the round but now I love it! Maybe next time I’ll try a jumper!