We've all been there at one point or another. You're wearing your gorgeous new necklace with sparkly new beads and you're just so proud of your latest creation. You spent hours choosing the beads, designing it and lovingly stringing that necklace together and now you're so excited you finally get to show it off. So you're at a dinner with friends showing off your latest necklace when all of a sudden, you hear the dreaded sounds of glass beads bouncing off the floor. You grab your necklace only to watch the remaining beads slide off the string and go ricocheting off into the abyss. You stand horrified and embarrassed, wondering what went wrong.
I'm here to tell you it's ok. Almost all of us have been there at one point in our jewelry-making adventures. If you just started and still haven't experience this horrifying experience, I'm here to show you how to avoid it.
As someone who is self-taught in jewelry-making, I made quite a few mistakes in my early years. This post is a collection of lessons I learned the hard way. These are all things I wish I could go back in time and tell my novice jewelry-designer self.
Don't Use Regular Thread With Crystal Beads
One of the main reasons a necklace or bracelet will fall apart for no apparent reason is because the wrong stringing material was used. This is particularly the case if you used crystal beads or glass beads with a cotton or nylon thread. The reason this happens is because the edges of the crystal beads cut the thread little by little until it finally pops.
If you're using crystal beads or glass beads, don't use cotton or nylon threads. Your best friend will be Nylon Coated Stainless Steel Wire. This wire is so strong you need to use nail clippers to cut it. It is flexible and comes in different colors as well which makes stringing even more fun. One of the most recognized brands of this type of wire is Beadalon.
Another good stringing material is fishing line- but not monofilament! Stay away from plastic-y monofilament. Fireline is by far one of the best stringing materials I've used so far. It is a thermally fused fishing line which works like thread but will not fall apart if you use it to string crystals or other sharp beads. Fireline became so popular in beading circles that now it's even sold in some bead shops. This is especially good stringing material if you want to do some bead-weaving, too.
Don't Use Monofilament
Monofilament is the worst type of stringing material you can possibly use. Monofilament is basically a plastic fishing line. Because it's basically made from 1 strand of plastic (it's not fused like the good fishing lines) it's very stiff and hard to work with. Besides that, it's extremely difficult to knot.
Don't Use Square Knots
Never. Ever. Unless you're doing macramé- (which is a different story) don't ever use a Square Knot to finish a jewelry piece. Square knots are not a good knot for finishing a jewelry piece because they can easily loosen and fall apart, ruining your work in just seconds.
One of the easiest and safest knots for finishing a bracelet or necklace is a Surgeon's Knot. It's similar to a Square Knot, but requires one additional step that secures the knot and keeps it from slipping. Besides using a Surgeon's knot, I always recommend putting a dab of glue on the knot just to be safe.
Don't Buy Expensive Wire... Yet.
If you're learning how to do wire-work, don't invest in silver, gold-filled or gold wire, yet. When you're seeing tutorials on wrapped loops and other wire working projects it looks easy. But it's actually not easy to master wire. Chances are you will have a lot of lopsided, wonky pieces before you create some beautiful wire work, and you really don't want to be messing up if you're using silver or gold wire.
The best way to practice your wrapped loops and other wire working techniques is to purchase copper wire and practice with that. Copper wire is one of the most inexpensive wires and you can even find it in a lot of fun colors to make your practice time more fun. Practice really does make perfect and it's going to take a while before you can form perfectly wrapped loops and get your wire working skills on point.
Don't Use Your Wire Cutters On Memory Wire
I ruined a perfectly good pair of jewelry making wire cutters in my early days trying to cut a piece of memory wire. If you haven't come across memory wire yet, it's a wonderful wire for making bracelets and chokers because it doesn't loose it's shape. Better yet, to finish the piece you just need to make a loop at the end and you're done. No special finishing techniques required.
The important thing to remember about memory wire is that you can't cut memory wire with regular cutters. It's so strong it will actually damage your wire cutters. If you're using memory wire, use memory wire cutters.
Don't have memory wire cutters? Try this simple technique to cut it: Bend the memory wire back and forth where you want to cut it until it breaks off at that point. It's a little more work, but it will get the job done.
Don't Use Hardware Pliers To Make Jewelry
This is another common jewelry making mistake. When I first started, I would get very frustrated when I was making jewelry because I'd end up with really ugly wrapped loops and wire work.
My mistake was that I was using hardware pliers to make jewelry, not jewelry making pliers. There is such a huge difference between hardware pliers and jewelry making pliers! For one, hardware pliers typically have ridges which actually imprint on the wire when you're working with it. The result is that you end up with unwanted texturing on your wire (instead of a nice smooth surface).
Besides the rough surface on hardware pliers, they are extremely uncomfortable to use for extended periods of time. I recommend purchasing a set of ergonomic jewelry making pliers. This will make your life so much easier if you're just starting out. You won't have to worry about ridges or marks showing on your wire and your hands won't hurt from using them.
Don't Give Up
Learning to make jewelry is not going to be easy. You'll eventually make mistakes or finish a project that you're less than happy with. Don't let that stop you. Every malformed loop is going to bring you closer to a perfectly shaped loop. Every project that comes out so-so is going to bring you closer to reaching expertise. Keep going, it'll be worth it!