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Jewelry Making 101: The Basics of Making Jewelry

Learning how to fabricate your own jewelry from scratch is one of the oldest and most highly-regarded crafts.

Though popular materials, styles, and fabrication methods have changed with the times, archeologists believe that jewelry-making dates back 100,000 years!

The beautiful thing about jewelry making, aside from the aesthetic, is its incredible versatility. You’re sure to craft something that’s truly one-of-a-kind and unique to your own vision.

Interested in making your own jewelry, but not sure how to get started? Keep reading for our complete guide on different types of jewelry and how to make jewelry at home.

A wooden box with beads, scissors, and other tools needed for jewelry making

Types of Jewelry Making

One of the great things about jewelry making is the vast range of processes to choose from. There are so many beading, wiring, metalwork, and other techniques that you’re sure to find a strategy and aesthetic that suits you best.

Beaded Jewelry

Beaded jewelry is among the most popular and easiest jewelry-making processes. All you need to get started are colorful beads and a medium to thread the beads together like stringelastic string, or elastic cord.

The easiest way to make beaded jewelry is to form a knot on one end of the string, add the beads in the order you choose, and complete the knot when it’s done. This design is similar to the style seen in traditional friendship bracelets.

Wire Jewelry

Wire jewelry involves using craft wire to thread beads and charms onto earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. This process requires the use of additional tools. You can use these tools to cut the wire to your preferred length, which will determine the style and fit of the jewelry.

Wire jewelry making also requires using these tools to create looped closures on the ends of the wire. You can add mechanisms like lobster clasps onto the ends of these closures for necklaces and bracelets. You can also use looped closures to keep beads sturdily in place for earrings.

Wire-Wrapped Jewelry

Wire-wrapped jewelry making is a technique that involves using craft wire to wrap an accent piece like natural stones and/or raw crystals. The craft wire used for this process is typically of medium thickness and above, and is intricately weaved around the gemstone using needle nose pliers.

The finish of wire-wrapped jewelry is always one of a kind. This technique, however, may require a bit of practice on the crafter’s end–but practice makes perfect!

Metalsmith Jewelry

Metalsmith jewelry is a more intensive process involving manipulating metals, such as gold, copper, and silver. Sterling silver is among the most popular metals used for this process.

Using a myriad of tools like a hammer, bench pin, bench block, jeweler’s saw, and soldering supplies to change the appearance of metal. These tools and others are used to form, shape, saw, drill, solder, texturize, stamp, and perform other manipulations to the metal.

This method of jewelry-making allows creators to be extra creative by crafting the look and feel of a piece in its entirety. Though it requires practice, and safety is of the utmost importance, it’s an esteemed technique that’s nearly 10,000 years old.

Fused Glass Jewelry

Fused glass jewelry is among the most colorful jewelry-making processes. This technique involves using several layers and pieces of colored glass, which are then fused into one piece using a kiln.

Depending on vision and personal skill level, arranging the glass into ornate designs is possible. Some crafters arrange the glass to create a mosaic tile look, while others achieve an ombre finish, and still others aim to resemble the likeness of famous works, like Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

Enameled Jewelry

Enameled jewelry bears the likeness of colored metals. One of the more popular types of enameled jewelry is bracelets that are colored on the outside and feature exposed metal on the inside.

Love Friendship Bracelet Bangle Colorful Orange Enamel Bangles Bracelets for Women Teen Girls Party Fashion Bangles Stainless Steel Jewelry Birthday with Gifts Box (4mm Rosered, Stainless Steel)

This type of jewelry-making technique is a bit more difficult to achieve at home because of the conditions it requires. First, an enamel coating is applied to the outside of the metal as a powder or paste.

To fuse the coating to the metal, it is exposed to a temperature of 1500°. The high heat allows the enamel to achieve a vibrant color.

Macrame Jewelry

Macrame jewelry tends to be more time-consuming, but this process undoubtedly produces majestic-looking pieces. Macrame entails knotting strands of cord together using square knots, and doing so in a repeat pattern.

Many people begin creating macrame jewelry by using cord alone. Over time, they may integrate beads, charms, and other add-ins into their designs. In addition to jewelry, macrame is a popular method for creating home decor like coasters, table runners, and wall art.

Hand-Stamped Jewelry

Hand-stamped jewelry is exactly what it sounds like. This method involves making an impression into a metal blank. Tools needed to achieve this finish include a stamping hammerstamping block, metal stamps, and stamping tape.

To hand-stamp jewelry, ensure your stamp is lined up straight. Use the stamping tape to secure the metal blank in place. Then, use your hammer to hit the top of the stamp, which will force the impression to transfer.

Engraved Jewelry

Engraved jewelry is similar in scope to hand-stamped jewelry, but the method of application is different. Rather than imprinting letters or symbols into blanks, engraving requires tools to remove material to create these impressions.

Jewelry engraving is typically more time-consuming than making hand-stamped jewelry, but it allows the creator to incorporate more detail. You can engrave jewelry by hand using gravers or an engraving pen, or use an engraving machine, which is certainly the more expensive option.

Resin Jewelry

Resin jewelry is a trend that’s been on the rise as of late. The main ingredient in resin jewelry is epoxy resin, which is a two-part clear substance that, when combined, turns into a clear solid. The great part about resin jewelry is that you can do a lot with it. You can add pigment to change its color, mix in glitter, or layer in charms.

Resin is typically used to make accent pieces, such as charms, pendants, and earrings, although it’s possible also to make beads.

To create resin jewelry, you’ll need to purchase resin molds, which are available in practically every shape and size available. There is a learning curve when it comes to resin jewelry making, but within time, it’ll feel like second nature.

Clay Jewelry

Clay jewelry is a great method to try out, particularly if you’re a beginner at jewelry making. Certainly, your designs will become more detailed with time, but clay is a relatively forgiving material that’s easier to use, shape, and manipulate.

Clay is particularly popular to use to make earrings and beads. Polymer clay is a go-to ingredient for crafters because it’s easy to work with. You can also bake polymer clay in the oven, according to the instructions on the packaging, which hardens the design and allows you to wear it time and again.

There are also different techniques that you can experiment with using clay. One of these techniques involves marbling the clay, or mixing together different colors and shades to achieve a marbled effect.

Terracotta Jewelry

Terracotta jewelry is one of the oldest forms of jewelry that exist! This method involves using terracotta clay molded into different shapes and then baked to create ceramic accents in a signature reddish-orange hue.

Unlike polymer clay, terracotta clay requires the use of a kiln. The clay must be baked between temperatures of 1000 and 2000 degrees Fahrenheit to harden. However, products are available that can be created at home using a standard kitchen oven.

After terracotta jewelry has been baked and hardened, you have the option to paint over it. Some creators use vibrantly colored paints to make intricate designs, though your color pallet is entirely up to you!

Leather Jewelry

Using leather to make jewelry is also popular among crafters. Oftentimes, thin pieces of leather are braided to make bracelets and necklaces, or cut into shapes to make earrings.

Making leather jewelry is a relatively straightforward process, once you get the hang of it. The tools required to create this type of jewelry include leather–you can purchase sheets of leather or leather cord–scissors, a leather hole punch, a leather snap/rivet setterheavy-duty snaps, and a rubber mallet.

Recycled Jewelry

Recycled jewelry is jewelry that’s made from upcycled components. You can create one-of-a-kind recycled jewelry using costume jewelry you haven’t worn for a while. You can also collect unique pieces from thrift stores and yard sales.

Another fun idea is to gather a group of friends together and encourage everyone to bring a few pieces of long-forgotten jewelry from their wardrobes.

Recycled jewelry is a low-cost way to breathe new life into old pieces. If you have a collection of costume jewelry–whether that includes earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings, or ankle bracelets–that don’t quite match your style anymore, you can gather the beads, chains, and charms that do, and combine them in a new and attractive way.

Remixed Jewelry

Remixed jewelry refers to jewelry that’s created by using the broken pieces of other jewelry components, such as beads, charms, and chains, as well as glass and clay pieces. Large collections of broken jewelry are available for purchase on the internet and offer a variety of pieces.

You can use other jewelry-making techniques, such as resin jewelry, to combine the broken pieces together in an attractive way. With resin jewelry, in particular, you have the freedom to arrange the jewelry pieces as you’d like, which includes changing any pieces that may be otherwise challenging to reconfigure.

Jewelry Making 101: How to Get Started

Whether you decide to create beaded jewelry, engraved jewelry, or resin jewelry–or experiment with all three!–there’s a similar process you can follow to get started on your jewelry-making journey. Here’s how.

Choose the type of jewelry that speaks to you the most.

When considering the art of making your own jewelry, it can feel overwhelming to choose from the long and varied list of jewelry-making processes. How do you know you’ll like one method more than another? What if the method you choose is more difficult than you anticipated?

The only way you’ll know the answer to these questions is to try it firsthand. Start with the jewelry-making process that appeals most to you. If you don’t enjoy it as much as you anticipated, you can try another technique next time. No harm, no foul!

Invest in some fundamental jewelry-making supplies

A few key supplies will go a long way in the jewelry-making world. Although every jewelry-making technique requires its own set of tools, there is definitely some overlap.

If you’re looking to build up your at-home jewelry-making toolkit, you’ll want to keep a few materials on hand. As you experiment with new techniques, you’ll add to your toolkit over time.

Learn some basic skills

In the same way that you benefit from having a few fundamental tools, you’ll also benefit from learning how to perform basic jewelry-making skills. Some of the more basic skills, such as closing a wire loop and closing a jump ring, will come in handy across a variety of processes.

Set up a designated workspace

No matter what technique you choose, jewelry-making requires a set of tools and components. It’s best to set up a distinct workstation to keep these components all in one place. You can contain your workspace using a non-slip craft mat to keep small parts from slipping, sliding, and rolling.

Sketch your design on paper

Some people prefer to design spontaneously and to go with whatever color, style, and technique they’re feeling pulled to in the moment.

Other people, however, prefer to map out their designs before executing them. If you’re one of these people, consider creating a rough sketch of your design on paper before moving to your workstation.

Practice makes perfect

If you’re having trouble at first, don’t get discouraged. After all, it took Leonardo da Vinci four years to complete the Mona Lisa!

Over time, you’ll grow more comfortable with using certain techniques. Learning by doing is one of the best ways to improve in the art of handmade jewelry.

Applaud yourself when your creations turn out how you imagined, and cut yourself slack when they don’t. You’re still learning, after all–as we all are, every day!

Jewelry: Form and Function

From ancient times to the modern day, jewelry has served many purposes aside from strictly aesthetic. In addition to fashion, jewelry has stood as a symbol of social status; ethnic, religious, or social affiliation; protection, superstition, and personal meaning, such as love, luck, and milestones.

Many families pass down jewelry as treasured family heirlooms. Many others wear matching jewelry, such as friendship bracelets and wedding bands, to commemorate their relationships and demonstrate unity.

Still, many others continue to wear (and make) jewelry because of the pizzazz it adds to everyday ensembles.

Jewelry Making Frequently-Asked Questions

What metals are most commonly used to make jewelry?

Silver alloys, copper, and stainless steel are commonly used for handmade jewelry making.

What metals should you avoid when making jewelry?

You should always avoid lead, nickel, and cadmium when making jewelry, as these metals can pose harm to your health.

Does handmade jewelry tarnish easily?

Some metals tarnish easier than others, whether they’re handmade or not. It’s important to note that all types of silver will tarnish, whether in handmade jewelry, store-bought, or high-priced jewelry.

Other metals that will tarnish include brass, bronze, copper, iron, pewter, and steel.

Person making turquoise and silver pendant

Wrapping up the Basics of Jewelry Making

The world of jewelry making is filled with variety–which is partly what makes it so beautiful (and fun). Now that you know some of the most popular types of jewelry making, you can move forward with making your own designs using the techniques that appeal to you most.

Thinking about how to set up your workspace? Check out the best jeweler’s benches to learn more!