The Do’s and Don’ts of Jewelry Making

In my last blog, I talked about the roots of what can only be described as a lifelong beading adventure.  Having been a beader off and on for about 15 years now (and having more money at some times than others to invest in my hobby), I have learned a few things about the do’s and don’ts of jewelry making.  The following are a few tips and rules for those of you just starting out on your beading journey.

1. Always use high quality crimp beads.  Whether you are using silver or gold, try to avoid anything plated or anything that is not tube-like in its appearance.  The plated crimp beads are okay for making simple illusion necklaces, but are not sturdy enough to withstand the wear and tear of your beaded jewelry.

2. Do not sacrifice quality for price when it comes to beading wire.  Although 49-strand wire may seem expensive, in the long run it will save you time, money, and frustration from having to recreate pieces that have fallen apart due to the use of less durable wire.  And although Supplemax is a great product for creating illusion necklaces and woven pieces, it is not sturdy enough to hold strands of beads.  Neither is Fireline. (I speak from my experience and the experience of others on this one!)

3.  Use the most project appropriate findings and clasps possible in your pieces.  It is embarrassing to admit but when I began making jewelry again, I used beading wire and crimped the bottom so it would act as headpin.  Though this may seem creative, it was actually not very attractive or very sturdy.  And clasps… Don’t even get me started!  I used to buy my clasps in bulk and I used the same clasp on every piece of jewelry I made, whether it was delicate or bold and chunky.  Now I cringe when I see those old pieces with those plain silver plate toggles.  Also, when choosing a clasp, you will want to keep in mind what the finished piece will be.  I generally use a lobster and chain at the back of necklaces (so the length is adjustable) and use toggles on bracelets (because they are sturdy, attractive, and easier to take on and off than a lobster clasp).

4. I would never say that you shouldn’t use inexpensive beads; plastic, glass, and base metal beads can make some great fashion jewelry pieces.  What I would say is that you should never mix your less expensive beads with your more expensive beads.  For example, I probably wouldn’t use Czech glass to create a necklace around a $30 sterling silver pendant.  I also probably wouldn’t mix plastic beads with Swarovski crystal.  The main reason for this is that you will ultimately devalue your finished piece.  Remember: a person’s perceived value of a product is just as important as the actual value.

5. The best advice I can give is to learn, learn, and learn some more!  I am a person who does not like to be taught by others.  I don’t read instructions and I don’t learn from a classroom environment; I am more about being self-taught and experimentation.  Some people, like Karla, find they do better when they have a trusty friend or magazine to help them learn a new technique or skill.  However you learn best, learn as much as you can!  Take classes, subscribe to beading magazines, look at free online jewelry projectswatch online videos.  All of these things will teach you not only new techniques, but what kinds of tools and materials and resources you can use while you learn your new craft.  And I believe one of the best things about this hobby is that you never stop learning!

You will get out of this hobby what you put into it and, whether you are selling your pieces or giving them as gifts or keeping them in your own jewelry gift, you want to make sure you are creating nothing but the best.  Happy beading!

Shanna Steele,
Auntie’s Beads Designer

Shanna Steele

Shanna Steele is a product manager and occasional jewelry designer for Auntie's Beads. When she is not playing in the beads, she enjoys reading, listening to music, cooking - especially baking - and good times in the great outdoors.

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