Tools to Make Jewels: The Basics

Before I launched my collection I had no idea how jewelry was actually made. I thought a jeweler’s bench was something that you sat on, Hephaestus-style, and the process was some shiny mystical thing that spat out perfectly-formed necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

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I conjured up some colorful sketches and searched through my boxes of antique and vintage components I’d found all over the world. I was so anxious to wear my creations that I bypassed a time-consuming class and took the B train up to the Garment District, where I learned two of the most important lessons I’ve learned during this exciting, jewelry making journey:

1)   People are kind and willing to help if you ask (even if you think your questions are silly or annoying)

2)   Nothing is so complicated that you can’t figure it out by just trying it (often, multiple times)

Through this process, and after many, many trials I learned that insanely beautiful, intricate jewelry can be made just by using three simple tools: chain nose pliers, side cutters, and round nose pliers. Here’s how each one works:

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Chain Nose Pliers

beads jewelry designers

These pliers are flat on the side of the nose and  curved on the outside, making them incredibly versatile. These can be used as extra fingers that allow you to hold components in place while adding jump rings (those little metal rings used to attach, say, a pendant to a necklace chain), and bend metal and wire. You can even use two (!) pliers, holding one in each hand to easily open and close jump rings. When buying your own pair of  chain nose pliers, look for ones that have a spring, as this will allow your hands to do a little less work.

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Side Cutters

sketch jewelry designers

This nifty invention does exactly what its name implies. It cuts wire, headpins (a pin used in beading with a loop on top, ) and thin pieces of metal. The ones pictured above are small but they come in all shapes and sizes, including enormous ones used for cutting heavier chains. Be sure that you use the appropriate size cutters for whatever it is you’re cutting – there is nothing sadder than trying to hack through a hefty chain with tiny cutters. Your beautiful chain will be scratched and your cutters will quickly wear down.

Round Nose Pliers

chains jewelry designers

These pliers have an entirely round nose and are used for making loops in wire, i.e, making jump rings or curling wire.

When purchasing  these tools, make sure that they feel comfortable in your hands. Try out different brands and different sizes (tip: the most expensive doesn’t necessarily mean the best quality). You’ll know when the tool is for you after holding it in your hand (kind of like Harry Potter and his wand).

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 jewlery chains

Remember, these are only the most common uses for these tools. When you first start out, buy a spool of wire and start playing around – there are an infinite number of ways you can use these three tools to create unique jewelry pieces.

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