Jewelry Design: The Necklace
The history of jewelry is a long and complicated one dating back thousands of years ago (maybe as many as 75,000-100,000) when the peoples used natural items such as shells, bones, teeth, wood, and carved stone to decorate themselves. Over time cultures developed unique styles and favorite materials incorporating many of these things from nature as well as glass, metal, and other materials. Now, many of those traditions can come together for beautiful and stunning jewelry.
The necklace is one of the most common pieces of jewelry worn by most cultures around the world. Beaded options are many and making fantastic necklaces can be done in a number of interesting and fantastic ways.
Memory Wire Necklaces
One very easy and fun way to make beaded necklaces is using memory wire. This wire holds its shape and makes a necklace that is about choker length that gently wraps around the neck. It is easy to use and can even be a great way to make jewelry with kids. Memory wire can also be used to make bracelets, anklets, rings, and even toe rings (you purchase memory wire of different sizes).
To Begin. You will need beads,memory wire, pliers and wire cutters. You can also use charms, pendents, and dangles if you wish (such as the frog charm used on the Charmed Frog Necklace). For finishing the piece you have a few options and may want a fancy bead or memory wire tip (half drilled bead used for gluing on to the end of the memory wire) and glue (I recommend Bead Fix because it is fast drying, strong, and doesn't discolor your beads or leave a funny film on them).
- Once your supplies are gathered you will begin by cutting the length of wire that you want. You can make a necklace that is several loops or just one. If you overlap it some (as I did with the Charmed Frog Necklace) it will fit larger necks. You should be careful cutting the wire since it is very hard.
- Now that your wire is cut you will need to finish the first side so that your beads won't fall off. You have four finishing options. You can simple make a loop in the end using your pliers or you can fold the wire over. Another option is to glue a bead on the end with strong bead glue. You can also purchase color coordinated memory wire ends (usually available in gold, silver, or black). These can also simply be glued on.
- Once your end is finished you will want to add your beads. This looks best in a pattern, but what you do and how you do it is up to you. You can use seed beads, but you don't have to and larger beads do work with these necklaces.
- Finish the second end in the same manner as the first.
It really is that simple. If you want to get creative you can add pendents with wire, dangles either with wire or pins, or do your own focal point like The Charmed Frog has using wire, bead, and charm. You just have to figure out where you want the and how you want them to look and go from there.
This project is very easy with kids of a wide range of ages. You will want to finish it with a bead that is large enough so that beads following it can stay on. Then using beads appropriate to the kids size and skill have them bead the necklace and you will finish the other end for them. This is also one that they can put on and take off at will and you don't have to worry about them asking for help all the time!
Everyone has to start somewhere. The best place to start is learning to string beads. Here you will gain a great understanding of the founding principle behind most jewelry designs. From there you can learn more and put it all together for ever increasing ideas and designs. There are several books on stringing beads and any of these will help you to get started. They start out from very inexpensive such as The Basics of Bead Stringing and go on up. Choose one in your price range and consider that larger is often better when it comes to bead books.
How to Crimp
If you have never crimped a crimp bead before then it may seem a little confusing. A crimp bead is made of lightweight metals (available in silver tone, gold tone, sterling silver, gold, silver plated, gold plated, and sometimes black) that is crushed to hold the wires in place. It is much easier then working with knots and often more secure. However, in order for it to be more secure you need to do it right.
Your Crimp Pliers. You should have a pair of crimp pliers to do this right. You will notice that when you squeeze the handle on the crimp pliers there are two notches. Notch one is closes to the handle and sort of crescent moon shaped. Notch two looks like a flattened circle or oval. The third thing you should notice is that the tip has a flat section before it ends. You will need all three of these parts to be successful at crimping.
- Place the crimp bead in notch one and crush. This will make a flattened bead with a dimple on one side.
- Turning the bead on its side so that the dimple is no longer facing up or down you will want to place the bead in the second notch and crush. This will cause the bead to fold in on itself and hold the wires.
- Place the bead in the flat nose of the crimp pliers and gently tighten the crushed bead for added security. Don't press hard or you will break the bead and need to start over.
Some books will tell you that you can crush the beads with pliers and have them work, but this isn't a good idea because they aren't as secure. You can also finish your crimp bead with a dab of glue for added security.
You can make a wide range of beautiful necklaces by simply stringing beads onto a wire. This is an easy way to make most beaded necklaces, though many get fancier then that these days. This method is very easy to learn and fun to do.
To Begin: You will need nylon coated wire. This comes in a wide ranges of size and more importantly in a wide range of wire strands. Nylon coated wire is made of tiny wire strands that have been twisted together and coated with nylon. The more strands you have twisted within the nylon the stronger it will be. For most projects a seven strand which is standard is sufficient. However, if you have heavy gemstone beads or heavy glass beads you should consider a stronger wire or using two seven strand wires for added strength. You will also need the beads of your choice, a clasp, two crimp beads, scissors, and crimp pliers. Glue can also add strength to your piece if you desire.
- Cut your wire so that it is about four inches longer then the piece will be when it is finished. This will give you room to finish it well.
- Now fold over about 1.5 inches of wire at the bottom of your soon to be necklace. You will want to slide the first half of your clasp so that it is in the middle of this bend. Add a crimp bead to your wire and slide it over both the long end and the short end.
- Press the crimp bead close to your clasp and using the crimp pliers crimp it.
- String your beads on. The first few should be strung over both the long and the short wire. Then you will continue adding beads just to the necklace wire.
- When you have reached the length that you desire add a crimp bead followed by your clasp.
- Fold the wire over and run it back through the crimp bead and a few beads on the other side of the crimp bead.
- Pull tight and crimp the crimp bead.
- Finish the necklace by trimming your excess wires and adding a drop of glue to each crimp bead (optional).
This is a basic necklace and this method can be used to achieve a number of different styles. You can add a wide range of beads to this piece giving each a unique look. It is also possible to add charms, dangles, and pendents to this type of work.
The same technique can be used to make multi-strand necklaces. You can have three different colors, or more if you wish. You can have a layered multi-strand necklace. Or you can get creative. Grace, Calm, and Summer Fun is one such example. Here I took six strands of nylon coated beading wire. On two wires dark blue seed beads went, on two more blue green seed beads went, and on the final two lime green seed beads went. After two and a half inches I added one blue green glass bead followed by a silver bi-cone bead and a second glass bead. All six wires went through these beads. Then they split up again and the seed beads were added. It was an experiment that ended up looking great. It could be repeated with different colors, different sized beads, with seed beads or without. In fact, you can have all sorts of fun coming up with necklace designs.
Cubed Luck is of a similar concept. However, here you find that I used only two strands and they were "woven" together by adding one seed bead to both strands at short intervals. This gives it a unique look and a little more substance then just a single strand of seed beads. It also gave me room to add the green seed bead pattern in with the silver seed beads.
The Woven or Wave Technique
This is one of those things that looks very hard, but is really very simple. It doesn't take a lot of money and there are several design options.
To Begin: You will need 8 or 10mm round beads. These can be pearls, glass pearls, glass beads, or even gemstone. You will also need seed beads (I prefer glass) in a color that compliments your first choose. (Small crystals, 3mm beads, and even 3 mm bi-cone beads or crystals can be used but it is harder to get the to lay right for the waves). You will also need nylon coated beading wire, two crimp beads, a clasp of your choice, scissors, and crimp pliers. If you wish to add glue to your crimp beads you will need that as well.
- Cut two strands about 12" longer then the finished piece (this will give room for the one strand to wrap the beads around the other as well as finishing).
- Fold the end of the two strands about one and a half inches. Add the first half of your clasp and then add your crimp bead to both the long and the short wires.
- Press the crimp bead tight to the clasp and crimp the bead.
- Add one seed bead over both the wires.
- Seperate the wires and add one round bead to one wire and six to ten seed beads on the other. You will need to find out how many your round bead needs. To do this add six seed beads and then press both the round bead and the seed beads to the bottom of the piece. You will want the seed beads to be long enough to wrap around the round bead. Add a few seed beads at a time till you get the beads to wrap around one half of the round bead.
- Once you have a round bead in place and the number of seed beads to wrap around one half of the round bead you will want to top it by adding a seed bead to both strands.
- The same wire that had the round bead is the one that you need to add the round bead to. You will then add seed beads (the same number as before) to the other stand.
- Top by adding a single seed bead to both strands.
- After doing this three times you should see the seed beads wrapping around opposite sides of the round beads for a waved look. If you don't see this then you are adding the round bead to the wrong strand of wire.
- Continue on to the desired length. Finish by adding a crimp bead, the other half of your clasp, and then running the wires back through the crimp beads and a few beads before that. Pull tight and crimp the crimp bead.
- Trim wires and add glue to your crimp beads if you wish.
This looks very different with each type of bead that you use and with different colors. You can have a lot of fun working with this technique!
There are a lot of different books on beading, however The Big Book of Beautiful Beads takes the cake. This book is big and inexpensive while offering you a little of everything. It is a great way to find new interests, to try new things, and to get started with a variety of beading types and products.
This is just the start of a number of great designs and works. With this you can start making a wide range of great necklaces. Of course, there are a lot more things you can do then this. However, you have to start somewhere and this is a great place to start!
You can learn a lot about jewelry and see lots of my great designs at Enlivened Heart Jewelry. There are so many options for different necklaces! Whether you are looking at making your own or you are enjoying hunting down items that fit your style made by someone else, you are sure to find lots of great options.
Love beautiful jewelry, but just not sure that making it is for you? You can head on over to my website, Enlivened Heart Jewelry, and have a look around. I will be posting more and more jewelry items there as well as some articles on jewelry.