Sterling Silver Wire and Bead Necklace Project
This design features simple but striking sterling silver wire connectors and dainty round turquoise beads. It requires standard, intermediate wire-working skills.
I like to wear this style at choker length, but you can easily make it longer by increasing the number of connectors and beads in your design. For a bolder look, increase the gauge of the connector wire from 18 to 16 gauge and use larger beads in the links.
In the next article in this series, I'll describe how to apply an optional oxidized finish.
Copyright note: Like all of my free projects, you're welcome to print these instructions and recreate this design for your own use or to give as gifts. You may not sell the instructions or the completed jewelry without my written permission. Please contact me anytime with questions.
- Round nose pliers
- Flush side wire cutters
- Smooth-jaw flat nose pliers
- Chain nose pliers
- Wire-work hammer
- Steel bench block
- #4 flat metal file
- Optional: Nylon-head hammer (for stiffening the links)
- Optional: Nylon-jaw pliers (to occasionally straighten the wire as you work)
These materials will make a necklace that measures just over 15 inches long.
- 10.5 inches of 18 gauge, dead soft, sterling silver wire
- About 15.5 inches of 26 gauge, dead soft, sterling silver wire that is still in its original coil or on its spool.
- 9 4mm natural turquoise round beads
- 1 sterling silver lobster clasp that is large enough to secure over a ring or loop made from 18-gauge wire
- 18 5mm OD (outside diameter) jump rings made from 18 gauge sterling-silver wire, lightly hammered
What to do:
1. Begin by cutting nine 1.5-inch lengths of 18-gauge wire. Use the flush side of the wire cutters to trim the ends to make them flush (flat, not jagged).
2. Use round nose pliers to curl the ends of each length into opposite-facing loops: Gently grasp the end of a wire length with round nose pliers, near the tips of the pliers. Roll the pliers away from you to create a small loop. Turn the wire around and use this technique to make a matching loop on the other end that faces the opposite direction as the first loop.
3. Place each wire link on a bench block, and gently hammer each end (the top of each loop) away from you and at a slight downward angle to create a smooth taper in the edge of the loop.
4. Stiffen each link by hammering very gently along its entire length. (This increases the wire's temper.) Optionally, you can use a nylon-head hammer for this step, instead of your regular metal hammer.
5. Use a #4 file to file the top each of each loop. (This creates a more finished-looking edge.) Hold each link with your fingers very close to the loop as you file it. Note: If the link bends when you do this, then you're either filing to strenuously, or you need to further stiffen the link (after re-straightening it) by repeating Step 4.
6. If any of the loops on your connectors have come open during hammering, use flat nose pliers to gently wiggle them closed with a side-to-side motion (similar to how you would close jump rings, demonstrated here.)
Set the wire links aside and prepare to make the wrapped-bead links.
7. Working directly off of a spool or coil of 26 gauge, dead-soft sterling wire, string a bead onto the wire.
8. Use round nose pliers to make a bend about 1/2-inch from the end of the wire.
9. Use your fingers to wrap the wire end all the way around the jaw of the pliers to create a loop.
10. Hold the loop gently with chain nose pliers, and use the round-nose pliers to slowly wrap the wire-end around the base of the wire (below the loop) about three times.
11. Slide the bead up against the wraps you just made.
12. Grasp the wire beneath the bead with the round nose pliers, and use your fingers to bend the wire on the other side of the jaws of the pliers.
13. Reposition the jaws of the pliers to just past the bend you made in Step 12, and wrap the wire all the way around the pliers to create a loop.
14. Use your fingers to make two or three wraps between the new loop and the bead.
15. Use side cutters to trim off the extra wire tail at boths ends of the bead.
16. Repeat these steps to wire-wrap all 9 beads.
17. To assemble the necklace, connect the wire links and bead links to one another using jump rings, making sure that the loops on the links on either side of each bead face opposite directions, like this:
Note: Instead of using jump rings to connect the beads and links, you could connect them directly to one another (by opening and closing the loops on the links). However, with that method the necklace will be more prone to kinking.
(To review how to properly open and close jump rings, see the demonstration here.)
18. When all the links and beads are connected, use a jump ring to attach the lobster clasp to one end of the necklace. With my necklace, I chose to allow the lobster clasp to close directly over a loop on the link at the other end of the necklace, but you may add another jump ring there for the clasp to close onto, if you'd like.
19. You can finish your necklace by rubbing the links well with a jewelry polishing cloth, or tumble it in a rotary tumbler for a mirror-finish. (Remember, if you want to use a tumbler, it's a good idea to do a test-run with an extra turquoise bead or two to make sure it won't be damaged by tumbling. Please read about tumbling precautions here.) Or, you can add a dark, oxidized finish to your necklace. We'll go through the steps for applying one in next week's article.
~ If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for this project, please post them in the forum! ~
To learn more about the techniques used in this project, pre-order my new book Teach Yourself Visually: Jewelry Making & Beading for October 2007 delivery.
Chris Franchetti Michaels is a writer and jewelry artisan specializing in beaded designs, wire work, and metal fabrication. She is the author of the books Teach Yourself Visually: Jewelry Making and Beading, Beading Quick Tips, and Wire Jewelry Quick Tips.
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