Valentine’s Day Component Shopping Guide

Valentine’s Day Component Shopping Guide


It’s time to start creating your Valentine’s Jewelry!! Please visit our members  stores for you Valentine’s Components ~ A huge variety &  perfect for your jewelry designs!
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Making Earwires – Taking Out the Mystery

Making Earwires – Taking Out the Mystery


Earwire Grouping2Making earwires has been a mystery to me for years. I have been making earrings for quite some time using the commercial earwires that you find in all the bead stores. Making my own earwires never occurred to me until I became a member of the Creative Bead Chat group on facebook and started seeing all the gorgeous earrings using handmade earwires posted. Making your own earwires can really take your earring designs up a notch!

I’ve admired all the folks that made their own earwires but felt that it just wasn’t something that I could do. Well after asking a lot of questions, which is something that I can definitely do, and a lot of online research, which again is something that I do fairly well, I came to the conclusion that making my own earwires was something that I could do. There have been several great discussions online within the CBC group and I thought I might attempt to pass along some of these great tips, tricks and mysteries to you.

First you need to start with wire, sterling silver, argentium silver and copper are all good choices. Craft wire however is not recommended due to all the allergies that people have and the fact that there might be something in this wire that could irritate. Size of wire to use varies but most people recommended 20 gauge or 22 gauge for smaller ear holes. Once you have your desired wire you need to gather your tools. You will need a pair of round nose pliers, a pair of medium size bail making pliers or double looping pliers or as in my case sometimes I use an ink pen that has a rather large diameter. There are various items that you might have around your house to use to form the loop. You also need something to smooth the portion of the earwire that goes into your ear. A nail file or burr cup tool can be used for this purpose.

There are many great tutorials online for making earwires.  Here’s just a few that I have found:

Michelle Buettner;

Easy Fancy Earwires by Rena Klingenberg

Deryn Mentock

There are tons more available online, just google and plenty will show up.

I’m going to give you my easy earwires for dummies tutorial here.

Tools and Supplies:

  • 20 or 22 gauge Wire (copper, sterling silver, Argentium silver
  • Liver of Sulfur (optional – only if you want to patina your earwires)
  • Sealant such as Clear Guard or Renaissance Wax (this is only needed if you decide to patina your earwires)
  • Round Nose Pliers
  • Bail making pliers, multistep pliers, or any medium size round object that you can wrap your wire around
  • Wire Cutters
  • Nail file or burr cup tool
  • Chasing Hammer
  • Rubber mallet or rawhide mallet (if not using tumbler)
  • Bench Block
  • Tumbler (optional)


  1. Cut 2 ½” – 3” of desired wire, flush cut both ends of your wire.
  2. Form the loop for hanging your earring charm, bobble etc. using your round nose pliers. This loop can be a simple round loop or you can get fancy and do a spiral a backward loop, a wrapped loop. The possibilities here are endless.
  3. Switch to your looping pliers, ink pen, or other round object. Hold your first loop just above the looping pliers with the loop facing towards you and make a second larger loop (this will be the loop that actually goes into your ear). Use a hammer to flatten the top portion of your loop. Not necessary but it gives a nice look to your earwire.
  4. File the sharp edge smooth by using a nail file or a burr cup tool. If you are using a nail file just file the edges a few time all sides to make sure that there are no sharp edges. Run your finger over the end to check for any roughness. If you are using the burr cup tool place the end of your wire inside the cup and rotate clockwise a few times and then you can also do a few turns counter clockwise.  You could also use 0000 steel wool to smooth the ends after using your burr cup tool.
  5. Bend the end slightly on the part of the earwire that goes into your ear using a pair of flat nose pliers. This isn’t totally necessary but it gives the earwires a nice look.

Making earwires collage

At this point you can throw your earwires into a tumbler to harden them or if you are like me and don’t have a tumbler yet, you can use a rubber mallet or rawhide mallet and a bench block to harden your earwire. Just take your rubber mallet or rawhide hammer and whack your earwires several times to harden. Harden the earwires by gently but firmly hammering.  Hammering will  stiffen up your ear wires so they don’t bend out of shape.  Hammer  up and down the ear wire, being careful to avoid the little loop end.

There you have it, a simple ear wire. You need to repeat these steps for the second earwire and check to make sure that all loops and edges are equal.

You can stop here at this point, however if you would like your earwires to have a patina or a finish other than the shiny one, you can dunk the finished earwires into a LOS bath and shine them a bit with a polishing pad (or throw them in the tumbler) and then seal them with something like Clearguard or some folks use Renaissance Wax to seal the patina.

Need inspiration for making your own earwires?

Check out some of these pinterest boards for some great designs and links to other tutorials.

Follow Melinda Orr’s board Earwire Inspired on Pinterest.

Follow Linda Younkman’s board Earwires – Inspiration for Making Your Own on Pinterest.

Findings in Focus :: An Interview with Michelle Mach

Findings in Focus :: An Interview with Michelle Mach


I recently reviewed Michelle MUF_COV300ach’s new book, Unusual Findings, in the latest issue of Bead Chat Magazine. I did really enjoy the designs and challenge to my own, sometimes conventional opinions about how findings ‘should’ be used.

I decided to see if Michelle might be up for a few questions so that we could all learn a bit more about what inspired her book, and why findings exactly? So of course I jumped right to it asking her ‘why a book on findings?’

“I’ve always been fascinated by findings,” Michelle tells me. “As an editor I saw over and over how the wrong clasp could torpedo a strong design and a fabulous one could elevate a ho-hum one.  Findings have tremendous power, but they don’t always get the same attention from designs as beads and pendants do.” That certainly spoke to me immediately. I am an admitted hoarder, and yes I do have a rather large stash of very pretty findings of which my most prized are my box slide clasps. I can’t bear to have them end up at the back of the neck … and so they sit.

Poet Laureate: is a necklace in Unexpected Findings that uses jump rings to attach two metal components and head pins to wire wrap pearls to the center of brass flowers.  It also shows how you can take one finding (such as a filigree link or connector) and by bending it, you can create a different finding (such as a pendant bail).

Poet Laureate: shown in Unexpected Findings uses jump rings to attach two metal components and head pins to wire wrap pearls to the center of brass flowers. It also shows how you can take one finding (such as a filigree link or connector) and by bending it, you create a different finding (such as a pendant bail).

But then Michelle said something that really got me thinking. “It always surprises me when I ask designers about a finding that doesn’t quite fit the piece and they’ll say that they used it because they had it lying around.  It’s admirable to want to use up materials your stash, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a strong design.”

Ok, raise your hand. Who’s done this exact thing? I know I have, and actually my worst offense is earwires. I have a thing about making earrings. It isn’t so much designing the first earring; it is copying the second that I truly hate. I know hate is a strong word, but I like to design … not copy. And I inevitably don’t quite match it up to exactly the same wire wrap look, or length. So by the time I reach for the earwires I am truly quite done with the pattern. And thus, my snap decision of their design being close enough. For some great inspiration on earwires, Melinda Orr just did a great article on why you should consider designing your own. Perhaps I should start with creating the findings first for a change!

Silver Linings: shown in Unexpected Findings uses bead caps to form umbrella charms.  I've attached them to the clouds with spring-ring clasps, making it possible for you to change out the umbrella charms on a whim.

Silver Linings: shown in Unexpected Findings uses bead caps to form umbrella charms. I’ve attached them to the clouds with spring-ring clasps, making it possible for you to change out the umbrella charms on a whim.

Alright, so now we know why Michelle decided to write about findings, but why a whole book on the topic? Michelle writes for a broad array of magazines, why not just an article? “I’ve been publishing my designs in jewelry magazines since 2007.  Many magazines have specific themes and color palettes which challenge my creativity.  They also let me explore new techniques or experiment with new types of beads.  In contrast, writing a book gives you a chance to take one topic and delve deeply into it.  There are so many more findings on the market than there were five years ago that it seemed the perfect time to research them.  Plus, I’ve learned a lot about jewelry making over the years that I wanted to share with a wider audience.”

I asked Michelle about her inspiration, and mention a quote from her book where she notes making earrings with ring shanks. Ring shanks? I confessed to her the thought would never have crossed my mind. But Michelle seems to be one of those truly inspired designers who look at the world and the possibility of how she can create from what is simply sitting there in front of her.

“I believe that inspiration is everywhere. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by a specific bead or finding; other times inspiration will come from an outside source such as vibrant pillow at a home decor store. I especially like creating jewelry based on a book I’ve recently read or a movie I’ve seen. In many areas of my life, I look at objects (burnt out light bulbs, empty thread spools) and ask, how else could I use this? So it’s only natural that I do the same thing with jewelry findings.”

The Reveille necklace featuring copper cones as dangles was first published in the Winter 2007 issue of Stringing.  This was one of my first publications and the one I mention in the introduction to my book, Unexpected Findings.

Reveille: featuring copper cones as dangles first published in Stringing Winter 2007. This was one of my first publications, and I mention it in the introduction to my book, Unexpected Findings.

Ok so let’s ask the obvious question, aren’t findings a more expensive route to go when thinking about materials for designs? “For the book, I did a lot of sketching to try out different ways to use findings.  I wanted to use findings that were common and easy to find, but I also wanted to keep a budget in mind.  It would have been easy to make elaborate designs using findings — such as a necklace chain made entirely of pendant bails — but it’s just not practical for most designers to buy 100 bails at $5 each to make a necklace. When I was writing the book proposal, I looked at individual findings and brainstormed as many ideas for each one that I could.  When I had 100 ideas, I thought that I had enough to approach a publisher.” And that is what you will find in her book is a plethora of ideas to jump start your creative juices when trying to push your own design inspiration.

In my mind at this point I am imagining Michelle’s studio to look a bit like a ‘tinkerer’s workshop’ with bits and pieces tucked away in every crevice. And so I ask her ‘true confessions, what does your bead table look like?’

“I have an old kitchen table in the basement where I do some of my work.  It’s usually cluttered and I often find myself working on a tiny corner that I’ve cleared off.  It’s hard to get everything put away completely because just looking at my beads and findings gives me new ideas that I want to try immediately.  I also do some design work on the sofa in front of the TV.  It’s comfortable, but it does mean that I’m constantly pulling jump rings out of the cushions!  I try to keep that area of the house cleaner than the basement, but if I’m on a deadline, all bets are off!”

At this point, I’m really starting to get a sense that I would love to spend an afternoon beading with Michelle. With all her jump rings in her cushions, and my rainbow of dropped beads in mine I think we could mix it up pretty famously.

Michelle also gave a shout out to a charity that she donates beads to, “I periodically clear out some of my old beads and send them to the Denver Refugee Women’s Craft Initiative

Breathe necklace: an example of jewelry that showcases my love of words.  Appeared in Creative Jewelry 2011.

Breathe: an example of jewelry that showcases my love of words. Appeared in Creative Jewelry 2011.

My next burning question was to ask how Michelle chose her selected designers in her book. It is always a mystery to me how to ‘get connected’ and be one of those people that publishers reach out to. “I spent a lot of time online finding potential designers.  I looked for ones that I thought could be innovative, work within specific guidelines (limited techniques, specific materials), meet short deadlines, write clear instructions, and take constructive criticism and make revisions to their projects if necessary.  It was a pretty tall order and I was thrilled with how they all met the challenge.  I wanted the designers to have a strong sense of their own style, but at the same time, I wanted a collection of projects that meshed well together.  The publisher had suggestions for designers, too, so it was definitely a collaborative process to make the final list.”

When I asked Michelle if there are places she visits to recharge her inspiration; she simply said “there are too many to count!” But then went on to say, “I belong to a bunch of groups on Facebook such as B’Sue Boutiques Creative Group and Creative Bead Chat, so I always have a good flow of creative designs to admire in my feed.  I’m editing a wire jewelry book right now that I find very inspiring. The designer’s doing things with wire I’ve never seen before.” She couldn’t tell us anything more about the book, only to look for it in 2015.

One last question before I finished up my interview. I took a peek at Michelle’s Etsy site to see what her pervasive style was, and not surprisingly words were an important design element. Yep, words. Clearly writing and expressing yourself through words is pretty important to Michelle. “I’ve always loved to write and considered myself a writer long before I discovered jewelry design.  (I’ve had essays and other short pieces published in more than a dozen anthologies.)  Words have a lot of power.  I gravitate towards bead artists such as Heather Wynn, Diane Hawkey, and Erin Prais-Hintz who use words on their bead and pendant designs.  Even if I don’t show words in my designs, my best ones tell some kind of story.  I’m like many designers in that while I may experiment a lot, at the end of the day, I always circle back to making the kind of jewelry that I myself would wear.”

Well said Michelle, well said. Make jewelry that you, yourself would love to wear. The rest will fall into place.

Clasps as Focals: Why Stop There?

Clasps as Focals: Why Stop There?


I loved Erin Strother’s recent post “The Clasp Conundrum,” but she omitted one important fact: clasps are the gateway drug. I’ve seen it happen again and again to fine, upstanding jewelry citizens as yourselves. You’ve always toed the straight and narrow, using your clasps properly at the back of your necklaces. Then you listen to Erin’s mighty persuasive spiel in that dark alley behind your local bead shop and you think, Fine. No big deal. I’ll use one clasp for a focal one time and that will be that. I can stop at any time.

Sweet pearl earrings made with pendant bails and bead caps.

Sweet pearl earrings made with pendant bails and bead caps.

I beg to differ. Once you start looking at your findings—all your findings—with a critical eye, you won’t be able to stop. I should know. I wrote a whole book about using findings in unusual ways. The book Unexpected Findings has fifty projects, but the ten contributing designers and I made many more projects than appear in the pages. We just created, created, created like people obsessed. We forgot all about showering and subsisted on a diet mainly of coffee and chocolate so we could stay up all night thinking of how to use eye pins in a new and different way. (Or maybe that was just me?) Seriously, we could have written a sequel to this book before it was even out.

Not convinced? Here are two exclusive (not in the book!) projects to inspire you:

A bead frame can make a great toggle ring for a clasp. Would you have guessed the location of these bead caps?

A bead frame can make a great toggle ring for a clasp. Would you have guessed the location of these bead caps?

Some shops go as far to call these “pendant bails” or “necklace bails” so there will be absolutely no confusion on how to use them. They come in a wide variety of types. The one shown here is called a tube bail. The tube slips over your beading wire and you hang your pendant from the loop. Unless you’re me and you use them in your earrings.

Bead Caps
Bead caps are hands down (I mean it—hands down, step away from my bead caps!) the findings I love the best. If I find a new bead shop, whether in person or online, I’m almost sure to buy a few bead caps. You’re supposed to use these strung on either side of a bead, but that can get a little dull. Many bead caps are so pretty just on their own. I love using them at the bottom of a dangle like I’ve done with these earrings.

Bead Frames

A toggle ring can be made from anything round. I especially like using bead frames because they have holes in them.  This gives you other options besides a jump ring to attach the toggle ring to your jewelry. Normally, you’d use bead frames when stringing beads, so that at least one bead is framed in the center of the metal.

Unexpected Findings by Michelle Mach

Unexpected Findings by Michelle Mach

I’ve also hidden some bead caps in the beaded strand of this bracelet. Those larger pewter beads look like your typical rondelles, but they’re actually two bead caps strung together.


Win an Autographed Copy of Unexpected Findings
I’ll be giving away an autographed copy of my new Unexpected Findings book to one lucky winner in the Clasps & Closures Design Challenge. There will be a random drawing from all the entries. Of course, if you can’t wait that long, you can order your own copy. Good luck with the challenge! (And don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

    The Clasp Conundrum

    The Clasp Conundrum


    By Erin Strother verdigris triangle When I began thinking about a subject for this post, my original topic was going to be a series of money saving tips. And since I’m admittedly one of the cheapest people you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet, I have volumes of knowledge in this area and could blab on and on about it endlessly until you suddenly remember your mother is calling and you have to go home immediately. Which happens to me surprisingly often. One of the things I planned to talk about was clasps—specifically, how you don’t have to spend a fortune on a big fancy one and also how you can make your own pretty easily. But then, the very same day I was planning to start writing, one of those big, corporate jewelry blogs landed in my inbox, and guess what it was about? Go ahead—GUESS.


    Except that their whole blog was pretty much the exact opposite of my idea. According to this blog chick, who clearly has some sort of uncontrollable deviant clasp fetish, the clasp you choose is VERY IMPORTANT and must be SUPER COOL, because if you don’t choose exactly the right one, you will ruin the whole necklace and then everyone will know you’re just a hack and lose all respect for you and you won’t have any friends and will be forced live out your lonely, lonely existence with only 47 cats for friends. So perhaps I am totally wrong about clasps. I have friends (yes, REALLY!) who are very well respected jewelry designers who never scrimp on clasps. And yeah, their pieces are beautiful, and yeah, they spent, like, $20 on the clasp alone. And then you put on this beautiful necklace and where is that beautiful, expensive clasp? At the back of your neck under your hair where nobody will ever see it. Unless you have super short hair and a habit of turning your back to people when you talk to them. So I have never bought into the whole beautiful expensive clasp thing, EXCEPT in the following instances.

    1. Bracelets You can see EVERYTHING happening on a bracelet, all the time, unlike a necklace where there’s usually an obvious front and a back. Many of my “claspalicious” friends (I just now invented that word, which I’m positive will catch on and become a huge thing) incorporate hand-made art beads or buttons into the clasp somehow, or use clasps with unique shapes that blend in seamlessly with the rest of the piece. I admit—those rock, although I am too cheap to make them myself.braided blues

    2. Using the clasp as a focal. Some necklaces are purposely designed with the clasp in front. And by all means, if you have an awesome, expensive clasp, show that baby off! It should be a law, actually. Those kind of clasps should come with a dis
    claimer, similar to carrying a concealed weapon: “WARNING: under penalty of death or dismemberment or undetermined but notably se
    vere and/or unpleasant punishment, this clasp is to be worn in a conspicuous manner at all times!!! (Note the use of many exclamation points, proving that this is very important.) !!! Personally, I’m a fan of simple, hand-made clasps. I usually either make an easy “S” or hook clasp using 18 or 16 gauge hammered wire, or I make a toggle clasp using a washer and a hand-made toggle bar (again, using 18 or 16 gauge wire.) Typically, I use brass wire over copper, because brass is harder and stronger than copper, so it holds it shape a bit better. But I’m also a fan of LAZINESS, and I have plenty of necklaces that just have a simple, utilitarian lobster clasp. And honestly, I think there is nothing wrong with that.

    What do YOU think? Do you LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, cool, expensive clasps, or do you think they are a big fat waste of money? (all viewpoints are welcome here. Except of course, those that differ from mine. Because those are obviously wrong. But feel free to express them anyway 🙂 )

    Find out more about me and my work in the author bio box below!  

    Visit the Clasp and Closure Challenge going on!

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