Essentials you'll need to start making beaded jewellery

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There are lots of things to take into consideration when you start off with jewellery making as a hobby, the first will probably be the cost of getting a good stock of beads and findings together!  There is no doubt about it, beads are expensive and there's a very good reason for this, they are expensive to make and most are made in far flung countries such as Africa, India and China.  They will then be sent to wholesalers who make a profit by selling to retailers and by the time these beads reach their destination they will have travelled some distance and undoubtedly incurred several customs charges and had several companies make a profit on their sales!  In saying that anyone who has ever made anything with beads will agree that they are worth every penny as there's lots of us out there hooked on this as a hobby and some who even become obsessed by it!!!  The guiding principle in beading is that you get what you pay for, cheaper goods in larger quantities will most likely be of inferior quantity, this does not mean they will be unusable as no doubt you will find something to do with them!!

This guide should give you a rough idea of exactly what you will need to buy for the various types of jewellery that you might want to make.

Tools:

Pliers - available in lots of different shapes which all perform different functions, round nose for creating loops, flat nose for applying pressure or for bending at right angles, nylon jawed for straigtening headpins and craft wire.  These would get you started but sets are available to cover all eventualities.  Go for a good set of pliers (not the cheapest as they rust easily and are often wonky and not very hard wearing!!).

Jigs - Used to make wire shapes.  They are available in plastic and metal with metal obviously being more expensive and hard wearing and the plastic models being more suited to beginners!  They are basically a square/rectangular board with holes bored into them.  You will also be supplied with pegs to fit into the holes and the pegs will come in various sizes and shapes.  Some will also come with patterns and various books of patterns have been published.  From there on in it's basically just a case of winding the wire around the pegs in the desired pattern to create tiara parts, pendants and various other bits and pieces!

Looms - A frame generally made of wood or metal with lots of grooves which hold thread in place while beads are woven between them.  Useful for ethnic looking pieces of jewellery.  For best results use Delica seed beads.

Bead Mats - A wise investment, microfleece mats which stop beads rolling about and when you drop a bead onto them it stops them in their tracks - their cost can be offset against what you would normally lose on beads missing in action!!!

 Visit our shop on the link below to pick one of these up!!

There are heaps more tools and gizmos you will come across but these are the most likely ones to interest beginners!!!

Beads

What more can we say there are literally hundreds of varieties of beads in a wide range of materials - metal, glass, plastic, resin, ceramic, crystal, gemstone and even rubber and this is not an exhaustive list!!

Seed Beads - tiny beads used as spacers or just on their own on looms, see my guide on buying seed beads for some more information on sizes etc.  Most have a rounded edge with the exception of Delicas.

Czech Glass Beads -

The most popular are Fire-polished beads which are faceted glass beads. The pattern of facets is always the same and the resulting bead is somewhat oval in the smaller sizes. The beads are glazed in a red hot oven after being machine faceted.  You will probably also stumble across Czech Druk beads which are a very smooth round bead ideal for spacing your designs.  All of these beads are generally named after gemstones such as Amethyst, Ruby, Garnet etc and they come with a wide range of coatings and effects such as AB (abbreviation for Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights, which means that the beads have a coating which reflects the light into various other colours).

Millefiori

Literally means 'thousand flowers'.  The millefiori technique involves the production of glass canes or rods, known as murrine, with multicolored patterns which are viewable only from the cut ends of the cane. Millefiori beads are made of plain wound glass bead cores and thin slices of cut cane (murrine) which are being pressed into the bead surface, forming mosaic-like patterns, while the glass is still hot.  These often result in the appearance of flowers of multi-colours appearing in the glass.

Swarovski Crystal

Swarovski crystal beads are also prized by jewellers and hobbyists. They are a content high-lead crystal, have an incredible sparkle and clarity, and are often multi-faceted to resemble gemstones. Styles and colors go in and out of production, so vintage cuts and colors are often prized with a similarly associated price tag. Swarovski bicones are the most popular crystal beads in sizes 4mm and 6mm with crystal and crystal ab as the most common colors. 

Lampwork Beads

Lampwork beads are made by using a torch to heat a rod of glass and spinning the resulting thread around a metal rod covered in bead release. When the base bead has been formed, other colors of glass can be added to the surface to create many designs.

If we told you much more about the various other types of beads available we might ruin your fun in finding out for yourself!  Most of this information is available on wikipedia.com and some extracts have been taken from there.

Findings

findings is the term given to all the components that go into putting the jewellery together, anything from chain, clasps and hooks to headpins, jumprings and calottes!

Chain - widely available in lengths to create bracelets and necklaces in a wide range of styles and finishes from plated (base metal core usually copper or brass coated with silver or gold layer) to sterling silver or gold.  The plated chains in our experience will tarnish over time and are best suited to inexpensive costume jewellery, however for a lasting finish it's best to go for real sterling silver or gold if you are hoping that people will buy your items with the intention of them lasting long term!

Clasps - An abundance of choices here again, lobster clasps and spring rings would be the most popular types that you will see on most items of shop bought jewellery and are probably the most secure however barrel clasps and metallic clasps are growing in popularity and there are some pretty hook designs about that can make a feature of a functional item!

Headpins - Widely available in a range of thicknesses (Gauge) and length.  To avoid wastage its best to get a good range of lengths in as they can be used for earrings, pendants, charms and loads of other things.  It's best to match the headpin material to the rest of the item eg sterling silver headpins for sterling silver chain.  They come in a range of finishes including gold and silver plate, gold and sterling silver, antique bronze, red copper and black.

Jumprings - small loops with a split to use to connect items together, pretty much the same goes for these as with headpins, you will probably need a lot of them and they come measured by the diameter of the ring.  They also come in the same finishes as headpins.  To open use two pairs of pliers (although I find I can work better with just one!) and clamp the pliers onto either side of the circle with the split at the top, bring one set of pliers towards you and part the split (don't be tempted to just force the split apart from inside the ring as this will distort the shape and create an uneven finish!).  When you need to close the ring again just reverse the process.

Crimp Beads - tiny little tube beads which can be used with crimping pliers to secure ends of necklaces and bracelets etc.  Crimping pliers have 2 notches in them, use the one closest to the handle to 'squash' the crimp bead into a c shape, then use the notch closest to the end to close the c shape into a bead shape.  Can be used with calottes to gain a professional finish.  Best results with soft flex beading wire and beadalon wires.

Calottes - (also known as clam shells), these are shell shaped with a hook on the end and a hinge in the middle with a hole.  to finish off an item with a calotte you will either need a seed bead or a crimp bead.  To use a seed bead you can glue the seed bead to the cord, thread the calotte onto the other side of it and close the two 'shell' parts together with pliers.  If you are finishing off an item this way you will need to put the calotte on first, then the seed bead and glue and then close the 'shells' together.  Exactly the same applies to using crimp beads but the crimp beads replace the seed bead to act as a stopper.  There are also looped and side closing versions available and they tend to come in the same finishes as the other findings.

Stringing Materials

Illusion Cord - ideal for floating style jewellery where the illusion cord creates an almost invisible link between beads, needs to be used with crimping pliers to keep the beads in their place.

Stretch Magic - Strong and stretchy clear cord available in various colours and diameters and great for making power bracelets, kids jewellery and lots of other things!

Soft Flex/Beadalon - Equally high quality beading wires composed of multiple strings of stainless steel coated in nylon, available in lots of different strengths for various different bead types but great for necklaces and bracelets, again use of crimps and calottes advisable for finishing off.

Leather Thong  - available in various colours and diameters suitable for a wide range of chokers and bracelets, can be finished off with either fold over or spring clasps.

Waxed Cotton Cord/Ratstail - the vegetarian option!  Equivalent to leather thong and same uses but only one is matte looking and waxed cotton and ratstail is more of a satin finish.

Again there are lots of other things that you will stumble across but these are some of the basics to get you started!  Why not have a look round our ebay shop for some ideas - we generally stock most of the above and are always happy to advise on what you might need to complete your project! BeADiva Online Shop

Happy Beading!!

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