Designing your own jewelry is a fun and creative way to show off your unique style. But before you're ready to show off your creations, you'll need to learn the foundations. The art of jewelry making can take countless hours of learning and practice until you truly feel comfortable with your level of skill. From tools to techniques and terminology, those interested in launching their own handmade jewelry business, or simply creating unique jewelry as a hobby, require guidance on how to properly get started.
Your journey to crafting DIY jewelry can be as simple as stringing beads and gems onto a chain, or as complex as using metal clays and jewelry saws to fashion new designs. You don't have to be an expert on jewelry making in order to make beautiful, quality pieces for your collection. You just need patience, practice, and persistence to turn your handmade jewelry designs into a fulfilling hobby or business.
In this short guide, we will give you a basic introduction to the supplies, tools, and best practices you will need to get started designing your own handmade jewelry.
Let's start with basic supplies. If you're just beginning you don't want to spend a lot of time or money on tools and materials you don't need or know how to use. You can get most of the materials you will need right here from our site, the rest you can purchase inexpensively from craft stores. You can also repurpose any old or broken jewelry you already own for charms, clasps, pendants, or any required findings. The term “findings” refers to all the metal bits and pieces that make up your jewelry. While “components”, often refer to the materials like links and spacers that aren't very necessary to use with most projects. When just starting out, stick with the basics, as your technique and skill improves you can begin to incorporate a few “cool” components to let your creativity shine.
To make most basic jewelry pieces you will need chains, jump rings, head and eye pins, and clasps. If you plan to make earrings or body jewelry, you'll also need those findings. Beads and charms are great components to add personality to your designs as well. You can buy all the required tools and supplies in an existing kit, or if you prefer to build your collection piece by piece, you can purchase these items independently. Your materials should include the following staples:
- Chain. There are a variety of chain styles that you can purchase. The length, style, and type of chain you choose will vary based on your jewelry niche and design. Chains can be purchased in bulk or you can get ready-to-wear chains that include jump rings and clasps. Both can be found on our site or be repurposed from old or broken necklaces.
- Jump rings. These are essential for most jewelry projects and also come in a variety of sizes and styles. Jump rings allow you to attach clasps, charms, pendants, or chains. If you plan to create necklaces, bracelets, or earrings we recommend getting a variety pack so you have multiple sizes to choose from.
- Clasps. This S-shaped piece of metal hooks onto a ring on the other end of a piece of jewelry and allows you to secure and lock the jewelry in place, or adjust the length of your pieces.
- Head pins and eye pins. Head or eye pins are often used for making earrings or for adding charms and beads to your projects. They can also be used on their own as a design element. Eye pins feature a loop on one end and head pins are flat on one end.
- Metal Craft Wire. If you want to make your own earrings, bangles, or rings, wire is necessary. Wire helps keep the forged shape of the jewelry pieces. Wire works best for artisan jewelry. The term "gauge" or "ga" refers to the width measurement of a wire. There are different uses of wire depending on its gauge. 20-24 gauge jewelry wire is a good all-purpose wire diameter for most beginner projects.
- Charms and beads. These decorative elements will add a personalized touch of character and design to your jewelry. They can be found in a multitude of styles and designs.
In addition to findings and materials to make your jewelry, you'll also need to purchase some jewelry-making tools. If you don't have the budget for large tools you can get by with using a mini tool set as you learn and practice new projects. Although, if you have larger hands, or plan to do a lot of jewelry making, mini tools may not feel very comfortable in your grip, so consider purchasing a used full-sized tool set from other crafters to save money. At a minimum, you will need the following:
- Pliers. Pliers are essentials for gripping, bending, and shaping metal and wires. This includes flat nose and chain nose pliers made for jewelry. Pliers serve multipurpose in jewelry making. Chain nose pliers are used for bending jump rings, gauge wires, holding beads, and prying things open. Pliers are also a necessary tool for forming hooks and wires.
- Wire/chain cutters. A flush cutter, or wire cutter, helps you cut your chain or wire with minimal damage to the materials. While some use scissors to cut chains, you could risk damaging your scissors. Wire and chain cutters help trim and cut the chain or wire for a perfect finish.
- Round Nose Pliers. You will need a pair of these for closing head pins and eye pins. You could get by with just using a chain nose plier if you're just starting out, though it won't give you as nice a result.
Jewelry-making tools come in a massive variety of brands, styles, and price ranges. We recommend buying mid-range tools, and then upgrading to more expensive variations as you feel you need them as you advance in skill and technique.
Pro tip: to keep all of your jewelry making supplies organized and readily available, store them in a stacking storage container, or travel case with a latch and carrying handle
Basic Jewelry Projects
Even to make the most basic pieces you need the right findings.
- Earrings: To make a great pair of earrings you'll need a variety of findings from lever backs, to fish hooks, to studs for gluing and for hanging.
- Necklaces and bracelets: For a basic necklace or bracelet you’ll need chain, jump rings, and clasps that come in various styles. Start with a spring ring or lobster claw. For a decorative bonus, you can add charms or beads or a pendant.
- Rings: Most ring projects will begin with a ring base, and either with punches, loops, or a flat pad for gluing.
- Pendants: To turn a great piece into a pendant, use a jump ring, or a bail snaps on, glues on, or has a little screw to them into a partially-drilled bead. You can also get a pinch bail that turns a top-drilled stone into a pendant.
- Chains: Chains are used either as a main decorative element itself, to string a pendant, or as spacers between beads on a necklace, bracelet, or earrings. You can get chain in a huge variety of finishes and styles right from our site.
Jewelry Making Tips
- Start with a small, simple project design and repeat the process until you get a quality finish.
- Don't let yourself get overwhelmed. If a project is too daunting scale the design or style back.
- Use strong, quality jump rings that can stand constant use and weight or durable earrings, necklaces, and bracelets
- Don't get discouraged if your product doesn't look like the professional one. Just keep practicing.
- Keep all of your metal scraps and materials in an organized place. After you’ve used all the pieces you can, recycle the rest.
- Purchase and use quality stones, metals, and leathers, as they're less likely to break, chip, or cause difficulties during the design process.
- Purchasing durable tools is a far better investment, as they're much less likely to break.
- When looking for visual references or tutorials for new projects, look to YouTube. The visual explanations and variety of lessons and topics from experienced jewelry makers can make learning techniques and selling your jewelry very easy.
- Set aside a space for crafting jewelry to keep your materials organized and protect your tools. If you have a spot for them, they're less likely to break or go missing.
Take your love for jewelry to the next level by creating your own unique creation or jewelry masterpiece. Because there are many styles and types of jewelry to create, begin your journey by finding a good niche within the jewelry industry where you fit in. You can easily create jewelry inspired by all your favorite things and just as unique as you are.
Here at Mayas Gems, we have your favorite chain, findings, and so much more to help you get started with the foundations of crafting handmade jewelry. We are your one-stop shop for all things jewelry making. Visit the menu right here on our site to find the supplies you need to turn into a jewelry-making professional.