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Angela Making A Bead Chain
I would like to tell you about how I make my jewellery. I use collected old and new glass beads, gemstone beads and silver beads to make necklaces, bracelets, anklets, earrings and brooches. These are assembled with 925 silver wire. I like to mix colours and shapes into interesting combinations.

I have basic silversmithing abilities but my simpler pieces use only round-nose pliers, side cutters (snippers) and silver wire. More elaborate pieces may have soldered hand made links, and handmade pins, decorations and catches.

I buy 925 silver wire from a precious metal supplier in .6 and .7 mm sizes. These sizes fit most beads and have good strength. .7 is a good size for earring hooks. One mm wire is useful for brooches and for shaping and flattening with a hammer. I like my pieces to be durable and make them so they won't fall apart if pulled.

How to make the basic chain of beads:

This chain of beads can be made into bracelets, anklets and necklaces. It can have bead dangles added to it, or can be interspersed with short lengths of commercial chain or handmade chain.

Materials and Tools

.6 or .7 silver wire
round nose pliers
side cutters
assorted beads

Cut a piece of wire 7-8 cm long. Make the first link by forming a loop around one jaw of the pliers, about 1 1/2-2 cm from the end of the wire. This leaves enough wire to wrap back around the shank of the pin, making a strong link which can't be pulled apart. The loop can be as small or large as you like.
(Diagram 1)
Diagrams 1 - 2 - 3

Hold the loop with the pliers and carefully and evenly wrap the end around the shank twice using your fingers. Snip it off close to the shank. Don't worry too much that you will waste a little silver, it's inevitable, as you need to have enough to hold onto when twisting it. (I keep all my scrap pieces of silver and melt them into balls to solder onto decorations later.)
(Diagram 3)

A trick to note when making the loop is to bend the shank back a little to centre the loop before wrapping the end of the wire around the shank.
(Diagram 2)

Thread one or more beads onto the shank. Make a loop in the other end of the wire close to the bead, but leaving 1-2 mm gap for the wrapped wire. Hold the second loop in the pliers and wrap the end around the shank twice. Hopefully it will fit snugly up against the bead. Snip the end off.
(Diagram 4)
Diagrams 4 - 5 - 6

For the next link, make a loop in another piece of wire as before, but slide the completed first link onto this loop before closing it by wrapping the wire around the shank. (Diagram 5) Then add beads and make the second loop as before.

Continue to add more links until the bead chain is the desired length, allowing for the addition of a clasp. You may like to space short sections of bead chain between short sections of commercial silver chain.

You can add a bought clasp to either end of the bead chain before you close the last loops, or you can make a simple catch from silver wire. .7 wire is a bit thin as it may bend too easily, but lightly hammering it may strengthen and harden it enough. Or you can use a thicker wire for the clasp. (Diagram 6 shows a suitable shape for a clasp.)

A more simple way to make links is to form loops in the wire without twisting the end around the shank. However these can pull apart if tugged hard. A lot of jewellery has links like this, so many people are happy with these links, but I prefer to know I have made a really durable item.

The only problem I have experienced with these bead chains breaking results from the odd gemstone bead having a hole which is sharp inside. After some time, these beads may wear a groove around the wire, weakening it. Glass beads don't cause this to happen, just some gemstones that have been drilled unevenly. All I can do is repair the item for free. This has only happened once or twice.

When working with silver wire, don't worry that bending it back and forth will cause it to snap. It won't, as silver is very malleable. Of course, if you have nipped a groove into it by pressing to hard with the pliers this will be a weak point that may snap, so be careful, and reject that piece of wire.

When you buy silver wire, it can come in 'soft' or 'hard' form, depending on whether it was annealed or 'worked' last. I find hard wire is best to use. If you get wire that is too soft and bendy, you can fix it by working it back and forth between your fingers, thus hardening it.

Silver wire and beads clean up beautifully if you rub them with a blue silver-polishing cloth that you can buy from the supermarket. The cloth is impregnated with polishing compounds so do not add any gluggy polishing liquids.

I hope you enjoy experimenting with wire and beads.


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