Glossary of Jewellery Making
An introduction to Jewellery Making
Jewellery Making Glossary
At KerrieBerrie we understand that all the different jewellery making components can look a little overwhelming at first, so we've compiled a simple reference glossary. (We will be updating this reference page in coming days and weeks.)
Sign up to our newsletter to receive more jewellery making tips, and to find out about the latest product additions (new subscribers also receive a discount code for 15% off their next order).
We can send out free instructions with your order. We also stock a range of simple jewellery making kits which are a great way to make yourself familiar to a range of common components and techniques – they contain everything you need along with easy to follow instructions.
Bails are used to turn beads into pendants so that they may be easily attached to a necklace or bracelet.
Pendant Bails have loops to attach a pendant onto.
Pinch Bails have pegs that pinch into each side of the hold in a bead.
Stick-on Bails allow you to stock on a cabochon or other flat-back item so that it can be worn as a pendant.
Any device that allows you to attach one end of a necklace or bracelet to the other end in a temporary way is a clasp. They can be plain or more decorative in their design, adding to the overall appearance of a piece of jewellery.
Lobster Clasps are some of the most frequently used clasps (pictured above). They are strong enough to hold heavy beads, and we stock this type in a wide variety of sizes and finishes.
Bolt Ring Clasps are commonly used on necklaces. The clasps will stay closed until you pull back the lever, creating a space in the ring to clip on the other end of the necklace or bracelet.
Barrel / Screw Clasps consist of two textured parts that screw together to form a barrel shape. They are attached via an eye loop on either end of a necklace or bracelet.
Magnetic Clasps are made from very string magnets, making them very easy to use when fastening and taking off items of jewellery.
Toggle Clasps are made up of two pieces – a T-bar and a ring. The T-bar is fed through the ring to connect the two together.
Crimps are flattened with chain nose pliers to attach clasps and jump rings onto the end of beading wire (7 strand, 19 strand, 49 strand). Crimps can also be used to position beads along beading wire and crimpable chain.
You can use Crimp Beads which are round, and can be flattened down onto beading wire using chain nose pliers. There are also Crimp Tubes which work in the same way as crimp beads, but come in a cylinder shape – the size you should use depends on the thickness of the beading wire.
Crimp covers are small, hollow round beads that have an opening on one side, allowing you to slide them over a flattened crimp to hide it for a more professional finish.
There are many types of earring findings available, and popular styles include hoops, posts, leverback, kidney, clip-on, and fish hook (also know as French wires). The shape of earring finding you use is very much part of the design.
It's worth considering using a precious metal or hypoallergenic metal when making earrings as many people are sensitive to having non-precious metals in their ears. We stock solid Sterling Silver ear hooks and findings.
For a clasp be attached to a piece of strung jewellery, an ending of some sort needs to be added to the stringing material. The type of ending you will need depends on the stringing material.
Wire Guards / Wire Guardians are rigid metal horseshoe-shaped findings that protect and conceal stringing materials (usually beading wire), by threading the stringing material through the horseshoe shape.
Fold-over Cord Ends are used in particular to secure soft stringing materials such as leather and fine chain (i.e. crimpable chain). The sides are folded over the stringing material one at a time, securing the cord end in place, and a jump ring may be attached to the loop.
French Bullion Wires / French Coils / Gimps are hollow tubes of tightly coiled fine wire. Available in different sizes, they are used to protect soft stringing materials, such as silk, from fraying.
Beadtips / Clam Shells / Calottes are threaded onto stringing material (usually silk thread) to conceal knots. The cups close around the knot, and have loops on them so that a jump ring and clasp may be attached.
Glue-in Cord Ends come in different sizes allowing you to glue in cord with a small amount of E-6000 glue. You would use these cord ends for leather and kumihimo braids.
Headpins are a length of sturdy wire normally between 1.5 and 3.5 inches in length. They have a small stopper at one end which stops beads from falling off when you are making earrings, charms, pendants, drops or bangles.
Eyepins are similar to headpins but instead of a stopper at one end they have a small loop. This will stop beads from falling but can also be attached to other components.
Head pins can have flat 'heads' or ball 'heads', and come in a range of finishes. We also stock solid silver options.
Jump rings are pretty essential for most jewellery making projects. They are strong round, or oval, little wire rings that can be twisted open and closed with two flat pliers (i.e. chain nose pliers or flat nose pliers).
They are used to attached jewellery making components to each other – for example attaching a clasp to the end of a piece of necklace chain.
You can have open jump rings (which can be opened and closed as described below), or closed jump rings. You can also find Split Rings on our website.
Split Rings have the same function as jump rings but are coiled, making them look like little keyrings.
Other useful findings...
The findings you need depend, of course, on what you are making, but here are a few more examples of the products we stock that make jewellery making fun, and your makes professional.
Bead End Cones are ideal for hiding stringing ends a give a decorative finish to your work.
Bead End Caps are convex metal findings which are placed either side of a bead to create a more decorative effect by framing the bead. They come in a variety of sizes and designs.
Spacer Bars / Multi-strand Findings are metal mars with varying numbers of holes, allowing you to have multiple separated strands in your design.
Brooch Backs are available in different sizes and have holes on them allowing you to attach beads using wire.
Ring findings can be used to make beaded rings. Some are a flat disc that you can glue a flat bead straight onto, or a sieve ring allows you to thread beads on through all the little holes.
Among the many different cords available for stringing beads is beading wire, and this is perhaps the most popular and versatile choice.
Beading Wire is durable, strong and flexible. It is available in 7 Strand, 19 Strand and 49 Strand varieties. The higher the strand number, the stronger, more flexible, more abrasion resistant and kink resistant the wire will be. Use crimps to secure endings to this type of stringing material.
Silk Nylon / Satin Cord, commonly known as rat tail or rattail, has a silky, shiny surface. It is particularly good for knotting and braiding and is available in a range of bright colours and a choice of thicknesses.
Waxed Cotton Cord is available in many colours, and ranges from 0.5mm to 1mm in diameter. It is used in particular for knotting techniques such as macrame. The wax helps the knots stay firmly in place and gives the jewellery a sturdier feel.
Leather Cord is typically a smooth round cord, but is also available braided or flat. Leather is great for hanging pendants from.
Elastic Stringing Cord is a stretchy cord produced specifically for jewellery making, so it does not fray, crack or harden over time. It is best suited to light- to medium-weight beads. It is available in a choice of three thicknesses from 0.5mm to 1mm diameter. The most popular colour used is clear/transparent, but we also stock jewellery elastic in black. The best way to secure elastic stringing cord is by tying a 'surgeon's' knot.
Illusion Cord is ideal for making illusion and floating necklaces. This fine cord comes in a variety if colours and can be easily knotted to keep the beads in place.
Natural Silk Thread is one of the best threads for beading, and comes in a variety of colours and thicknesses, and is usually supplied in a 2 metre length wrapped around a card, with a flexible needle attached. The threads are sized by a number which corresponds to their thickness. Silk thread is made up of tight, twisted strands of silk, and is strong and durable. It is a good choice when using semi-precious beads and pearls, as they flow better on silk and can be knotted into place.
Artistic Wire for jewellery making comes in many different thicknesses, colours and even shapes. Wire size is determined by the diameter of the wire, giving it a gauge number. The smaller the gauge, the thicker the wire.
Popular gauges of wire:
18Ga wire is good for making shapes to add beads to, such as pendants, earrings and rings. It can still be shaped with the hands, for example around a ring mandrel, but is thick enough to keep its shape.
20Ga wire is good for making shapes such as rings, pendants, and earrings, and can also be used for wire wrapping, creating a chunky effect. It can be used to crated double ended eye loops and is a comfortable size to fit through the ears, so is a good size to use when making your own ear wires.
22Ga wire is a good size for wire wrapping, particularly when wrapping around teardrop-shaped beads to create a wrapped briolette.
26Ga and 28Ga wires are thinner wires which are good for making tight coils around a thicker wire and beaded wire coiling. They are also good for any kind of wrapping and twisting.
Memory wire is so named because it holds its shape. It is made from toughened steel and comes in necklace, bracelet and ring sizes. You need to make sure you cut memory wire with memory wire cutters – as it will dent your regular cutters as the wire is so hard.
Chain is available by the metre. You can then cut your chain to any length you want, and finish off by attaching jump rings and a clasp.
There are many different styles of chain available in various types of metal. Some chains will have soldered links, other will be made up of links which can be opened or closed in the same way you can open and close jump rings.
JEWELLERY MAKING TOOLS
There are four essential tools that you need for making pretty much all beaded jewellery: chain nose pliers, flat nose pliers, round nose pliers and nippers. There are a number of other useful tools that are needed for particular projects.
Chain Nose Pliers are the most versatile type, ideal for gripping and bending wire, crimping, wire wrapping, opening jump rings, closing clam shells, and pinching in and tidying up ends of wire. They have a short needle nose and flat closing surface.
Flat Nose Pliers can perform similar functions to chain nose pliers, but they have rectangular jaw. They are most useful to use with chain nose pliers when opening and closing jump rings.
Round Nose Pliers have completely round and smooth tapered jaws. They are used to bend wire into loops of various sizes, depending on where you position the wire on the jaw of the pliers, These are an essential tool when making earrings and many other jewellery designs.
Nippers are an essential tool for making beaded jewellery. They are able to make clean, close, flush cuts in narrow places. You can use these to cut most things, including beading wire, headpins and eye pins, but you must NOT use them to cut memory wire as it is too hard and will damage your nippers.
Memory Wire Shears are essential for working with memory wire, as they are needed to cut the very hard steel.
Bead and Pearl Reamers are very useful tools. They have a fine, round, pointed file that allows you to smooth away sharp or rough edges inside beads (particularly found when working with semi-precious beads). They can also be used to make a bead hole slightly bigger and to dislodge any obstruction inside the bead hole.
Collapsible Eye Needles are used to thread stringing materials. A the needle is threaded through the bead hole, the eye collapses, passing through easily.
Beeswax / Thread Conditioner is used to condition the beading thread. Beeswax makes the thread stringer and stiffer (to help maintain tension). It also keeps out moisture and prevents tangles.
You might also find out Jewellery Size Guide useful when designing and making your jewellery pieces.