Introduction: Wire Wrapped Gemstone Tree
This tutorial will teach you how to make the ultimate wire wrapped tree. It features natural gemstones with a large jasper donut serving as the canvass for realistic wire roots and branches. The branches are accented with beautiful peridot or malachite foliage. Once you learn the techniques for making these gorgeous trees, the combinations of metals, gemstones and finishes are endless. This tutorial will show you how to make a fabulous pendant as well as slight variations for tree earrings and tree bracelets!
Step 1: What You Need
40 mm natural jasper donut (If you want to use another gemstone make sure it is a hard stone.)
1-2 strands of natural peridot, malachite, jade or other green gemstone chips. They should be 2mm-5mm on a strand and are usually labeled small or mini. Amethyst chips are optional and would be used for blossoms on the end of branches.
You can use any kind of nontoxic metal wire, though I prefer to buy jewelry grade wire online. Wire Sculpture and Rio Grande are excellent sources. If you're just beginning I recommend copper or bronze. They're inexpensive and look great with polish or patina. To get started buy at least 2 feet of 21 gauge dead soft round wire and 10 feet of 24 gauge dead soft round wire.
Tools are very important. I used cheap jewelry pliers (~$10) for a while, but once I was sure I would stay with wire wrapping, I got good ones (~$50). It made a huge difference, especially in how tired my hands would get. If you do this, hang on to your cheap tools - there's always a use for pliers you won't worry about. The basic tools you will need for this project are:
Flat nose pliers
Round nose pliers
Chain nose pliers (optional)
Small round mandrel, bail pliers or pen
Step 2: Cut and Begin
Cut 10 pieces of 24 gauge wire - 10 inches each.
Cut 1 piece of the 21 gauge wire - 12 inches.
Bend each wire in half, but don't make a crease or sharp bend. Accuracy is not needed.
Hook the bent wire onto the donut. Then twist each pair of wires 15mm-20mm from the edge of the donut. Use the flat nose pliers for this.
Step 3: Keep Twisting
Proceed until you have twisted all the cut wires, keeping the 21g wire in the center of the pack.
Step 4: Roots
Using the end of the flat nose pliers, gently grab the middle of each wire flat against the gemstone. Then give a little twist until the wire feel tight, but does not pull. Bend all the wires on one side of the stone in the same direction as shown. This will be the front of your pendant.
Step 5: Make a Trunk
Move all the twisted wires into one spot with the 21g wire in the center. Then bend the 21g wire across the roots and donut as shown. Leave one of the two 21g wires where it is. The other heavy wire goes through the donut hole and lines up next to the first wire. Gently twist about 2 inches of these wires together from the donut outward. (The twisted 21g wires will become the bail.)
Grab all the remaining (24g) wires about 1 1/2 inches past the donut edge. Twist them together using flat nose pliers. Keep twisting until you have a trunk you like.
Step 6: Wrapped Loop for the Bail
You will make a large wrapped loop for the bail. Below are the instructions for a basic wrapped loop. The bail (which is larger) will be the same as the photos except for the following adjustments:
You'll be using twisted wires
The loop needs to be large enough for a cord or chain
Bend the twisted bail wires at a right angle, 4 - 6mm above the top of the donut. Use flat nose pliers.
With round nose pliers, hold the wire at the bend and loop the wire (tail) over the the WIDEST part the pliers and into a circle using your fingers. (Or use bail making pliers for this if you have them.) Adjust the loop shape with the pliers and complete the loop into a perfect circle.
Then wrap the remaining wire tail around the straight part of the wire in the space left above the donut. Make at least 3 full wraps. You can wrap as much as you want after that if the wire is long enough. Cut excess wire if you want. (Though I usually leave the excess until I know what's happening with my design.)
Step 7: Branch Off
The twisted trunk wires will have started to separate into groups as you twisted. Use these groups to guide you into deciding how your branches will go. Aim for 2 or 3 main branches off the trunk of at least 3 wires each.
Step 8: And Twist Some More
With the flat nose pliers, gently twist each branch to about 1/2 inch long. Bulky wire groups may separate out more. You can give these a couple of twists too. Don't twist the branches as hard as the trunk - they could snap.
Step 9: Add Leaves
Spread out the wire ends just enough to see what you've got to work with.
Add green gemstone chips to one branch end just past the donut edge. Cut the wire to about 8mm beyond the last bead and follow the instructions for making a spiral. (See next step)
As you get experience, you can bead more wires at once before finishing the ends.
Step 10: Spiral the Ends
For the tree branch ends you will make smaller spirals than those shown above, but you make them the same way. Start by cutting the branch end to about 12mm.
You make the spiral by using your round nose pliers to make a tiny round loop at the end of a wire. Then wind the loop into a tight spiral using flat nosed pliers. To do this hold the wire in one hand and rotate the pliers in the other hand a quarter turn at a time. Make the spiral tight against the chip beads.
Step 11: Secure Branches
As you add beads and finish the wire ends you'll need to be aware of how the branches are attached to the donut. To make sure your tree is secure, use some or all of the following techniques on about 1/4 of the wires:
If a wire is long, you can wrap it around the back of the donut and secure it to a back bail or root wire.
If a wire is short you can secure the end to another branch.
You can run an end wire through the small loop of another spiral.
You can use the excess bail wire to help secure branches. Then tuck or spiral those ends.
Step 12: More Branches
Keep adding beads and securing some of the wires to other wires or the base. Let your guide be your artistic sense and your fingers tell you what feels too loose. You might have many more branch wires than you want for foliage so just cut off what you don't need. Remember to finish the ends by tucking them away or making spirals.
Step 13: Finished!
When you're done, make sure to tuck any loose ends out of the way. Under a branch is good.
Feel the pendant with your fingers for rough spots and then rub the front and back on a piece of fabric. If you find any sharp spots or wires that catch; file, trim or tuck in the problem wires until everything is perfectly smooth.
Now you can add a patina, buff and/or seal your pendant if you want. When any finishes you’ve added are dry, your pendant is ready for a cord or chain.
Step 14: Variations
Once you have the basic technique down, the variations are endless. Here are some ideas to try:
Use other gemstones, beads or crystals.
Use other gemstone shapes for the base.
Coil wire around the bail.
Make a wire ring for the base.
Make other sized trees with smaller donuts. And turn a set into tiny tree earrings.
Use the tree to make a focal for a bracelet by adding a second wrapped loop. Use the two loops and 21g round wire to attach the tree to a metal or leather bracelet base. Or make your own bracelet base and wire the tree directly onto it.
I hope you enjoy this project!
& I'd love to see what you create!