About five years ago I was making ceramic pendants and looking for special custom settings when I found wire wrapping. Wire wrapped settings require few materials and tools and use no heat or glue. They are so versatile that once you have the basics down you can create a beautiful setting for anything from a cabochon to a seashell.
Step 1: What you need:
You can use any kind of nontoxic metal wire, though I prefer to by 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 5-10 feet of 21 or 22 gauge dead soft SQUARE wire and 5 feet of 22 gauge dead soft HALF ROUND wire.
That's it, assuming you have something to wrap. Wrapping a round or oval cabochon in the 30 - 40 mm range will be easiest.
(Shown above: copper wire on a goldstone cabochon.)
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 pliers you won't worry about. The basic tools you will need to get started are:
Flat nose pliers
Round nose pliers
Small round mandrel, bail pliers or pen
Later you can add chain nose pliers, jewelry files, bail making pliers and more. I treat myself to a new high-quality tool every so often.