Introduction: Captive Bead Chainmaille Earrings

About: My name is Dani, I am 27 years old and I live in a very small, out of the way town in the countryside of Northern Ontario. I'm a self taught jewelry artisan who currently mostly dabbles in chainmaille.

In this tutorial I will be showing you how to create a simple pair of earrings. They are so quick to make you may end up with several pairs so that you'll always have a pair to match any outfit.

These earrings make an excellent beginner's project if you're new to chainmaille.

This tutorial includes instructions for making your own jump rings to make it a lot easier for beginners to dive in and get started. However, if you prefer to use pre-made jump rings you can refer to the materials list for ring sizes and then skip ahead to step 15 to get started on the earrings.

Let's get mailling!

Step 1: Materials

The materials you need for this tutorial depend on whether or not you are going to be using pre-made jump rings or if you are going to make your own. You only need the items from one of these lists, not both.

Pre-Made Jump Rings Material List

  • 8 - 19SWG 1/8" bright aluminum jump rings
  • 12 - 19SWG 9/64" bright aluminum jump rings
  • 2 - 19SWG 5/32" bright aluminum jump rings
  • 8 - 19SWG 1/4" bright aluminum jump rings
  • 2 - ear wires
  • 2 - 6mm beads

Make Your Own Jump Rings Material List

  • 2-3ft - wire (I used 18SWG bright aluminum)
  • 2 - ear wires
  • 2 - 6mm beads

Step 2: Tools

  • 2 pairs of pliers (make sure they don't have teeth as you don't want your earrings to have any bite marks on them)

Optional (only needed is you are going to make your own rings)

  • flush wire cutters
  • metal file
  • different sizes of ring mandrels

Step 3: Ring Mandrels

To make things a little less confusing for this tutorial I’m going to name the different sizes on my mandrels M1-M10. I’ve labelled the picture of my mandrels with these names and how many rings you want to make with each size. Depending on your mandrels and the size of wire you use you may need to play around with different sizes of rings until you find ones that work.

If you don’t have mandrels you can always experiment with different cylinder like objects you might have around your home such as pens, knitting needles, crochet hooks, or even make up brushes.

If you have digital calipers on hand then the following measurements will help you find the right mandrels to use:

  • M2 = 2.52mm
  • M3 = 3.52mm
  • M4 = 4.62mm
  • M7 = 7.08mm

Step 4: Making Jump Ring Coils (Part 1)

Holding the end of the wire firmly in one hand, wrap the wire around the mandrel with your other hand as many times as you can or until you have at least 1 or 2 more rings than you need. Each full wrap around the mandrel will make 1 jump ring. Try and wrap your wire as tightly as you can.

Step 5: Making Jump Ring Coils (Part 2)

Slide the coil off of the mandrel and cut the extra wire off the coil using the wire cutters. You want the flush (flat) side of the wire cutters to be facing towards the coil. I'm pointing to the flush side of my wire cutters in the picture.

If the wire cutters are facing the wrong way when you make your cuts your jump rings may end up with pinched ends, which don't look quite as nice as flat ends.

Step 6: Making Jump Ring Coils (Part 3)

This first coil should make me about 7 rings, but I’m going to need a lot more than that. Set this coil aside and continue making coils until you have enough jump rings of each needed size.

Step 7: Making Jump Ring Coils (Part 4)

I made a few more than needed just in case some are misshapen. It's always a good idea to have a few extra because finding out you're short 1 jump ring and having to go back and make more later is a bummer.

Step 8: Cutting the Jump Rings (Part 1)

To cut the jump rings, take one of the coils and use the previous cut you made as a guide for where your next cut should be.

Step 9: Cutting the Jump Rings (Part 2)

To give the jump rings the best possible edges you can with wire cutters position the cutter so that the flat side is facing away from the coil. This will make it so that both ends of the jump ring are flat instead of one being flat and the other pinched.

Step 10: Cutting the Jump Rings (Part 3)

Look at those nice flat ends :)

Step 11: Cutting the Jump Rings (Part 4)

In this picture you can see the pinched end that was left on the coil. Turn the wire cutters so that the flat edge is on the coil side of the wire and cut off that little bit of pinched wire. This is another reason why you want to wrap a few extra rings as there is a tiny bit of waste when using this method.

Step 12: Cutting the Jump Rings (Part 5)

Repeat steps 8-11 until you have cut all of your jump rings. Remember that you basically want to turn the wire cutters for every cut you make.

Step 13: Filing the Ends of the Jump Rings (Part 1)

Open each of the jump rings using the pliers and file the ends to get them a little flatter and smoother. Nice flat edges will help you get better looking closures.

Step 14: Filing the Ends of the Jump Rings (Part 2)

All of that work turning wire cutters and filing ends of jump rings should give your jump rings some pretty decent looking closures. I closed one of the rings to get a picture of the closure, but you can leave your rings open.

Using a jeweler’s saw to cut jump rings or buying pre-made saw cut rings from a company like The Ring Lord will give you even smoother closures.

Now that we've covered making jump rings let's move on to putting the earrings together.

Step 15: Make a 2-2 Chain (Part 1)

Let's start putting the earrings together. For those of you using pre-made rings, ignore all of the M2, M7 stuff and just refer to the sizes in the brackets.

Add two of the M2 (19SWG 1/8”) jump rings to the ear wire and close them.

Step 16: Make a 2-2 Chain (Part 2)

Add two of the M3 (19SWG 9/64”) jump rings to the 2 rings you just closed in the previous step and close these as well.

Step 17: Make a 2-2 Chain (Part 3)

Add two more M3 (19SWG 9/64”) jump rings to the 2-2 chain you have going and close them.

Step 18: The Byzantine Unit (Part 1)

Now, to create the byzantine unit, fold the two rings you just added in the previous step back until they are overlapping the first rings you attached to your earring. As you can see in the picture they should look a little like a > eating an =

Step 19: The Byzantine Unit (Part 2)

Holding all the rings firmly in place, turn the byzantine unit on its side and spread the two horizontal rings = so that they open into a < and expose two sets of vertical rings with a gap between them. That's a bit of a mouthful so be sure to refer to the picture here.

Step 20: The Byzantine Unit (Part 3)

Pass two M7 (19SWG 1/4”) jump rings into this gap and close them. You should have another < eating a much bigger =

If byzantine is completely new to you then this is probably the most difficult part of this tutorial as it was the most difficult part for me to explain. Once you've mastered this part making a byzantine bracelet or necklace will be a breeze and would make an excellent project to try out after this one.

Step 21: Adding a Bead (Part 1)

Add two more M7 (19SWG 1/4”) jump rings to the two you added in the previous step and close them.

Step 22: Adding a Bead (Part 2)

Push your finger between both sets of large rings. You want to spread the jump rings apart so that you end up with a little basket.

Step 23: Adding a Bead (Part 3)

Place one of your beads in the basket.

Step 24: Finishing the Earring (Part 1)

Pinch the two outside jump rings together to close the basket on the bead and then secure them together by adding one M4 (19SWG 5/32”) jump ring and then close it.

If the two outside jump rings do not pinch together then your bead is likely too big. Beads labelled 6mm aren’t always exactly 6mm and can be anything near 6mm. Sometimes trying a few different beads from the same package works for me but other times I need to try other colours of 6mm beads until I find ones that work. If the outside jump rings still won’t touch then you could try changing these two rings for slightly larger ones.

The bead is only sort of secure at this point and can still fall out so we are going to add a few more rings to keep it in place and make the earring look a little fancier.

Step 25: Finishing the Earring (Part 2)

Add one M3 (19SWG 9/64”) jump ring to either side of the jump ring you added in the previous step and close them both. You want that M4 (19SWG 5/32”) jump ring to be in the middle of these two new jump rings.

Step 26: Finishing the Earring (Part 3)

Finally, add one M2 (19SWG 1/8”) jump ring to either side of the jump rings you just added. Basically you want the rings to decrease in size as they get closer to the edge.

You’ve finished the first earring! Repeat steps 15-26 to make the second earring and complete the pair.

Step 27: That's It!

This is the first tutorial I've ever put together and I hope you really enjoyed it. I look forward to seeing all of the lovely earrings everyone makes.

Dani :)

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