Introduction: Multi-Gemstone Layered Wire Wrapped Pendant
This is a multistep, involved pendant, perfect for the maker who has basic wire wrapping skills and is looking for a more challenging project. My tutorial will take you through the process of wire wrapping three different-shaped gemstones into one stunning pendant.
Note: This is a fairly advanced project. It is intended for people with some wire wrapping and jewelry tools experience. If you're a beginner, please start with my basic wrapping tutorials, or just do the layering part of the project. Okay, you've been warned!
Step 1: The Design
Here is my pendant sketch for wire wrapping three gemstones.
My design combines three undrilled gemstones, with only wire wrapping to hold them together. There is a base stone with a another layer on top, and an accent stone above those. The primary design and stabilizing technique in this project is wire weaving, used in different patterns.
If you're using stones that are significantly different from mine, I recommend making your own sketch. A sketch is very helpful to refer to while working on this pendant.
Step 2: Choose 3 Gemstones
The basic idea is to combine three unrelated gemstones. One will be a large base, one will layer on top of the base, and one will be positioned above those. The more irregular the stones are, the more challenging the wrapping will be. (My stones were sent to me for a custom project, so they were preordained.) The moldavite was particularly challenging because it is a relatively fragile crystal. Of my stones, only the labradorite had any flat surfaces.
Base - 20 x 30mm labradorite
Top Layer - approx. 15 x 20mm moldavite
Top Stone - approx. 10mm jade triangle (more like a pyramid)
You can choose any combination of gemstones you want, but try to stick with these proportions, if possible. Your smallest gemstone should be at least 8mm. If you aren't an expert yet, choose gemstones that are hard and forgiving, like quartz and jasper. Also, my directions assume all gems are NOT drilled.
Step 3: What You Need
About 12-18’ total of 28g Round Dead Soft Wire - I used silver
About 6' of 22g Round Dead Soft Wire - I used copper
3 Gemstones (as per the previous step)
Note on wire: These lengths are approximate (and generous) since your gemstone sizes and designs may differ from mine. More weaving means more silver wire.
Chain nose pliers
Round nose pliers
Flat nose pliers
Patina (and supplies)
Step 4: Begin the Base Bezel
Cut 4 pieces of the 22g copper. These should be about 16" each, but can be longer or shorter depending on the size of your stones.
Note: Do NOT cut the silver wire off the spool.
Hold the copper wires side-by-side to make a flat bundle. Grab about 18" of silver 28g wired wrap it a couple of times around the center of the copper wire bundle. Hold the wrapped section with flat nose pliers and continue wrapping the bundle at least 4 more times - more, if your stone is large. Squeeze the rest of the wraps with flat nose pliers so that the copper wire is in a neat, flat bundle.
The silver wire will have a long tail on one side, and be attached to the spool on the other.
Step 5: Begin Weaving
Keeping the two center copper wires in place, fan out the other 4 ends as shown.
Begin by weaving ONLY the center 2 copper wires. Take one of the silver wires attached to the wraps and start weaving the center copper wires. The weaving pattern is 3 loops on one side of the wire, then 3 loops on the other side, and repeat. The purple cord in the photos shows the pattern, but if you need more detail, here's my wire weaving tutorial.
And here's a short clip that shows how to weave two parallel wires:
Please refer to these wire weaving basics if you need more help at any point during this project.
Step 6: Weave Both Sides
After you've got about a half an inch woven, weave a bit of the wire on the other side of the wraps. This will help stabilize the wires. Then continue weaving on both sides.
Step 7: Stop Near the Top
When both sides have about an inch of weaving, gently bend the bezel around your base stone. Remember to center the bottom of the stone on the center of the copper bundle. Then resume weaving until the weaving is roughly 3/4 of the way to the top of the stone.
This is when to cut the silver wire off the spool. Make sure to leave a tail. Make it the same length as the silver wire tail you have left on the other side.
Note: For more on wire wrapping basics and making bezels, see my basic wire wrapping tutorial.
Step 8: Cut More Wire
Cut another 2 pieces of about 18-20” of silver wire.
Leaving a tail of about 8”, begin weaving one silver wire on one side where you left off. When this wire is well attached, repeat on the other side with the second silver wire.
Step 9: Continue Weaving
Step 10: Measure
Being careful to center the base stone, gently bring the woven bezel around the sides of the stone from the bottom up. When the weaving comes to the top of the stone, the side weaving is done. With your fingers, press to shape the bezel to the stone.
Step 11: Set the First Gemstone
When the bezel is shaped to your base stone, use one of the silver tails to fix the shape in place. To do this, wind the tail tightly exactly where the 4 copper wires meet above the stone top. You can do this by holding the stone in place while you wind the silver wire.
Then remove the stone.
There are two copper wires in front of the bezel and two copper wires in the back. Bring the back wires up and wind one of them around the top of the bezel as shown. Then wind the other wire going in the opposite direction. These wires will cross at the top, over the silver wire.
Put the stone back in the bezel - now there is a loose wire backing - and put a piece of tape over the back to keep the stone in place. Make sure the tape sticks to the stone AND the copper wires.
Step 12: Secure the Top Stone
Time for stone number two.
Lay the top layering stone on top of the base stone in the orientation from your design.
Then take one silver tail from a side of the top of the bezel and cross it over the top stone. Fix the wire by winding it a few times onto it's opposing copper wire (at the bottom) as shown. Then take the silver wire from the other side (on top) and repeat the process. Your top stone is now in place, but may not be very secure yet. If it seems loose, tape it in place before the next step.
Step 13: Weave the Bottom
You now have two silver tails attached to two copper wires at the bottom of your base stone. Take one of these silver wires and weave the two cooper wires. This weave will be much wider than the first one you did. Try not to tighten it too much. Weave upward until the weave comes up to the bottom of the layering stone.
Step 14: Secure Base Stone
The non-woven parts of the copper wires will be used to secure the base stone into the bezel. They can also help secure the layering stone - especially if that stone is a shape that's not held well by the criss-crossed silver wires.
Bring the front copper wires up towards the top of the base stone. Find a path for the wires that will hold the stones into the bezel. (This is a skill where wire wrapping experience will be really helpful.) Wrap the front copper wires around the top just like you did with the back wires.
It's time to tighten the copper wires to hold the stones more tightly.
To tighten the wires, hold your setting with the stones in one hand, and round nose pliers in the other. Put your pliers on either side of one copper wire and give a small twist. Make sure you're making the twist in a place that both secures the stone(s), and works with your design.
Do the same thing to the opposite copper wire. You may want the twist in a different spot, or you may want to mirror the twist in the first wire.
I made my wires follow the contour of my layering stone. I also had the heavy wire go over the layering stone where possible since it was tricky getting the uneven moldavite to stay in place.
Next, if there is any slack in the crossed silver wires, give each of those a twist also. Where and how much you twist is up to how loose the layering stone is, and your artistic sense.
Now turn the setting over and remove the tape from the back while holding the stones in place. Twist each of the copper wires running down the back. Twist in opposite directions until you feel resistance.
At this point, you can go back and forth tightening the back and front until everything is good and tight.
Your stones should now be securely in the bezel.
Note: For more on setting stones in wire, again see my wire wrapping basics.
Step 15: All Wires to Top
All of the wire ends and tails should now be at the top of the setting, wound around each other. This probably looks pretty messy. Don't worry, it will get better!
It's a good idea to check your progress against your design. Make adjustments to your design if you need to.
Separate and fan out all the top wires before the next step.
Step 16: Prepare for the Third Stone
Depending on the size and shape of your smaller top stone, you'll need to use 2 or 3 of the centermost copper wires. Press the BACK of your small stone (stone facing forward) to these wires to see how they can be secured. My small jade stone had a protruding back, so I decided on 4 wires. This allowed the pointy part to be between wires while staying centered. You can bend the wires to the shape of the stone.
Use tape to hold the small stone in place if you need while you work.
Step 17: Weave Another Base
Remove the small stone for now.
You will weave a sort of basket to hold the small stone. First, make sure the copper wires are in the right configuration to hold your small stone. Then use one of the longest silver wire tails to begin weaving the wires together. If the tails are short, cut a 12" piece of silver wire and attach it to one copper (end) wire. You can use either of my two suggested weaving patterns. Since the "basket" will be on the BACK of the pendant, it's okay to keep your weaving simple.
In one pattern, simply loop the silver wire around each copper wire in turn, going in the same direction. Turn around when you've looped the last copper wire and repeat in the other direction.
In the second pattern, you alternate going over and under each copper wire. Loop the silver wire OVER and around the first copper wire, then loop the silver wire UNDER and around the next copper wire, then back to over, etc. Turn around at the last copper wire, and repeat until your weaving is done.
Don't trim the silver wire yet.
Stop weaving when the height is just below the top of your small stone. This "basket" will not be seen on the front of the pendant.
Step 18: Secure the Third Stone
This next step is a bit tricky and may vary depending on the size and shape of your stones, and how many copper wires you used for your basket.
Basically, the idea is to use 2 or 3 of the remaining copper wires to hold the small stone in the woven basket. You'll also need to end up with 2 centered copper wires to become the bail.
That being said, place your small stone in/against the basket with the back to the basket and the front facing forward. Assess the copper wires by fanning the slightly. Choose 2 or 3 that can come from the back to the front, draping over the small stone and securing it in place. The best wires for this might be wires from the basket - though not necessarily. When you have these wires in a good position to hold your stone in place, wrap each one tightly around the base of the stone/basket.
Alternatively, you can take wires from the front and bring them to the back in the same manner. See what looks best and holds most securely for your set of stones.
When you're done with this step all three stones should be firmly in place.
Step 19: Weave the Bail
Find the two most centered copper wires. They are probably part of the basket.
Using the silver wire from the basket weaving, continue weaving, joining only these two center copper wires. If you're running short on silver, cut another piece.
Any weave pattern is fine, but I suggest something decorative since this will become the bail. I used 4 loops alternating back and forth.
Weave for about an inch, then compress your weaving. Bend the part above the small stone around bail-making pliers, a pencil, or a pen. See if you like the bail size. If you want it bigger, keep weaving and repeat.
When you like the bail size, bring the 2 wires (you were weaving) to either side of the bail, cross in them front, and bring them around again to the back. This secures the bail.
Step 20: Time for Art!
All of your pendant elements are in place and secure, so now it's time for decorative work!
Spread out the remaining wires to see what you have to work with.
Here’s where the real artistry comes in. You can make decorative weaving to compliment the rest of the design and cover messy areas, like I did. You can also make filigree, the delicate looking swirls and swoops that sometimes make up the design of a wire wrapping piece. Exactly what you do is up to you, but here are some basic tips and techniques:
This is probably the most common design element in wire wrapping. You make a rosette 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 wires in the other hand a quarter turn at a time.
Making loops and shapes with the wire is a lot of fun, but don’t go too big or the wire will bend too easily. Keep swooping wires tight to the setting and find a way to secure the end onto another wire.
Make a bundle by taking several of the loose wires and wrapping them with more wire. Finish the wire ends with loops or them tuck into the bezel.
Wrapping thin wire tightly around thick wire will look like coils and be very strong. These coils can be used alone or in any of the techniques described above.
Step 21: Weave, Strengthen, Secure
I began my decorative work by making a coil and turning the coil into a rosette. This is the focal point of my decorative wire work.
I then used two adjacent copper wires and one long silver wire to weave a length in the same pattern as the bezel. This brought the decorative element from the sides to the front of the pendant.
Step 22: Check Your Design
When you've got some basic, bold design elements done, it's time to check your original design and assess what's next. You could be done. You may want a lot more detail. This is up to you.
Remember that you can always cut off wire you don't want to work with, or add new pieces of wire if you want more.
I brought my new weave around the front and secured it in the back. I liked what was happening with my design, but it still needed more...
Step 23: It's All in the Details
I placed the weave under and around my spiral, so I decided a coil should go around and over. I used bare copper wires to "outline" other elements, including the coil.
If you're not sure about a design element, try it out. You can always unwind your wire and try something else.
Step 24: Nip,Tuck
Knowing when to stop is half the battle - at least for me. When your design is done, it's time for clean up. This will make your piece look more professional, and feel more comfortable to wear.
When it comes to wire wrapping, clean up means making sure all the ends are neatly and securely hidden and/or tucked away from the skin.
Work on one wire at a time.
Cut a finished wire to about 4mm. Make the smallest possible loop on the end. Tuck that loop into any nearby space that won't be seen - at least not from the sides or front.
Repeat with all the loose ends.
Then run your fingers over all sides of the pendant to make sure it's smooth everywhere.
If you want all shiny metal, you're done! If you want a patina and sealer proceed to the next step.
Step 25: Patina
Whatever patina you use, liver of sulphur or another chemical application, make sure you get deep into the crevices. I used M24 from Sculpt Nouveau in gel form, and pushed the gel well into the weave. When the patina reaches it's full intensity (use product directions), rinse and dry completely. Buff off the high points with a non-abrasive buffing wheel or cloth. My favorite buffer is a rubber polishing attachment on my Dremel. Gloves are not necessary for safety, but this gets pretty messy. I keep a pair with my Dremel and reuse them.
Buff until you have uncovered the amount of shine you like. Then rinse well, or better yet, put your pendant in a cleaning/polishing machine if you have one. At this point you can still go back and add more patina to your pendant. Gels make it easier to darken isolated areas. If you add anything, make sure to rinse well again.
The patina may look lighter or duller once fully dry, so you may need a sealer to bring the depth back. A sealer will also keep the bright metal from tarnishing.
Before the sealer let your pendant dry overnight so you don't have any moisture left in the depths of your wire work. Then apply the jewelry sealer. Most sealers should cure at least a couple of days before wearing or storing your jewelry.
Note: Patina and sealer are optional. You can do neither, either, or both.
Step 26: Buffed
Here are all sides, buffed and sealed.
Step 27: Done! Ready to Wear
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! If you try it out, I'd love to see what you come up with, so feel free to post your pendants.
And if you made it this far, please remember to vote! Thanks!
Runner Up in the