These instructions will teach you to make a gorgeous wire wrapped pendant using a drilled bead. Once you have the technique down, you will be able to make many different kinds of pendants, earrings, and bracelets with your beautifully wrapped beads.
(Shown: Antique Chinese teardrop bead wrapped in copper.)
Step 1: What You'll Need
(Shown above: Vintage Indian glass bead wrapped in 20 gauge copper)
You can use almost any kind of bead as long as the hole is drilled large enough for the wire. To begin, though, I recommend using something at least the size of a quarter (about 25mm). Gemstone beads are great for beginners since they are very durable. Ceramic and glass look beautiful, but require a lighter, more experienced touch.
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 5-10 feet of 21, 20 or 18 gauge dead soft ROUND wire and 5-10 feet of 24 gauge dead soft round wire.
Buy the wire first so you can choose a bead with the right size hole.
Step 2: Tools
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 to get started are:
Flat nose pliers
Round nose pliers
Chain nose pliers
Small round mandrel, bail pliers or pen
Later you can add more pliers, jewelry files, mandrels and more.
Step 3: Cut the Wire
Cut the heavier wire into 3 pieces, 8 - 14 inches each. The exact size will depend on the size of your bead and the design you want. You will learn to cut smaller or larger lengths as you gain experience. For now, if you're a beginner, one foot will give you plenty of flexibility.
Don't cut the 24 gauge wire yet. We'll start by using it right off the spool.
Step 4: Start With the Bail
Unlike wrapping a cabochon, I like to start the wire wrapped bead setting with the bail.
Bend your 3 wires in half over mandrel, bail pliers, fat knitting needle or other round form. The diameter of the mandrel you choose will determine the size of your bail. As you bend the wires over, hold them against the mandrel side by side. Then press the wires around the mandrel until you have a perfect, complete circle with a long tail of extra wire.
Step 5: Mandrels Choices
Bail making pliers
Step 6: Secure the Bail
Grab one of the outer wires and continue pulling it around the mandrel until it's 90 degrees to the rest of the tail. Then, holding the 3 bail wires firmly on the mandrel, wrap the separated wire tightly around the tail several times. Do this as close to the bail as possible.
Leave the bail on the mandrel as long as possible until all the wires are secured.
Step 7: Find the Bead Wire
Do this by gently separating the tail wires to see which wire is the most centered.
Step 8: Put the Bead On
Bend the other wires off to the sides to make room for your bead. Thread the bead on to the center wire and bend the wire tight to the bead bottom.
Step 9: Get Creative
This is the stage that you use your creativity to turn the wires into a beautiful design. If you’re not sure what to do, look at the pictures in this instructable or search "wire wrapping" for more inspiration.
Step 10: Coils
A common element of this type of pendant is a coiled wire. You do this by winding the light (24 gauge) wire tightly around one or more of the heavy strands. Another method is to wind the coil on a mandrel, skewers work great, then slide the coil off and onto your pendant wires.
(I try to leave the wire I'm coiling on the spool. I find it easier to measure as I go.)
Step 11: More Techniques for Designing With Wire
Here’s where the real artistry comes in. The filigree is the delicate looking swirls and swoops that make up the design of the wire wrap. You make it with all the loose ends of wire after the bead is set. Exactly what you do is up to you, but here are some basic tips and techniques:
Step 12: Rosettes
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. You can make the rosettes with twisted or untwisted wire for different looks.
Making loops and shapes with the wire is a lot of fun, but keep them modest or the wire will bend too easily. Pull swooping wires tight to the setting and find a way to secure the end on another wire.
Step 13: Finishing
When you're done, simply trim off the extra wire (you can save it for other projects) and tuck any loose ends under.
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: More Pendants
Crazy lace agate with silver filled wire.
Aventurine with copper and silver plated colored wire.
Vintage Indian glass and copper wire.