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Add Colored Wire to Your Handmade Jewelry

Colorful Wirework JewelryColored wire adds a unique touch to your jewelry designs. It can make wire bracelets, earrings, and necklaces look modern, whimsical, or trendy. The 25+ projects in Colorful Wirework Jewelry by Kim St. Jean use the techniques of wire wrapping, coiling, and weaving to add one or more wire colors to both beginning and intermediate-level designs.

Childhood Inspiration

Author and popular national instructor Kim St. Jean found the inspiration for her latest book in her childhood. She describes how as a 7-year-old Army brat, she found an endless supply of telephone wire as neighbors moved in and out on an almost daily basis. She used the colorful wire to make rings which she sold to those living in the same cul-de-sac. The book includes instructions for the colorfully coiled “How It All Began Ring” as a tribute to this humble beginning.

Wirework Techniques and Tools

A Basics section covers the main techniques including step-by-step photos for the main techniques except crochet, which has color illustrations instead. A few techniques, such as over-under weaving and Viking knit, are only shown in specific projects rather than in this section. The techniques include detailed instructions on making your own findings, including:

  • cord ends (for leather)
  • cones
  • jump rings
  • clasps (S-hook clasp, shepherd’s hook clasp, toggle clasp)
  • ear wires
Colored Wire

Colored wire comes in all sorts of shades from neon brights to pale pastels.

These techniques for creating your own findings will serve you well no matter whether you use colored wire or the more traditional brass, silver, or copper.

The main wireworking tools (pliers and cutters) used to make the jewelry projects in this book should be available at large craft stores.  Some projects require specialty tools such as a draw plate, ring clamp, or Zig-Zag parallel bending pliers that may be found at bead shops, art stores, or online.

Tips for Using Colored Wire

Kim St. Jean acknowledges some of the unique properties of colored wire which require some special handling for successful jewelry projects. Two of her tips include:

  • Colored wire typically doesn’t work-harden, so the wire may not maintain its shape.
  • While hammering wire can help you achieve certain shapes, your wire might lose color. This will take some experimentation on your part, as some colors and brands hold up better than others.

Featured Projects

The book’s projects showcase the many types of looks that colored wire can achieve: the modern Loop-T-Loop necklace with large sculptured coils, the organic Beach Comber’s bracelet with shells and coral coiled in wire, the playful New Beginnings earrings that combine purple and yellow wire with blue and pink beads.  Here are two of my favorite projects in the book:

Orange is the New Pink Earrings by Kim St. Jean

Orange is the New Pink Earrings by Kim St. Jean

Orange is the New Pink Earrings

These bright statement earrings include handmade orange ear wires. The 24-gauge gold wire makes an striking contrast to the orange 18-gauge wire. By matching the orange and gold wires and beads, the colors are more intense and memorable than if a plain silver wire had been used.

Mardi Gras Bracelet by Kim St. Jean

Mardi Gras Bracelet by Kim St. Jean

Mardi Gras Bracelet

This fun bracelet highlights the bright colors in the metallic spacers and makes great use of multistrand spacer bars. The coiling and weaving technique make this bracelet sturdy and the built-in hook clasp gives a seamless look to the finished piece. (Note: The book cover shows the alternate colorway of mint green and magenta, while the project instructions substitute a bright blue for the mint green.)

Fun With Colored Wire

Colorful Wirework Jewelry made me take a second look at using colored wire in jewelry.  Jewelry made with colored wire  doesn’t have to be bright and loud; it’s possible to create subtle, sophisticated looks, too, especially with the range of colored wire choices now available. Colored wire is also not an all-or-nothing choice in jewelry design.  It’s up to you whether you use colored wire to add a single pop of color to neutral piece or let the colored wire take center stage.  In the end, it’s all about playing with color in jewelry however you like best.

Pink Parfait Earrings

Try my Pink Parfait Earrings with pink wire and glass beads from Bead Gallery.

Try This: Pink Parfait Earrings

Ready to give colored wire a try?  Inspired by Kim St. Jean’s book, I created these simple, elegant hoop earrings using pale pink wire and two types of sparkly glass Bead Gallery beads. These Pink Parfait Earrings would make sweet accessory for a summer wedding or afternoon tea.

About the Book:
Colorful Wirework Jewelry by Kim St. Jean, Kalmbach Books, 2016. $21.99. 112 pages.



Michelle Mach

About Michelle Mach

Michelle Mach is a jewelry designer in Colorado. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines including Jewelry Stringing, Beadwork, BeadStyle, and others. She also edits jewelry how-to books, most recently Fine Art Wire Weaving, Bead Metamorphosis, and Mastering Herringbone Stitch. She is the author of Unexpected Findings: 50+ Clever Jewelry Designs Featuring Everyday Components.