Basic Beaded Earrings
Tools and techniques for making a very basic pair of beaded earrings.
There is no such thing as too many earrings, and if you make them yourself, you’ll find that you can have a different pair for every outfit or every mood. All it takes are a couple of tools, some materials, and a handful of beads.
Start by gathering your tools. You’ll need a wire-cutter. Any cutter will do, but smaller is better for jewelry making. You’ll also need a pair of round-nose pliers which are, literally, pliers with a rounded nose which is used for rolling wire into loops. Some of these have wire-cutters below the nose, and that’s handy, but I’ve never found them to cut as cleanly as a pair of wire snips. However, the choice is yours; just remember that cheap tools don’t always stand up to heavy use.
Once you have the means to make the earrings, it’s time to think about your materials. It’s tempting to go out to a bead store or look through a catalog and pick out lots of beads, many of which you’ll never use. However the first time, you should plan a simple design and stick to it. Start by deciding on a look. Do you want something formal? Something ethnic? Casual? Primitive? What color scheme do you want to use? You’re the only one who can decide these things, of course, but a little research can certainly help. For the first pair, keep it simple.
You need a focus for your design, so try choosing one larger bead and one smaller. If you’re at a bead store, lay them out and see how they look together. Are the colors good? More important, do they please you? Is this the look you’ve dreamed of? If yes, then you have your beads. Buy two of each.
Now that you have your beads, you have to decide what sort of findings you need. This can be tricky. First you have to take into account any sensitivity you may have to metals. Cheap ear wires are made of gold or silver toned metals and frequently have a high nickel content which many people find irritating. You can also choose a plated or filled wire in silver or gold, which means that the surface of the wire, which will come into contact with your skin, is real silver or gold, but under that surface it’s still cheap metal. Some people are sensitive to real silver and some even to gold. If you have this problem, you can find wires made of metals such as titanium or niobium, which are far less reactive with skin and come in some beautiful colors. If you don’t want to spend the money or you’re allergic to these metals, too, you can often find plastic hooks in many colors including black and white.
Once you’ve chosen your ear wires you can choose the color of headpin you want to use. If you’re using silver or silver-toned ear wires, you should, of course, use silver-toned headpins. The same for gold. If you’re using a colored metal or plastic, choose whatever you think looks the best. Not much of the headpin will show in the finished design, but the metal will be visible. Usually these are sold in small packets of five or six pairs. Unless your beads are very large, and I don’t recommend you starting with huge beads, the medium-length pin is probably your best choice. Shorter ones will cost a bit less, but there’s nothing worse than sitting down to work and finding that the pin is just a bit short.
Now you have your tools and materials, it’s time to start. Get out a headpin. Push it through the hole in the larger bead and let the bead drop down. If you bought a very large bead it’ll probably slip right off the headpin because the hole is too large. If that’s the case you’ll have to start with the smaller bead. Either way put both beads on the headpin. In fact try it both ways and see how you like each look. You might decide to put the smaller bead on the bottom even if it’s not necessary. Again, the choice is yours and that’s a big part of the fun of creating your own designs.
Once you’ve decided that this is it, this is the look you want, you’re going to snip off the headpin above the top bead, leaving enough to make a small loop. The rule of thumb is to leave one quarter to one half of an inch of wire above the top bead. When in doubt, leave more, not less. Now, as you’re holding the earring in one hand, press your thumbnail against the wire, right on top of the hole in the top bead. Then grasp the wire firmly with the pliers and bend the wire towards your hand. It will bend at an angle (A right angle is just about what you want here.) where it touches your thumbnail. This is why you put your nail there to begin with.
As you push back, begin to roll the wire around the nose of your pliers to make a loop, bringing the end of the wire around to touch itself just where it bent as you pushed it back. Now you have your hanging loop, and because of the bend you put in it just before you began to loop the wire, the loop itself will be centered on the beads, not off to one side. If you don’t believe that it can make a difference, or don’t see how, try making a loop without putting the bend in the wire. If you’re satisfied with the look, then it’s time to put the ear wire on. If not, try again. That’s one of the reasons why you buy more than just one pair of headpins.
Attaching the ear wire is simple, but there’s a trick to it that you need to be aware of. You want to re-open the loop you just made, but you do not want to roll the wire back. If you do, not only will you not get as good a loop the second time, you’ll stress the wire a great deal. Wire gets brittle if it’s worked for too long, and if you make and remake the hanging loop it will probably break on you. Grasp the earring in one hand, so that you can look through the loop, and with your pliers, grab hold of the loop on the side where it’s open. In other words, grab the wire just where the end meets the stem. Now gently push the end of the wire away from you, opening the loop sideways. Don’t open it too far, just enough to slip the ear wire onto the hanging loop. Once the ear wire is attached, take your pliers and gently move the hanging wire back into position, closing the loop. You now have one earring. If you’re satisfied with the way it looks, repeat the process. If not, start over. That’s another reason why you bought more headpins.
Now you have a nice, basic pair of beaded earrings. Wear them, give them as gifts, or take them apart and start again, mixing and matching beads. The possibilities are truly endless.