Learn a few easy ways to turn your stash of lampwork art glass beads into beautiful, marketable jewelry. Sterling ear wires, basic tools and a few other jewelry supplies are all you need to get started. Plus, tips for selling your jewelry.
Making lampwork glass beads is a gratifying art unto itself. But, soon the bowls of beads start to stack up and you might start thinking about how to turn them into jewelry you can wear or sell. Now, you’ll need to add a few basic skills and some other jewelry components to your studio.
Basic Beading Tools
As you get started beading, you really just need four basic tools. Like with lampwork, there are lots of other tools you can add to your toolbox as you dive deeper into jewelry making.
Round Nose Pliers: conical tips are used for looping
Chain Nose Pliers: like needlenose pliers but smooth inside, good for right angles
Wire Cutters: choose cutters that come to a sharp point so you can cut close
Crimping Tool: use this with crimp tubes and crimp covers to finish bracelets and necklaces
How to Make Easy Beaded Earrings
Beaded earrings are the perfect way to show off your favorite beads. There are a few special considerations for lampwork. Because the holes are so large, you have to combine them with smaller-hole beads or figure out another way to prevent the bead from sliding off the wire. Bead caps or flat metal disk beads are great for this purpose. They complement lampwork beads and help show them off.
Start out by stringing your beads onto a head pin, which is a special wire with a flat end. Here, we’re using a bead cap on each side of the lampwork glass bead. The bead caps have small holes so they won’t slide off the head pin like the lampwork bead would if it was hanging out by itself. When you’re choosing beads, take your time and find a pleasing arrangement. It’s usually a good idea to work in groups of odd numbers. Bead caps S5086 shown here.
Use either round nose or chain nose pliers to make a right angle about 1/16-inch (or what amounts to the width of the tips of the pliers) above the bead assembly. Chain nose pliers will make a crisp angle while round nose pliers will make more of a curve.
Place the round nose pliers about 1/8-inch from the right angle. Roll the pliers back toward the right angle to form a loop that is positioned directly above the bead. Notice the position of the loop in this photo. Don’t try to use the very tips of the pliers because you’ll have less leverage there. Work in the middle of the pliers until you’re comfortable making loops.
Grasp the loop in the chain nose pliers so you can hold onto it, then coil the extra wire around the base of the loop and downward toward the bead. In general, three-four times is sufficient. Some people like to use a second pair of chain nose pliers to grasp the end of the wire as they’re coiling. Other people are more comfortable using their fingers. Try it both ways and see which one works best for you.
Use wire cutters to trim away any extra wire. Remember that you should always turn the back of the cutters against the work. That way, the cut end of the wire that remains on the earring is as flush as possible and won’t snag or poke.
Now that your beaded assembly is complete, it’s time to attach it to an earring finding. There are so many ear wires to choose from! The one pictured here is a favorite because it is so simple to use. You pull the small silver ball away from the ear wire, slide your loop onto the wire, then close it back. Earwire S3082 shown here.
To display your beaded earrings for gifting or resale, use a Double Post & Earwire Punch Tool to make your own custom cards. It’s easy to do and adds a signature touch.
How to Make a Basic Beaded Bracelet
Making a bracelet is a great way to experiment with beginning beading. Explore simple repeating patterns like this one or play with symmetrical designs. Jewelry supplies include beads in varying sizes, beading wire, coordinating crimp tubes, crimp covers and a clasp. Minimize abrasion on the beading wire by using the largest diameter of wire that will pass through the smallest bead in your design.
Cut a piece of beading wire that’s at least 2″ longer than your desired bracelet size. Pass the wire through the crimp tube SCT1, the clasp S490, and back into the crimp tube. If you’re using the Eurotool dual crimper as shown in the tools picture above, place the crimp inside the middle notch in the jaws. Squeeze gently to make a crease in the tube. Then, turn the tube 90-degrees and place it inside the outermost jaws and squeeze gently to fold/round the tube.
Place a c-shaped crimp cover SB093 over the crimp tube. Use the outermost jaws to gently squeeze it closed. Crimp covers give your crimps a more professional look and can also make your bracelets more comfortable to wear. String beads as desired. Sterling silver beads make beautiful accents between lampwork glass beads. The sterling beads in our sample are SF3.
When you’re satisfied with your beading pattern and the bracelet is the desired length, pass the wire end through a crimp tube, jump ring SJ84, and back through the crimp tube. Bend the bracelet into a U-shape before you crimp it. The ensures that it will be flexible when worn. Crimp the crimp tube, then trim away any extra wire and attach a crimp cover.
Tips for Selling Art Glass Jewelry
Since each bead is a handmade work of art, combine your art glass beads with sterling silver or gold-filled jewelry supplies so they’re consistent with the value and heirloom-level quality of your work.
Maintain your design aesthetic. If your beads are fun and funky, then make jewelry that reflects that style. Or, if your look is more streamlined and classic, work from that angle.
“I recently added jewelry to my bead display. Sometimes customers just need a little inspiration or ideas to nudge them into looking at glass beads differently, then they realize how well my beads mix with other mediums and components. They say, ‘oh, I didn’t think about doing that using your lampwork!” –Aja Vaz
“Don’t sell something for less money than you can afford to make if someone ordered a hundred. For instance, if someone said, I’d like ten of these for my girlfriends, you want that to be a good thing. You don’t want to think, ‘I should have charged more because that’s too much work for that amount of money.” –Stephanie Sersich
Continue building your art glass bead jewelry making skills with these other educational articles: