Sunday, June 26, 2011

Experimenting with "Soft" Wire

I purchased some 18-gauge "soft" wire a few days ago and was excited to give it try.  I had read about it before, but not worked with it.   Upon trying it out, I was at first thrilled, then disappointed, then happy to have discovered it!    I'll explain...
  • Although 18-gauge is a fairly thick, heavy wire, normally hard to wrap and bend, this wire was easy to do so.   It was much more flexible and that was an exciting discovery!   
  •  I quickly recogized its limitations though.  Like using a too-thin wire, it didn't hold up well to a string of heavy beads, tending to bend and flop around.   Disappointment set in.  I also found that it scratched and dented more easily, leaving undesirable tool marks.
  • Soon though, I found it had its own niche.   It worked wonderfully for wire wrapping and for use with one large bead rather than a longer grouping of beads.   It wraps beautifully and so much easier than harder wire of the same gauge.   It does require a lighter touch with the tools, particularly any that would leave nicks in the silver.    I'll use it for certain projects only, but have discovered that it does have a useful place along with many other wire types I like to use.     

After experimenting a bit, I found that the project, above, is one example of where this soft, heavy-gauge wire will be useful.   I was using two pieces of dyed quartz I had.  I'm not sure what this piece will be "when it grows up."  I'm thinking of getting a few more pieces of quartz in similar shapes and colors and linking to make a necklace.  

Keep watching...   You may find it on my website one day soon!   

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why One Won't Do - Wire Gauges for Jewelry-making

Ever walk into a jewelry-making store, start out in awe, then get  overwhelmed by all the choices?

I'm not just talking about the multitude of beads in every material, color, shape, and size you can imagine, but also finishings, clasps, crimp beads and crimp covers, all in a variety of metals, sizes, and qualities.  

Then, there's also THE WIRE! 

If you are working with wire as a basis for your jewelry to make pendants, bracelets, rings, earrings, you probably don't need just one type or size of wire, but maybe 4-5 to get you started.   Why so many rolls?    Each gauge of wire handles differently and serves a different purpose.  

The higher the gauge, the thinner the wire is.   For example 24 gauge is very thin and pliable.   It is best used for making links in a chain, dangles for earrings, and linking very small, lightweight, small-holed beads.   If you need the item to be stiff when you are finished, this is not the wire for your project.   22 gauge is nearly the same.   It's good for doing wire-wrapping around stones and crystals small in size.   It's nice for these jobs because it's so easy to bend.

As the gauge numbers get lower, the thicker the wire is and, generally, the harder it is to bend.   20 gauge wire, is an excellent slightly-stiff wire that is nice for bending, scrolling, twisting, and making hammered clasps.   It bends easy enough when you need it to, but hardens up after hammering.  (See sample below.)   It's my favorite, all-around wire size.
18 gauge is the largest I use, but you can find larger wire.   At this size it can become very difficult to bend and control.   It is great for pendants though when you have heavy beads that need a lot of support so they don't wiggle too much or so the wire doesn't bend after the necklace is made. 

Because each size can fill a different need, I sometimes use more than one wire size on a single piece of jewelry.   A heavier wire may stabilize the base of the pendant while there may be dangling pieces connected to the bottom by thinner strands of wire.   

Don't be tempted to use a thin wire for a pendant though, just because a couple of the beads have small holes.   You'll be sorry when the piece won't stay straight.  Instead, use a bead reamer (a very thin round file made especially for this purpose) to carefully enlarge the hole or substitute with a different bead.   (Please note that bead reamers work great on most beads, but not on glass.)

In addition to gauge, there are many other considerations, such as whether you want to start with a less expensive wire at first for practicing, a sterling silver wire over copper, or solid sterling silver...or maybe you perfer copper, brass, or ...      It may seem overwhelming in the beggining, but know that with a little experience, you'll soon be reaching for the exact roll of wire you want for each of your projects!

For more information and samples, please visit

Content originally published:    Sharyl McMillian-Nelson  ©  2011 Intuit Inc. Business Directory article   (15-Jun-2011)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sharyl's Jewelry & Relections -- Welcome, Part 2

  ...Welcome Back!

Last time, I promised two things...  1) to further introduce myself to you by describing the jewelry I make, and 2) to talk about the purpose of this blog.

The Jewelry--
Basically, I design hand-crafted necklaces, pendants, earrings, and bracelets  (and the occasional ring) out of wire and beads.  (I use beads of nearly every color and material possible, but admit I'm very fond of  both glass and stones and generally work with silver wire.)    

Each piece is different--because I want what I wear to be unlike what everyone else is wearing and suspect others enjoy that too.  And in all honesty, I have more fun coming up with new ideas than duplicating similar items. 

Jewelry Samples & The Website--
You can go to my website, Sharyl's Jewelry, and see samples and descriptions of some of the pieces I've made.    As we get to know each other, I hope you will share samples of your work and websites with us in return!

The Jewelry Business--
Although creating jewelry is something I have enjoyed doing for years, something I've studied and practiced, I just began my business this year.   I currently sell the jewelry wholesale to local shops in my area.  What started as a hobby, and a fun way to relax, has turned into quite a learning experience!   

Along the way, I've not only continued to advance my jewelry-making skills, I have learned more about small businesses (I technically have two now), marketing, building a website, digital photography, and now blogging.  Everything I do is a work in progress, and I enjoy that part.  I keep learning new things!   It feels like a journey.

And now, The Blog!--
So I hope you'll be interested in the conversation and join in.   We'll be talking about: 
  • jewelry design, 
  • jewelry-making techniques and tips, 
  • jewelry as a business, 
  • sources of learning, 
  • sources of inspiration, and  
  • reflections on life and art as they relate to making jewelry.  

Thank you for dropping by, and I hope you'll come back.   I look forward to sharing ideas with you!   --Sharyl

Image Credits:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sharyl's Jewelry & Relections -- Welcome, Part 1

People who know me well are aware I have many interests.  For those of you who don't, here are a few facts about me: 
  • I enjoy designing hand-crafted jewelry, making each piece unique.   If you give me wire, I'll make jewelry out it.  
  • If you hand me a camera, I'll always take nature shots.    
  • I love researching and learning new things.  (In my "other" life, I'm a librarian.)   
  •  I enjoy writing.   (Yes, among my degrees, you'll find one in Creative Writing, aka English.)
  •  ...And I thoroughly enjoy talking with others!  (Nothing to do with the Communications Studies degree--strictly hereditary, I suspect!)

Sharyl's Jewelry & Reflections seems an opportunity to bring together so many of the things I enjoy most.

So here, we will chat and  share, learn and reflect... about jewelry-making and other things that inspire us and matter to us.   I hope you will join us again for some friendly conversation!   

Best wishes,

P.S.  I'll tell you more about the jewelry I make and plans for the blog next time, but while you are visiting, I hope you'll drop by my website:   

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jewelry Design - My "Unique" Philosophy

by Sharyl of Sharyl's Jewelry  

Let me start by saying that I have never had furniture in my house that matched.

The furniture came to me through a variety of means over a lifetime, an assortment of varying color, style, age, and finish.   During much of this time, people had the notion that furniture throughout rooms in a house should match.  Mine didn’t come close; each piece was different but special to me.

A time finally came when mis-matched furniture acquired a name of its own.  It was called the “eclectic” style and discussed like it was a good thing.   Suddenly, what seemed an accident or something to be pitied was described in home design magazines as though I had been planning it all for years.  I had a new shiny varnished dining room table and chairs in light wood next to a darker stained antique stand to hold my table linens and that was more than acceptable, it was desirable.     That sense of uniqueness in home design came into style more than 20 years ago and seems to show no signs of ending soon.   More importantly, I liked it then and I like it now.

Over the years, I acquired jewelry in much the same way as furniture.  Living in university towns, I had access to import stores, some even focusing in specific regions of the world.  I walked right by (and into) art, natural history, and anthropology museum gift shops.   I eventually traveled and added pieces to remind me of cities and countries (and people and experiences).   I was drawn to exotic jewelry from far-away places.   I loved the look of the pieces, was in wonder that they had made their way to me, and I felt special wearing them.

Today, when I design jewelry, it’s with this same philosophy in mind.   I want what I wear to be truly unlike what anyone else wears.  I want to feel that it’s been made for me by caring hands with attention to detail.  I want to feel attracted to the color, textures, materials, and design.  I want it to fit my look and personality.

That’s why I design jewelry the way I do.  I want the people who wear my jewelry to feel special wearing it, knowing it has been caringly made for them, and like them, there is only one like it.    

For more information please visit

Content originally published:    Sharyl McMillian-Nelson  ©  2011 Intuit Inc. Business Directory article  (10-Jun-2011)
Logo graphic by Andrew Nelson © 2011