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Metal Jewelry Workshop: Essential Tools, Easy-to-Learn Techniques, and 12 Projects for the Beginning Jewelry Artist

Metal Jewelry Workshop: Essential Tools, Easy-to-Learn Techniques, and 12 Projects for the Beginning Jewelry Artist

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Metal Jewelry Workshop: Essential Tools, Easy-to-Learn Techniques, and 12 Projects for the Beginning Jewelry Artist

354 pages
2 hours
Oct 9, 2018


This beginner’s guide to metal jewelry making shows how to create exciting wearable art using just 12 simple, inexpensive hand tools—no jewelry torch required! Metal Jewelry Workshop includes 8 exercises and 12 projects featuring step-by-step photos that show exactly what to do and how the result should look. By working through this book you will master the use of jeweler’s tools and create beautiful pieces of jewelry along the way. This tried and true learning method will help you build a foundation of proper technique and let you excel without frustration. Wearing jewelry you made yourself means you can express your creativity, talent, and personal taste all at once.
Oct 9, 2018

Tentang penulis

Helen I. Driggs is an experienced metalsmith, teaching artist, writer, and maker of things. Her jewelry making focus is fabrication, lapidary, metal forming, and forging. Helen is the former Senior Editor of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, where she wrote the popular column “Cool Tools & Hip Tips” in every issue. Her book The Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide has become an essential study guide for aspiring metalsmiths. Helen helps thousands of students to learn the basics of metalworking, through her instructional videos and at the many classes and workshops she teaches at guilds, groups, and shows around the country. A BFA graduate of Moore College of Art, she has studied jewelry and metals independently with some of the most talented metalsmith/jewelers of our time.

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Metal Jewelry Workshop - Helen I. Driggs



Jewelry Metals and Materials

From various types of metal to the various forms in which metal is produced, from beads that can be incorporated into your work to jewelry findings that will make your life easier, there is a wide array of materials to choose from when creating metal jewelry. Familiarity with what is out there will ensure that you can give free reign to your creativity and start down the path of creating truly unique, interesting pieces.

Metal types

Many types of metals are used for jewelry making. Ferrous metals contain iron or steel; they are strong, readily available, and inexpensive, and, with the exception of stainless steel, will rust if not sealed properly. Ferrous metals are more difficult to saw, drill, and cut than softer non-ferrous metals (see below), but have been widely used by studio jewelers and commercial manufacturers since the Industrial Revolution.

Non-ferrous metals do not contain iron or steel. They include aluminum, titanium, and niobium, which are also called reactive or transitional metals. Another common term for some non-ferrous metals like copper, nickel, tin, and zinc is base metal, which is a term used by costume jewelry manufacturers to denote metals that readily oxidize when exposed to moisture or air. Precious or noble metals are rarer and more expensive than other non-ferrous metals and include silver, gold, and platinum.

Alloys are carefully manufactured mixtures of metals. Brass, bronze, pewter, and Monel metal are all base metal alloys. Sterling is a silver alloy, and the various karats of gold are all alloys of pure gold mixed with another metal.

Specialty metals can be custom-created alloys or can be laminated metals like bi-metal and mokume-gane, a Japanese metal that resembles wood grain.

Filled metals contain a core of a less expensive metal coated with an outer shell of either silver or various karats of gold.

Metal Forms

Wire is often the first metal form most aspiring jewelers come into contact with. It can be made from any type of metal. A tremendous variety of wire shapes, sizes, finishes, and metals is readily available from hobby shops, large craft and artist material stores, jewelry supply houses or stores, online, and even from recycling centers. Wire is measured by its thickness, or gauge, and all metal, including wire, is sold by troy weight, a universal system used for weighing units of mass. Metal is priced according to a daily, fluctuating spot price followed by the entire worldwide metal supply industry. Cheaper base metals are typically sold per pound, and are also priced by an often less volatile spot price.


Sheet metal is essential for creating most fabricated jewelry work. It can be purchased plain or pre-textured and is available in many metals as well as hardnesses and finishes. Like wire, sheet metal is available in many commonly used gauges and is usually sold in square-inch measurements, which are cut, weighed, and sold by the daily spot price for that particular metal.

Milled stock is a specialty product with some types that are more common and/or readily available than others. Tubing, rods, bars, stampings, die cuts, discs, loops, blanks, and components are all manufactured in commonly used gauges and sizes. Forms like geometrics, half-round, triangle, square, and stepped bar are manufactured in many types of metal. Using ready-made milled stock eliminates fabricating commonly used parts from scratch, adds the potential of new design inspiration, and saves time.

Other metal forms include casting grain, metal leaf, and ingots or bars and are used in special processes like casting jewelry parts in a mold, adding a thin layer of gold or silver to other metals, and for creating custom sheet metal, wire, or stock in the jewelry studio using large equipment and tools.

Sheet metal

Milled stock

Other Jewelry Materials

Beads are easy to procure and can be made of glass, metal, organic materials, plastic, ceramic, stone, and more. Literally hundreds of shapes, sizes, materials, and colors are available for any taste and budget from large arts and crafts vendors, jewelry supply houses, department stores, specialty suppliers, bead shows, and online. Bead availability is often related to seasonal or fashion trends, with particular materials, colors, or some styles or shapes of beads being more popular than others and only available for limited periods of time.


Manufactured parts


Manufactured parts like charms, blanks, dimensional metal stampings, pendants, connectors, frames, fobs, and drops offer a wide variety of ready-made and easily acquired components made of many different metals or other inspirational materials for the aspiring jewelry artist.

Ready-made findings (also called fittings) are manufactured to provide time-saving solutions for assembling jewelry quickly and efficiently, and include earring wires and ear nuts, necklace and bracelet clasps, head and eye pins, bead caps, mountings and settings, links, jump rings, and chains.

Faceted stones and cabochons can be cut from gemstones or manufactured from glass, polymer, or plastic and other materials in regular shapes like oval, round or brilliant, rectangle, triangle or trillion, pear, heart, diamond, navette or marquis, square, and freeform. Stone surfaces can be left raw, made smooth, faceted, or carved as well as be highly polished, satin-finished, or paper, textiles, and other materials can all find their way into modern works of jewelry art, and can offer unexpected inspiration to both the open-minded jewelry maker and the wearer of his or her one-of-a-kind piece. matte. Cabochon stones are typically opaque or translucent and flat on the back. Many transparent gemstones are faceted on the front and come to a point on the back for maximum sparkle and brilliant reflection of light, although some transparent gems are also cut with flat backs.

Faceted stones and cabochons

Found and manufactured raw materials have become quite popular for use in artisan jewelry. Many studio jewelers prefer to use inexpensive, recycled, or unusual cast-off materials in lieu of rare gemstones or valuable metals in these types of works because they hope to convey the value of artistic expression and ideas over the expense of raw, sometimes rare materials. Random discoveries from flea markets and junk stores, cast-off parts and components, game pieces, buttons, hardware, shells, pebbles and beach glass, and organic materials and other natural objects are very common contemporary jewelry materials. Leather, plastic, laminates, ceramic, polymer, glass, wood, fiber,

Found and manufactured raw materials


Tools of the trade

There are hundreds of specialty hand tools and other types of equipment used in the jewelry arts. Usually, a career craftsperson will build their tool and equipment inventory slowly and steadily over time, as space, need, and resources allow. One of the best ways to ensure that a potential tool purchase is appropriate is to estimate the amount of time and effort that particular tool will save. Justify a tool purchase carefully, considering the use you will get from a tool before buying it. If and when you do buy, choose the highest-quality tool your budget will allow, particularly for daily-use hand tools. It is wiser to spend more for a well-made tool at the start than it is to end up purchasing several low-quality models over time, only to abandon and replace them with a quality version in the end. In jewelry making, patience is an essential skill that applies not only to creating work, but also to tool acquisition.

General Hand tool and Technique Categories

In most jewelry workshops, hand tools are typically grouped and stored by the jobs they perform. Arrangement of a jewelry-making workspace is highly individual, and you will find that over time you may reorder, rearrange, sort, separate, change, and expand your work area many times as your skills and interests improve and change. But there are several broad technique categories in jewelry making (and specific tools associated with those processes) that can serve as guidelines for ordering your workspace. It is a good idea to keep these categories and your needs and preferences in mind as you add tools and equipment to your workshop. The four categories below, in fact, are reflected in the structure of Part 2 of this book.

Metal preparation techniques include layout, marking, measuring, weighing, and cleaning. Never underestimate the importance of careful measuring, proper marking, and clean metal.

Metal manipulation techniques include gripping, holding, bending, thinning, twisting, forming, texturing, stamping, curling, and coiling. Tools associated with these techniques are among the most abundant and widely varied in the craft of jewelry making.

Metal severing or separation techniques include shearing, sawing, drilling, scribing, cutting, clipping, and punching. This category of tools requires focused attention during use to avoid injury, because many of these tools feature very sharp cutting edges and require great force to use.

Metal abrading and refinement techniques include grinding, filing, sanding, scraping, burnishing, and polishing. Another huge category of tools, this group includes metal-specific products and tools as well as those designed for broad or general use.


Throughout Part 2 of this book, you’ll discover alternatives for completing a process or technique using different types of tools, including less expensive, budget-friendly options as well as more sophisticated, costly specialty tools appropriate to a semipro to pro workshop. Watch for the Good, Better, and Best box as you read to learn other methods of getting a job done and for ideas and tips when you are ready to add new tools to your jewelry-making space.

Workshop Safety

Making jewelry with hand tools is typically not dangerous; however, it is important to keep safety in mind when using any tool—no matter what you are doing. Remember, metal can be sharp, hammers can bruise, pliers can pinch, and cutters can cut. Always be mindful in the workshop, move slowly and steadily, and think every process through before attempting it with tools and metal. Look at your hands as you work, turn off your phone, work under good lighting, and proceed carefully and methodically.

Here are the five commonsense, non-negotiable rules every student working in my shop must follow. I learned them by following my own teacher’s rules, and you will most likely adopt them in your own workspace and eventually pass them on, as well.

1. Wear safety goggles whenever you manipulate, sever, separate, and abrade metal. Your eyes are one of your most valuable (and vulnerable) tools, so take the time to protect them.

2. Keep a first aid kit with antiseptic solution, bandages, and antibacterial ointment handy, as you’ll appreciate it when the inevitable scrape or cut occurs. If you do get hurt, always take a short break away from the workshop before starting again to regain your composure. Even

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