Jewelry Design Ideas for Briolettes, Plus Free Project

Jul 3, 2009

Beautiful, Breakable Briolettes

As a teen, I routinely stuffed my size 9 feet into size 8 shoes, trying to deny that my feet would never be small again. The same kind of denial recently led me to try stuffing a piece of 22-gauge wire (my favorite size!) into the tiny, delicate drilled channel at the top of a lovely Oregon sunstone briolette. Guess what happened?! The pointed top of the teardrop-shaped briolette broke right off, leaving me with that same old feeling of dejection.

I should know better. I’m always adding wire-wrapped elements to my stringing patterns to amp up the design. Which means that despite my love of 22-gauge wire and its sturdiness, sometimes a more delicate gauge—and a more delicate touch—are required. Now back to my small and pricy collection of Oregon sunstone briolettes. After my little fiasco, I was determined not to break another one. Ever. I felt a little queasy when I tested a variety of wires and realized I needed to switch to a 26-gauge wire for the tiny hole in the briolette. That’s totally out of my comfort zone!

A Few Briolette Commandments

But finesse is what a briolette often demands to protect it from fracturing or breaking. The hole at the top is usually drilled close to its most delicate and vulnerable point. So I have a few commandments I plan to follow evermore when adding briolettes to my stringing projects:

  • Thou shalt test wire of various gauges on briolettes to determine the best fit—even if it leads to using 26- or 28-gauge wire. (It often seems easier to use wire that is a higher gauge and thus thinner and more malleable. However, thinner wire can be so flexible that it will immediately form into any old wonky wrap you first make—there’s no resistance—and it can be hard to reshape.)
  • Thou shalt not jam wire into the briolette hole ever again.
  • Thou shalt honor thy briolettes and wire-wrap them with great tenderness.
  • Thou shalt master the art of wire-wrapping with skinny wire, even if it still seems too flimsy.

In short, I will do my best not to behave like Shrek when faced with this wire-wrapping challenge. No more spouting! Why? Because I’m greedy. I want to make as many cool stringing projects as possible!

3 Ideas for Designing with Briolettes

Here are 3 inspiring ideas from Stringing magazine:

1.  Spiced Tea by Lisa Kan

Lisa Kan’s elegant Spiced Tea project mixes carnelian briolettes with bold smoky quartz faceted rounds and intricately patterned gold vermeil beads. I love the powerful effect those five small dangling briolettes have on the entire look and feel of her design.



2.  The Raven Queen by Andrew Thornton

Andrew Thornton’s beautiful black necklace, The Raven Queen, suspends several wire-wrapped treasures from a ceramic raven pendant—including a dark rutilated quartz briolette. So much story told with just a few elements.






3. Pastel Romance by Angie and Pam Thien

For the love of asymmetry, Pastel Romance, by frequent Stringing contributors Angie and Pam Thien, is punctuated by seven green chalcedony briolettes and blends three different metals: pink gold, vermeil and black silver.

Maybe, like me, you were drawn to briolettes, collected them, then waited for inspiration to strike. I no longer have to wait, nor do you. Subscribe now to Stringing Magazine and be inspired by more than 200 stylish stringing designs every year, most of which have at least a touch of simple wireworking to take your stringing to the next level.

Free Project
Abbie Enyart

While playing with ideas for bridesmaids’ jewelry, Abbie Enyart made this lovely necklace with pink glass, freshwater rice pearls, black cable chain, a heart-shaped sterling silver toggle clasp, and a pink glass briolette with a bail for the center pendant. Pearls are traditional wedding gems, and the black chain and wire add drama and romance to Abbie’s design. This project was originally published in Stringing Spring 2005 and will be free for a limited time.

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on Jul 6, 2009 12:11 PM
I found this article to be the most amusing I have read to date. I, too, prefer a heavier gauge wire and often times have tried to force the issue of my preference only to jam a wire into a pearl and then have it break off thus rendering the bead useless. I don't have a delicate touch, so when I work with 24 gauge wire, it snaps between my fingers. Oh well, eventually we all find what we do best!
LisaKwaj wrote
on Jul 9, 2009 3:38 AM
Marlene, your article really struck home. Just yesterday, I was adding a crystal bead to a handmade sterling hook clasp. Of course, I used the thickest wire that the crystal would accept. But I broke the crystal about half a dozen times, trying to make a wrapped loops right up against it. VERY frustrating. I ended up keeping the 20GA wire, but used a very delicate touch, Commandment #3. You've inspired me to order some finer gauge wire and experiment. Thanks!!!
megm3271 wrote
on Jun 27, 2010 6:25 AM

Some great tips in this article! I appreciate the beading humor and sympathize with the author on the wire gauge issues as I have the same issues. We are led to believe that the heavier the gauge the stronger the attachment - however with a lot of practice and confidence the finer gauge wire can offer the strength and security your  beaded attachment iscrying out for! LOL! The finer wires can be frustrating to work with - but the end results are worth it!