Guide to Color Wire Jump Rings

Sep 8, 2009

Dream it in color? Make it in color! Many jewelry artists search for the perfect way to use color wire in their work. My solution: colored jump rings! I’ve been working with anodized aluminum jump rings for almost two years now. I love the fact that I can put the burst of color in my chain maille, and even match it to the beads I use. Colored jump rings are becoming very popular, especially because they are a bit more affordable than sterling or gold-filled. But there are so many different kinds of rings out there... which ones should you choose? Here's a quick guide to 5 types of affordable and available color jump rings.

 

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Anodized aluminum: These jump rings are super lightweight to work with, and are colored with an electrical current. Different colors are achieved based on the amount of electricity used. But since the electricity can make the aluminum porous, they also can be dyed and sealed to reinforce the color. And they’re inexpensive, another bonus.

Charlene Anderson made these striking blue earrings with anodized aluminum rings in the Palau Reef Set in the Fall 2009 issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry.  Photo: Jim Lawson

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Anodized niobium: These rings are colored in the same way as aluminum, but the extra dyeing isn’t required. The quality of niobium is comparable to that of sterling silver, so they cost a little more than aluminum. Niobium is great to use in combination with sterling.

Shelley Hubbs made her Olivia bracelet with anodized niobium rings in the Fall 2009 issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry. Photo: Jim Lawson

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Anodized titanium: Colored in the same way as the first two, these rings are best known for their strength, and they are the heaviest out of this group. Titanium, like niobium, is hypo-allergenic, so it's great to use if you have allergies to base metals. Titanium rings are the most expensive of the colored jump rings. 

Titanium Rings shown in a Byzantine chain maille pattern. Photo courtesy of www.metaldesignz.com.

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Enameled copper: A durable plastic enameled coating is added to the copper wire before they’re coiled into rings. The colors are plentiful and the rings are inexpensive. Silvered enameled copper is made by plating the copper wire with a layer of pure silver before adding the enamel to give it a shinier appearance. 

Enameled copper rings are mixed with stainless steel. Photo courtesy of www.metaldesignz.com.

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Rubber: A fun and inexpensive type of jump ring, rubber rings make your piece more flexible. They’re made of soft, non-latex rubber, often silicone.

Susan C. Thomas creates wonderful pieces like this one using rubber rings. You can purchase this Rainbow Wristband project by Susan in the Interweave Store. Photo: Jim Lawson

TOOL TIP! No matter which kind of ring you choose, a well-used pair of pliers can easily scratch the color off of the ring. Dipping your pliers’ jaws into a coating like Tool Magic™ helps to alleviate the problem, but always use care when opening and closing any jump rings.

In the Fall 2009 Step by Step Wire Jewelry find even more expert tips on using colored jump rings, in a special featurette called “The Rainbow Connection.” Put your new-found knowledge to work making three colored chain maille projects yourself! Don’t be afraid to take that extra leap, and explore your options. Experimenting is half the fun…if you dream in color, do it in color! 

You'll want to see every issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry. We have an expert advice column by renowned wire artist Connie Fox, and reviews of the hottest products: from wire, to beads, to tools, to books and DVDs, and so much more.  Best of all, you’ll find several projects on the hottest wire working techniques, from wrapping to chain maille, knitting and crocheting with wire, texturing, and embellishing wire jewelry with beads. There’s something for every skill level. Why not subscribe to Step by Step Wire Jewelry now? 



FREE PROJECT for a limited time! 
Download Sara's Foxy Roxy necklace and see for yourself how much fun it is to make jewelry with color jump rings!


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Comments

KarenC@129 wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 2:12 PM
Adding color to projects is always wonderful and this newsletter gave some good alternatives. However, as an enamelist, I had to take exception to calling this enamel: "Enameled copper: A durable plastic enameled coating is added to the copper wire before they’re coiled into rings". Enamel is glass fused to metal at high temperatures (like 1500 deg F) and clearly takes more to produce than a plastic coating. To call non-enamels enamel, causes true enamelist problems when they are trying to sell their creations. Please call this Plastic Coated Copper as it is not enameled copper and thus is very misleading. My issue is not that this is not a good alternative for adding color, my issue is the name that was erroneous assigned to it. A beader using this wire might advertise it as Enameled wire and that is NOT TRUE and the price difference between enameled and non-enameled is quite different.
MomSue wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 3:05 PM
I love coloured wire. I work almost exclusively in niobium. There are some errors in the comparison of the weights and costs of the metals in this article. Yes, aluminum is the lightest and least expensive. The colouring process described as anodization though requires lots of nasty chemicals and several immersions. The second lightest is titanium. It has a specific gravity of 4.55 vs aluminum's 2.698. It is more expensive than aluminum or coloured copper. The colouring process is one single immersion and 'electrocution', but it must be very carefully cleaned with some rather aggresive chemicals. The third lightest is niobium with a specific gravity of 8.57. It is the most expensive of these metals. It is coloured in one immersion and 'electrocution' without the need for as aggresive cleaning and without noxious chemicals in the anodizing bath. The heaviest of the group is copper with a specific gravity of 8.96. I agree that the 'enameled' copper is not really enameled as KarenC points out. Please check your 'facts' more carefully.
limelight wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 5:19 PM
Thanks for this post. I've often wondered about colored jump rings! And thanks also to those who've added informative comments. Very helpful! I have a few questions: 1. Which of the kinds of colored rings is least affected by tool marking and wear? I've read that colors can flake off or be scratched off by tools. 2. Which of these color treatments is best for ankle bracelets and barefoot slippers that might be worn on the beach or into salt water? 3. Speaking of salt water, if I make uncolored chainmaille footwear items, is it best to use sterling, aluminum or niobium? Thank you!
on Sep 11, 2009 6:16 PM
Thank you for your comments, they are all very helpful. My research came from talking to people who not only sell these rings in their stores, but also make pieces themselves. This was really meant to be a beginners guide to choosing colored jump rings. As for the enameled copper, this term was referred to by the people I interviewed in my article in Step by Step Wire Jewelry and why I blogged it here. I didn't mean to offend you artists who are enamelists by any means. Nor was it my intention to mislead about the costs and weights of the particular rings. The purpose of this article, really, is for artists to explore the use of colored rings. (And that was also my intent in writing the article for Step by Step Wire Jewelry, if you read my article, you will also see this term also just a heads-up). Perhaps I messed up my wording when referring to titanium's "strength," and it was my error in believing that it also meant it was heaviest. My apologies. Bottom line here is that I appreciate your insight, that I didn't mean to offend, and didn't mean to confuse nor mislead any readers. I just wanted to introduce another way to infuse color into chain maille and jewelry pieces. -Sara
Annster wrote
on Sep 12, 2009 12:59 AM
Anne: Just a comment to point out that both The Ring Lord and MetalDesignz sell colored copper rings as "silvered copper enamel rings" and "copper enameled rings". By the way, regardless of the correct phrase, these are my personal favorites for bracelets, necklaces and anklets.
on Sep 14, 2009 2:16 AM
There is an error in your explanation of anodized aluminum vs anodized niobium. Aluminum is anodized using an acid bath that is electrically charged, the dye is put ON after the acid bath etches the surface of the aluminum, the acid etch creates a microscopic honeycomb effect on the surface of the aluminum; the rings are then dyed using an ultra concentrated dye specifically for aluminum the color is sealed onto the rings using a special sealant after the dyeing is done. Anodized niobium & titanium are dyed using direct application of electrical current to the wire in question or the rings if they're already coiled & cut into rings before the anodizing takes place. - To the person who faults the naming convention of enameled copper should take it up with the wire industry - parawire being one of the biggest companies. The wire is enameled in some aspect. Enamel doesn't just apply to glass fused to metal. Think nail enamel as well. MOST places that sell the color coated copper sell it as enameled copper as that is what it is...the word ENAMEL doesn't just apply to your own craft. Enamel-coated copper wire is composed of copper than has been coated with enamel varnish instead of thick insulation. for proof it is called this look it up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enameled_wire
Jinis Jewels wrote
on Sep 14, 2009 6:47 AM
I am just entering the marvelous world of working with rings and love it. However, I am having trouble finding rings to purchase and I am having trouble understanding ring sizes and how to know what size to use in my projects. Luckily, so far, I have used just general 6mm and 4mm rings that I have purchased from a local arts & crafts store.
on Sep 14, 2009 2:41 PM
Thank you again for more explanation in the difference between the difference in anodization. Again, it wasn't my intention to mislead or misrepresent or misname, I just went by information that was made available to me. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to elaborate about the specific processes in my articles, but boy, have I learned a lot since Friday! OK, moving on. To answer a couple questions that have popped up via e-mail or on here: Jini, the ring sizes are either listed as OD, outer diameter, or ID, inner diameter. So if a ring says it's 6mm ID, that's different than 6mm OD. Hopefully that will help. And also, answering a question via e-mail, you can either use 2 pairs of flat nose pliers or chain nose pliers to open jump rings...or one or the other. Others use bent nose pliers. Thank you again for everyone's comments and insights. -Sara (writer of this blog)
KarenC@129 wrote
on Sep 16, 2009 1:25 PM
As frawgzdezignz points out, other items are labeled enameled. These were all named this because of the glorious color of vitreous enamel (like enameled paint which obviously is not glass fused to metal). Vitreous enamel is one of the oldest decorative materials we have (and one of the most durable) - no wonder people want to identify with it. However, when it comes to jewelry items, it's really misleading and causes enamelist problems. Ex: I was at a craft show and someone was selling "enameled" jewelry, but it was actually resin - a pendant was $15 instead of maybe $125 if it was actually enameled. The problem was that this artist (whose pieces were very nice) didn't understand that she wasn't using enamel, but a faux-enamel. So, if you are not using fired enamel, understand that your material is not equivalent to Cloisonne or Champleve enameled pieces, which by their very nature are going to be more expensive (and precious) than resin or some other coating. To me it's more of a difference than between a CZ and a diamond. The point is, know your material and don't try to make it sound more plush than it is. If someone asked if the wire is enameled, you can say it's called enamel, but it's a plastic coating - enameled wire could NEVER be bent; the enamel would crack. I understand that if you are not an enamelist you would think I'm being picky. This really is an issue of manufacturers who are trying to make their less expensive products sound like higher end items (greed is rampant here!). Sorry if I'm raving, but the public thinks they are getting one thing when they are actually getting another. Note: I'm not saying what you make with "enameled" wire is not beautiful, it's just not the same as enameled jewelry. Don't try to fool your customers