Essentials of Earring Making

May 24, 2013

If I knew now what I didn't know then...that's how I feel about everything that I've learned about earring making since I started beading over thirteen years ago. While I spent my time doodling beaded necklace and bracelet designs in my notebooks throughout college, ideas for beaded earring designs didn't come so easy to me.

earring-projects
Then a few years ago, I decided to challenge myself for the new year, and in January, I vowed to make one pair of beaded earrings every day for an entire month. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time, and when I was finished, not only did I have over two dozen pairs of earrings for gifts for friends and family, I also had much more confidence in my own earring making skills.

Want to jump-start your earring making projects? Here are a few suggestions to get you going!

Ideas for beaded earring projects. Beaded necklace and bracelet projects always came pretty easy for me, but beaded earrings? Not so much. Fortunately, as I progressed in learning how to bead and picked up new jewelry-making skills along the way, I started seeing how lots of these techniques could translate into easy earring projects. It's true: sometimes, the best ideas for earring making projects really are the simplest.

earring-making
Learn how to make your own ear wires. This seemed like the most intimidating aspect of earring making for me, but really, learning how to make my own ear wires has opened up an entire world of possibilities for me! Wouldn't it be fantastic if you could customize your ear wires using matching beads and colored wire? It's really easier than you think. You can either make your own ear wires using nothing but a thick Sharpie marker, or if you want to churn out perfect wires every time, it might be worth investing in the Easy Ear Wire Maker.

earring-making
Asymmetrical earrings by Jean Campbell
Let Your Imagination Run Wild. Who says that earring designs always have to match? Michelle Mach doesn't think so, and neither does Jean Campbell! Earring making can be a ton of fun -- and a great learning experience -- when you just let your beaded earring designs do whatever they want to do. Surrender to the beads, and see what you can come up with! Mix and match your beads, color of ear wires, and dig through your craft supplies for things like ribbons, feathers, and vintage sequins for truly unique beaded earrings.

earring-projects

You'll always find great earring making projects in every issue of Beadwork magazine. For over 15 years, Beadwork has been bringing us innovative, artistic, and beautiful earring making projects. If your collection of Beadwork magazine is missing a few issues, now's the time to fill in the gaps! Check out all the back issues of Beadwork magazine on sale in the Beading Daily Shop -- including some digital copies, too!

What would your best advice be to someone just getting started with earring making? Would you recommend a particular beading tool, or a particular technique for making easy earrings? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share your thoughts, tips, and advice with us!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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callyrose wrote
on May 24, 2013 8:35 AM

I buy chain, any size, shape or finish that i can find. an individual link can become a great component along with the bead(s) in earrings, as can short or long sections of finer chain, or mixing 2 or more chains. Chain is just so versatile to use for earrings!

Bellavida wrote
on May 24, 2013 10:10 AM

If you are a beginner, go past a few beads on a headpin. Try using jump rings, and link components. Your earrings will have better swing and be more interesting.

EdnaJames wrote
on May 24, 2013 1:10 PM

For dangly earrings, I agree with Bellavida: strategic use of jump rings will give your dangles the right swing.  There are two types of dangles to consider, with two different strategies to attach them to the ear-wire.  

(1) Some dangles have an axial symmetry around the headpin, like round beads and pearls, gem stone drops or some beaded beads.  This means it doesn't matter how the dangle hangs, it looks good from any direction.  In this case, I like to use a 5mm jumpring of a thicker gauge (maybe 20 gauge) to attach the dangle to the earwire.  The thicker guage makes a strong jumpring that won't bend out of shape.  And, what's that called when your dangle swings around and gets caught on the loop of your earwire causing it to stick out sideways instead of hanging straight down like it's supposed to?  There ought to be a name for it:  you don't want that!  Using a larger diameter jumpring prevents that from happening. 

(2). The second kind of dangle has a front and a back.  You don't want these to hang in just any direction.  So to limit the ability of the dangle to turn, ideally the dangle should be attached directly to the earwire, with no jumpring.  Again, you don't want the dangle to swing around and stick out sideways!  A larger loop, say 4 or 5mm, on your earwire helps prevent this.  If you make your own earwires you can make any size loop you want. 

If you really want to make your own earwires, go ahead and spend the money on a good tool to make them:  it'll pay for itself.  My favorite way to make earwires is with a wigjig.  I bought the Centaur and a set of Super Pegs (the pegs for the Delphi fit the Centaur jig).  The smaller guage pegs on this jig are for finer wirework.  Using a jig allows you to adjust the shape of your earwire to your preferences.  You can adjust the large curved part to fit the thickness of your earlobe, and you can make the loop the size you prefer.  And, of course, you can make your earwires come out the same every time.  I liked the Wigjig University on their website, which gives clear instructions on how to use this tool properly for best results.  (You will also need round-nose pliers or stepped wire wrapping pliers and wire cutters.  Flat nose pliers with brass jaws or nylon jaws are good for finishing and work-hardening your wire without leaving marks.  You might also want a de-burring tool--use the flat nose plier with brass jaw to hold the end of the wire firmly while using the deburring tool.)  

I use sterling or 14Kt half hard wire, and I don't hammer my earwires.  I avoid earwires with fancy coatings--these coatings can rub off and cause irritation inside the hole in your earlobe. 

Another item to take into consideration is the thickness of the earwire.  Lighter dangles can be hung from a finer guage earwire (maybe 22 guage), but heavier dangles should be attached to a thicker guage wire (maybe 20 guage).  The thicker guage helps distribute the heavier weight in your ear and helps prevent overstretching the hole in your ear.  Keeping the dangles on the lighter side also helps prevent overstretching your ear.

Post earrings are also fun to make.  Posts with cups are nice for ball-shaped earrings, and flat-backed posts are nice for button-type earrings.  Purchase the size of earnut appropriate to the earring size.  Larger earnuts hold larger earrings better.  You can also attach very light, dainty dangles to ball-n-post earrings made with loops.  Earwires hold best for the longer dangles. 

Maybe I spend way too much time thinking about earrings!!  I guess I can't help myself.  I hope you find some of this useful or helpful!

tcwhit wrote
on May 24, 2013 7:30 PM

Wow I'm where you were at. Make earrings? You mean, on purpose?? I'm slowly moving into that arena. Each bracelet or necklace I make, I try to use a segment to see if they'll work for earrings. Most of the time it works. Might have to add a point or a bead dangle or some little thing, but in the end, it makes a good set.

Phala Ray wrote
on May 25, 2013 11:53 AM

First time poster... I must be bass-ackwards from other commenters because my designs always start with earrings. They provide the initial inspiration and fundamental unit for subsequent applications. Probably due to the fact that I've always worn and prefer earrings (and rings) over necklaces or bracelets.

on May 25, 2013 1:06 PM

I just want to thank Edna James for all the great info in her post.  Wow!

on May 25, 2013 1:10 PM

I just want to thank Edna Ray for the wonderful information in her post.  wow!

ninib wrote
on May 25, 2013 5:26 PM

My suggestion for anyone who is artistic/creative would be to not worry about what others are creating, but just make sure that you have down the basic techniques for whatever you are thinking about using for your creations.  From that point, it's all about just playing with color, shape and size, and seeing what you come up with.  Creating things that are aesthetically pleasing is wonderful, and can be quite freeing, if you just "let go".  Of course, you want to create something that you want to wear, so make sure that your technique is good, and whatever you create will stay together.  Wear and show off your earrings, and ask friends and family members for suggestions for improvement, if they have any.  You'll be creating different and beautiful pieces daily if you just allow yourself to pick up your supplies and tools, and have some fun with them!

EdnaJames wrote
on May 26, 2013 4:06 AM

Thank you for your kind comments.  I am also enjoying following everyone's posts.  

I agree with tcwhit:  I love making earrings to match my necklace (or vice versa).  Here's something to think about:  what size do you prefer, to make a balanced look?  For example, if you made a matching earring and pendant set, maybe you like each earring to be the same size as the pendant.  Another way to do it is to make each earring a little smaller than the pendant (maybe 3/4 the size).  That way, when you wear the set together, the pendant doesn't look too small compared to the earrings.   ('Course if the pendant's really big, we have to use our judgement, taking the weight of the earrings into consideration!)

Phala Ray is right, too.  Sometimes just a fabulous pair is earrings is all you need--just right.  

Sorry, I forgot to mention, when I said "wire cutters", I use "flush cutters" to cut the wire as smoothly as possible.  No matter how smoothly you cut, however, you'll need to smooth the end further.  I just noticed the term I used for doing this was "deburring tool", but I should have used the term "cup bur" instead.  It's a common way  to smooth the wire ends.   Here's a link that explains how to select the cup bur size according to the wire guage:

geltdesigns.blogspot.ca/.../how-to-select-cup-burr.html

Also, I wanted to clarify:  I said I don't hammer my ear wires.  It's just a personal preference--I like the non-hammered look, and if you use half-hard wire, no hammering to work-harden is necessary.

Finally, here's a nifty post I found on the Jewelry Making Daily website  for making identical ear wires without a Wigjig.  If you haven't seen this one, take a peek.  I think you'll love it:

www.jewelrymakingdaily.com/.../wire-jewelry-tip-of-the-year-make-perfect-ear-wires-sets-in-minutes.aspx

panpan2523 wrote
on May 28, 2013 3:12 AM

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panpan2523 wrote
on May 28, 2013 3:13 AM

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becf wrote
on May 30, 2013 12:54 AM

wow i'm inspired to make unmatching earrings. i always used to wear a long dangly earring & a diamond stud given to me by my beloved (it was the one he wore for 20 years-he wasn't just cheap). Funny actually he always used to say I should make jewellery I only did cross-stitch at the time. wonder where he is now I threw the diamond off a bridge.

as for earrrings for beginners i would say beadweaving earrings is a much more manageable task than a whole bead-woven necklace or bracelet and it gives you confidence when it works. triangle stitch is pretty easy and a triangle stitched wheel hung with 2 crystals beneath (i like a bicone &rondelle) gets noticed.

on May 30, 2013 12:05 PM

I love to make earrings, since I do not have pierced ears and consequently have a hard time finding the kind of earrings I like to wear, in clip-on version. (My earring motto is: If they can't double as Xmas ornaments or fishing lures, why bother?) To get started, browse some beadworking magazines for different techniques and make notes of ones you want to try. When you make a necklace or bracelet, set aside one or two pairs of the beads for future earring use. Chain links make great components, too. I love to have customers give me a necklace or bracelet and ask me to make earrings to go with it. I'm currently figuring out how to do asymmetrical designs.... it's a challenge for me!