Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Share: Ear wires...with a twist!

With the AJE Earring Challenge in full swing, I decided to post about ear wires.  As artists, we work hard to create beautiful designs. After coming up with a unique design, putting in time and effort to execute an intricate and artistic pair of earrings, why not finish them with your own ear wires!

There are many great, free ear wire tutorials out there...I will link to a few at the end of the post.  Today,though, I wanted to share my own take on basic ear wires and show you a technique and some additional options for making them unique and a cohesive part of your design, rather than a stagnant required component that is just added at the end!

I prefer using sterling wire exclusively for earrings that I sell or gift.  I realize there are viable and beautiful options, but sterling just seems right for me ;)

Materials needed:
20 gauge sterling wire, half hard - 4 inches
Round nose pliers
Bail-making pliers, or sharpie pen
Planishing hammer
steel block or anvil
flush cutters
26-24 gauge dead soft wire, 2-3 inches (optional)

  • Start by cutting 2 2-inch pieces of 20g half-hard wire.  File both ends to get rid on any burs. 
  • Hammer the tip of the wire to flatten and harden. 
  • Grasp the flattened tip with your round nose pliers and create a loop. 
  • Position your bail-making pliers or sharpie/pen right against the underside of the loop and rap the wire around.  You may have to re-position to go all the way around.  

  • Make a small bend about a ¼ inch from the end of the remaining tail.
  • Hammer the curve gently to work harden.
These are now ready to use...gently open the loop to the side, attach your earring component and close back to position....just like closing jump rings, move it back and forth to work harden and position as close to the back wire as possible.

Now, if you want to take the extra step and make the earwires a cohesive part of your design, you can embellish them in lots of ways.  

Use your scraps of 24-26g dead soft wire and wrap the neck of the earwire as shown. I like to use copper, especially if the overall design is copper.  Often, I add a small bead then attach the wire on one side of the bead, wrap a few times, then wrap over the bead, and wrap an equal number of times on that side.  Always press the ends firmly against the earwire so they don't snag.  File to smooth.

Other options include balling one end of the wire in your torch before making the loop. Sometimes I hammer the ball to flatten it.  Another style I use sometimes is to make the intial loop, then create a 2nd larger loop.  Once you get the hang of it, the possibilities abound.  Change up the shape by using different sized/shaped mandrels, etc!

One of my favorite sources for other styles of earwires and other lovely unique components is Handcrafted Wire Findings by Denise Peck and Jane Dickerson.  I used their instructions to create these kidney ear wires.

As I mentioned before, there are many other free earwire tutorials out there...something for everyone!  Here are a few of my favorites...

from Deryn Mentock
from Jewelry Making Daily - make perfectly matched pairs!
from McFarland Designs - these are fun!
from our own Joanne Tinley!

I like to sit down with a bunch of wire and just have an ear wire making session, rather than 1 pair at a time...practice, practice, practice!  Now, go on...go make some earwires!

Melissa Meman
Melismatic Art Jewelry
Art. Life. Love.


  1. Terrific post, Melissa! And I so agree with you - if we're going to put all that effort into designing and making a gorgeous pair of earrings, putting them on handmade ear wires is the perfect finishing touch. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Thanks for this post Melissa! I"m going to try it this weekend! It sure adds a nice finishing touch :)

  3. Yay! Thank you for stirring up my imagination, I'm giving it a shot this weekend as well.

  4. Thanks for sharing the tutorial and all extra variations, I've never made my own earwires but this sounds like a good way to make my jewelry special.

  5. Thank you for a great tutorial! Looking forward to trying this out.

  6. I often make my own, but these are extra-special! Thanks for sharing and getting me thinking about what else could be done to dress up my earwires!

  7. I love seeing your beautiful wirework, and I had to giggle when i saw that pic of the earrings, because they are the ones I won from you! And I wear them....a LOT!

  8. Nice post Melissa, I love handmade earwires although I don't often make them and your little embelishments are wonderful!! Trying to do more of that myself as well.

  9. Lovely earrings - I must agree there is nothing like a neat pair of handmade ear wires, like there is nothing like a neat handmade clasp :) The little embellishment (made with copper only) is adorable!

  10. Thanks for the great tutorial. I have a bunch of commercial sterling ear wires in my stash, but I bet I can embellish them with some of your ideas, as well as making some of my own.

  11. Thank you for this tutorial. I have to learn to make beautiful and clean wire wrapped pieces. I tend to bruise the wire - it doesnt look clean at all so I end up hammering the entire wire. haha.

  12. Thanks Melissa, I never thought about adding a bit of the wire that is in the earrings to the sterling earwires to tie them in.

  13. You make it look so easy!! I was almost ready to try! Almost LOL


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