jewelry making guide

Before you begin making jewelry or beading projects, gather some basic tools and supplies and become familiar with recommended lengths for necklaces, bracelets, and more. Consider how to personalize your bead work by using birthstones (precious or semiprecious) or their crystal equivalents. And when you need help — with design inspiration, supply sources, or technique — take advantage of the rich online resources created by other jewelry-making fans.

Basic Supplies for Making Jewelry and Beading Projects

With just a few basic tools for making jewelry and beading projects, you can create items that are wildly artistic, classically elegant, or something in-between. Whatever your style, these are your must-have jewelry and beading tools and accessories:

  • Wire cutters
  • Round-nose pliers
  • Flat-nose pliers
  • Crimping tool (crimp pliers)
  • Bead organizer with a variety of glass beads
  • Beading cord or thread
  • Memory wire
  • Big-eye beading needle
  • Assorted earwires
  • Assorted clasps
  • Assorted headpins and eyepins
  • Crimp beads
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Strong adhesive, like E-6000

Making Jewelry: Standard Lengths for Necklaces, Bracelets, and Anklets

When you put a lot of time into making a standout piece of jewelry, you don’t want to end up with a necklace that’s too long or a bracelet that will fall off. Use these recommended lengths when making a necklace, choker, bracelet, or anklet.

Whenever possible, take measurements before crafting pieces for friends, family members, or customers so you can be confident that the masterpiece you create will fit perfectly:

Project TypeWomenMenPlus sizesKidsBaby
Necklace17″–35+”20″18″–36″12″–14″10″–12″
Choker14″–16″18″17″–19″8″–10″n/a
Bracelet7″–7 1/2″8″–11″8″5 1/2″–6 1/2″3 1/2″–5″
Anklet9″–9 1/2″11″–14″10″–10 1/2″7″–8″4″–4 1/2″

And if necklaces are your specialty, check out this image, which specifies the names assigned to various necklace lengths.

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Choosing the Right Birthstones for Making Jewelry

Want to make a jewelry gift more personal? Add the birthstone (or crystal alternative) for the person to whom you’re giving the gift. Here are the months and corresponding birthstones:

MonthPrecious StoneSemiprecious StoneCrystal Alternative (Stone Color)
JanuaryGarnetRose quartzSiam, garnet, or rose (deep to light red)
FebruaryAmethystOnyxAmethyst or jet (light purple or black)
MarchAquamarineRed jasperAquamarine (very pale blue)
AprilDiamondRock crystalCrystal AB (clear)
MayEmeraldChrysopraseEmerald (dark green)
JuneMoonstonePearlLight topaz, smoky topaz, or light tan or pearl
JulyRubyCarnelianSiam or garnet (rich deep red)
AugustPeridotAventurinePeridot (light green)
SeptemberSapphireLapis lazuliSapphire or Montana sapphire (dark blue)
OctoberTourmalineOpalSmoky topaz (dark tan-purple)
NovemberCitrineTopazTopaz or Colorado topaz (tan)
DecemberZirconTurquoiseLight sapphire or topaz (light blue or orange-red)

Must-Visit Websites for Jewelry Makers

The Internet provides a way for you to get inspiration, research techniques, and source supplies that may not be readily available in your area. Here are some great websites for getting instantly inspired to sit down and create beautiful accessories:

  • Pinterest This social media website allows users to curate content, or create virtual, visual pin boards of things that inspire, amuse, or delight them. Users pin images of jewelry pieces, outfits, works of art, recipes, home décor items, and more. When you click on a picture, the link should take you to the original website that posted the image. Often you can find the details about how to make or where to buy the item in the picture. You can conduct a search for something as general as “rings” or as specific as “DIY wire-wrapped rings” to find the inspiration you’re looking for. Sign up for a free account, and start pinning! You can set up the Pin It button to work with your Internet browser so you can pin things to your Pinterest boards from just about any other site online.
  • Etsy This is a terrific site for the beginning or advanced jewelry maker. You may recognize it as an online marketplace for handmade goods, and it certainly is that. However, it’s also a great place to purchase hard-to-find or unique supplies and find jewelry-making tutorials. Look here to get daily inspiration from the thousands of shops selling handmade goods all over the world. And if you see something you like, you can Pin It to your Pinterest board so you can find it again later.
  • Fire Mountain Gems and Beads Fire Mountain Gems and Beads is one of the largest sellers of jewelry-making supplies in the world. In addition to its huge online catalog, its website includes free tutorials, a design gallery with full supply lists and instructions, and a database of frequently asked jewelry-making questions.
  • YouTube You probably already know that this video-sharing website allows users to upload videos and share them with the world. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just a repository of clips of cats playing the piano, irritating animated citrus fruits, or misguided stunt falls. Jewelry makers have uploaded thousands of videos on every jewelry-making technique imaginable. This site can be a good place to start if you’re looking for free video tutorials. But remember, some are high quality and others are low quality. If you watch a tutorial you like, look to see if the creator has a YouTube channel you can subscribe to so you’ll be the first to know when that person posts a new video.
  • Jewelry Making at About.com This website is a helpful, free resource for jewelry makers of all abilities and experience. On the site, you can find product reviews and easy tutorials. You can also sign up for free e-courses that come to you in a series of e-mails on more complicated techniques like using metal clay to create custom jewelry components.

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