Learn more about the ancient craft of wire wrapping and weaving
Wire wrapped jewellery is one of the oldest jewellery making techniques in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s a thing of the past. Its timeless quality and straightforward process continue to keep this technique popular – explore wire wrapped jewellery on Folksy.
As part of our Exploring Techniques series, we’re delving a little deeper into the process of wire wrapping, with tips on how to get started and advice from an array of our own talented Folksy jewellers.
What is wire wrapped jewellery?
Essentially, wire wrapped jewellery is jewellery that has been created either by wrapping wire around itself or around other elements (cabochons, gemstones, crystals or beads).
It’s crafted using metal wire, which is bent, twisted and manipulated into shape, rather than being soldered or moulded. The wire can be wrapped around objects to secure them in place, but it can also be a decorative design element in itself.
There are many different wire wrapping and weaving techniques, such as figure-of-eight weave and filigree or herringbone wrapping. In this respect, learning to make wire wrapped jewellery is similar to learning to knit, crochet, stitch or weave – in fact, Dee from Oruki Design describes it as “a bit like sewing with metal” (read our interview with Dee here).
Because the tools needed for wire-wrapping are relatively few and inexpensive, wire wrapping is a great technique if you’re just starting your jewellery-making journey.
Wire wrapped jewellery throughout history
Wire jewellery has been around for millennia. Historians agree that it’s been a feature of human civilisation since the Mesopotamian Ur Dynasty around 4,300 years ago and certainly since the Ancient Egyptian times.
Gold, silver and copper were most commonly used to make wire jewellery because they were easy to hammer into thin sheets, then cut into strips and roll into tubes to form the wire. Even without the luxury of electricity and modern technology, ancient civilisations were able to create beautiful work entirely by hand, to be excavated by archaeologists centuries later.
Over the following millennia, wire wrapping made little progress as a process, and is rarely recorded up until the early to mid 20th Century, when artists Alexander Calder (who claimed to “think best in wire”) and Ruth Asawa (inspired by traditional crochet techniques of Mexican basket makers) introduced the art world to the versatility of wire and its ability to mimic the drawn line in their sculptures.
More recently, the emergence of online selling platforms like Folksy has enabled more people to try making and selling craft. As a technique that is easily accessible and doesn’t require huge investment in terms of materials, tools or space, wire wrapping has consequently grown in popularity.
How can wire wrapping be used?
As wire wrapping is so versatile, it can be used to create all sorts of different effects. Wire wrapping can be used to encapsulate small objects such as gemstones, sea glass, broken pottery and crystals. The only limit to what you can wrap is the weight of the object and how easily the wire can hold it.
You can also create pieces entirely made of wire. There are lots of different wires to choose from, with different weights and characteristics. It’s worth experimenting with different types of wire to see which you prefer to work with – some are more pliable than others and it also depends on the finish you prefer.
If you’re a beginner, try starting with one of these wire wrapped jewellery kits.
” Living on the Scottish coast, I’ve become an enthusiastic beachcomber and soon acquired a beautiful collection of sea glass, along with fragments of antique beach china. I create work using sea glass found on beautiful Fife beaches. Much of the glass dates back to the Victorian era and is known as ‘mermaid tears’. When sailors were lost at sea, the mermaids would cry and their tears would wash up on the shore.”East Neuk Beach Crafts
Wire wrapped jewellery ideas
Wire wrapping can be used to create beautiful wire earrings, pendant necklaces or intricate bracelets and bangles, encapsulating gemstones and other treasures, or using wire alone to create shapes and patterns ranging from simple swirls to complex knotted designs.
Wire wrapped earrings usually feature ear-wire findings such as the ‘Shepherds Crook’ or ‘Marquise’ variations, rather than a stud backing, as wire can easily be looped into the findings, whereas stud backings would have to be soldered.
“For anyone wanting to start wire wrapping I would say get yourself some copper wire, which is easy to work with, and some good tools. Be prepared to spend an awful lot of time practising different weaving patterns.”Rhiannon Rose Jewellery on Folksy
Rings can also be crafted using the wire wrapping technique. Wrapping wire to create a ring requires plenty of patience and a steady hand. Remember to measure the ring size and make sure it fits – you won’t be able to resize it once you’ve wrapped all the wire into the ring shape. Gemstones held in place by wire finish off any ring perfectly.
Make your own piece of wire-wrapped jewellery
Make your own piece of wire-wrapped jewellery with this tutorial by Dee from Oruki Design >> https://blog.folksy.com/2021/04/15/wire-wrapped-pendant-tutorial
Or to make your own pair of simple scroll earrings using eco-friendly silver wire, follow this tutorial on Kernow Craft by Alix Leeds from The Little Red Hen on Folksy >> Simple Silver Wire Scroll Earrings Tutorial >
Why jewellers love wire wrapping
Intuitive, meditative, creative, versatile and low-tech – these are all words used to describe wire weaving. To understand more about what makes wire-wrapped jewellery such an interesting technique to work with, I asked our crafters on Folksy to tell me more about their methods and inspiration, and what it is they love about working with wire.
Anna King specialises in wedding and occasion jewellery for lovers of colour. Her practice extends beyond wire wrapping but she still enjoys this technique to create statement pieces.
“The draw of wire wrapping is its low-tech nature – you don’t need any fancy tools. I also appreciate that its fairly intuitive process, allowing you to relax, not think too much about the outcome and maybe watch a bit of TV at the same time.”
Gabriella Szekely‘s process involves creating pieces organically as she wraps, each piece is informed by the stone or object she chooses to wrap and the result is a unique wearable art piece.
“Wire wrapping is versatile. I can take anything and create it into a wearable piece – for example, I can use stones collected by me or my friends from beaches and turn them into pendants. Using wire allows for the ebb and flow of a design, and is usually informed by the object I am wrapping. I guess the fascination also comes from how my dad used to manipulate wrought iron to create furniture.”
Louise Stocker from East Neuk Beach Crafts makes wire-wrapped pendants and earring using fragments of sea glass and antique sea pottery that she collects from beaches on the east coast of Scotland.
“Wrapping pieces in wire allows me to create patterns and swirls that complement the shape and indentations of each piece individually, naturally creating a completely unique item of jewellery. The wire not only adds decoration, it allows me to create the loops to hang the chain or earring wires from and the structure to hold the whole item together!”
Denise Brett from Oruki Design has been wire wrapping and wire weaving for three years. She creates earrings, bracelets and pendants, as well as wind spinners and other garden decorations.
“Wire weaving is so versatile and it’s also really accessible. To get started you really only need some wire and maybe a few pairs of pliers, so you don’t need to invest in a lot of materials and tools. I particularly love Sarah Thompson’s style and I actually have one of her books: Fine Art Wire Weaving. I love the way she builds up layers in her designs while still having a really open feel and sense of movement.”
Find Oruki Design on Folksy >
Tammy Betson from Hare Today Gifts makes silver and copper spiral wire jewellery with specially selected semi-precious gemstones. Her signature pieces are plain silver spiral necklaces with matching earrings and bracelets made in three grades of silver.
“I think wire wrapped jewellery is a very unique style. I find my silver spirals very therapeutic to make – some people like knitting, I like twisting wire! I love it when I make a copper wire wrapped gemstone pendant that I have no real plan on how it will end up. It’s a very organic process.”
Rhiannon Rose uses wire wrapping to make earrings, pendants and bracelets. She finds inspiration in experimenting with different wire and bead combinations.
“I love making wire wrapped jewellery because there is something soothing and calming about the repetitive nature of the process. You can also start off with one idea, but find that it evolves – and you can usually rework something if it doesn’t quite work by adding more wire to support. You are really only limited to what you can imagine.”
Rachel Smith from Beads by Verchiel uses a wide variety of techniques in her jewellery making. Her wire wrapped gemstone ring kits can also be used to make pendants, earrings and even suncatchers.
“I don’t see any limitations to wire wrapping. I like to look at a piece and think ‘what else can I make using this technique?’ When I’m working with wire, I lose myself in whatever I’m making – it’s a lovely way to relax. I also work with Kumihimo (Japanese braiding), which is worth looking into if you want to explore different weaving techniques to bring to jewellery making.”
Top tips from our wire wrapped jewellery experts
- “It’s difficult to create very dainty pieces like you see in jewellery stores, tiny pendants, or tiny earrings. Use tutorials to help you and have a good set of wire cutters, you will be using it a lot. Practice, practice, practice to improve your craft. It’s okay to put a piece down and come back to it.” – Gabriella Szekely on Folksy.
- “For anyone wanting to start wire wrapping I would say get yourself some copper wire, which is easy to work with, and some good tools. Be prepared to spend lots of time practising different weaving patterns.” – Rhiannon Rose on Folksy.
- “Have good eyesight and strong fingers (it’s not for anyone who suffers from arthritis!). A good set of pliers will help. Keep things simple to start with – don’t over complicate wraps.” – Tammy, Hare Today Gifts on Folksy.
- “If your wire weaving doesn’t look great to begin with, don’t feel disheartened. Practice makes perfect! Also, although patterns state which gauge wires to use, don’t be frightened to experiment and mix them up a bit. If your work is going out of shape, try a thicker wire that will give you more stability.” – Rachel, Beads by Verchiel on Folksy.
- “Wire can be quite unforgiving, especially very fine weaving wire – once bent it can be tricky to get straightened out again without hardening and you run the risk of it breaking. If you spot a kink forming, stop and fix it! Other than that, just have fun – once you have the basics down, then there’s really no right or wrong way to do it!” – Denise, Oruki Design on Folksy.
- “I would advise newcomers not to be too rigid or precious about their final products, as the design can often develop during the process itself. Perhaps start with cheaper metals, have a play and don’t worry about the failures but keep them as a learning tool.” – Anna King Jewellery on Folksy.
I hope that you learnt a lot from this blog post and it’s inspired you to give wire wrapping a try or, if you’re a wire-wrapper already, hopefully it’s sparked some new ideas.
Please do leave a comment to let me know what you enjoyed about this exploration into the wire wrapping process. A huge thank you to all the fabulous makers who helped lend their expertise and insight.