Wire Wrapped Natural Stone Tutorial
Wire wrapping is a jewelry technique used to create dangling pendant designs with stones by encasing them in wire. Wire wraps are a great way to preserve the natural appearance of a stone without drilling holes through it, but they can be tricky to master, both in terms of making a wrap secure and in making it pleasing to the eye.
The choice of stones for your wire wraps depends mostly on personal taste, but there are useful factors to consider when trying to master the techniques. Bear in mind that the more irregularly shaped a stone is -- such as a rough stone rather than a tumbled one -- the easier it will be to wrap securely, since the wire will be more likely to catch on jagged parts or protruding nubs.
Likewise, it’s difficult to wrap very small stones, since it’s harder to get the wire to make such tight twists and bends. It’s also harder to work with very large or heavy stones, since they put more stress on the wire. Your thumb is literally a good "rule of thumb" for selecting the stone's size.
The type of wire you choose for your jewel cage depends both on the style of wrap you want to do and the color scheme you want to create. Craft wire comes in many different metals and colors, as well as in different thicknesses.
Be sure to get craft wire, beading wire, copper wire or any other type that is highly bendable. Avoid rigid wires such as memory wire, as these are designed to keep their shape and may snap if you try to shape them.
When choosing the thickness of your wire, the general rule is that the more strands of wire you use, the thinner it should be. Thicker wires work best for single-strand wraps that twist around a stone, while very thin wires are best if you want to weave multiple strands together and run them straight up the stone on different sides. Remember that, as the gauge number gets larger, the wire gets thinner.
Choose the color and metal based on what you think will go well with your stone. Sterling silver and gold-plated wires are always beautiful, but they can be a bit more costly. Copper wire is less expensive, but it works better with some stones than others. For example, copper is often associated with turquoise. You can also get colored craft wires, though these can be a bit challenging to coordinate with the colors of your stones. When in doubt, use colored wire with white or clear rocks.
Wire wrapping requires a good set of jewelry snips and pliers. You can get a set in the beading section of most craft stores, but make sure they include cutters and several kinds of pliers, including flat-nosed, which are good for straightening wire, and round-nosed, which make tiny curves and bends in wire easier. Silicone-coated pliers prevent nicking soft wires, too. Flat-cut snips cut the wire from a side angle, which allows you to get closer to the stone.
The best way to learn to wrap stones in wire is trial and error, because every stone and wrap will be different and trial and error will teach you how to compensate for the particular shape challenges of each piece. However, a few guidelines and wrapping patterns can help you get started.
One good beginning pattern is a spiral wrap. Use a thicker wire for this, and create a tight spiral of wire by holding the very tip of your pliers at one end of the wire and slowly turning the wire around the end. Press this spiral against the tip or corner of a stone you want to wrap, holding this end in place as you wrap the rest of the wire in a loose wrap, curling around and around the stone until you reach the other end. Make another, similar loop at the other end of the stone and cut the wire. Tighten the wrap by pressing the wire closer to the curves of the rock. If they’re too loose anywhere, tighten them by adding an extra twist into the wire with your pliers.
Another good beginning design is a two-strand “gift wrap” style. Cross two lengths of wire and wrap them from the bottom of the rock to the top, like wrapping ribbons on a gift box. Tighten the wrap by twisting the four strands together at the top.
You can use tiny dots of jewelry glue or quick-set epoxy to help hold the stone in place. Place the glue at points where the wire is touching the stone, especially at the top or bottom of the wrap.
- "Wire Wrapping: The Basic and Beyond" by Jim McIntosh; CreateSpace; 2007