Making Basic Earrings

The short answer is: because it’s so easy!

Let me tell you a story. Back in 1992 when Caravan Beads was still a very young business, most of the customers who came in were clueless. (We owners were also clueless, but had practiced enough beading so that we could make jewelry that looked nice and held together and this gave us confidence to help other beginners.) These first-time customers entered the store, looked around with expressions that varied from puzzled to bewildered, and asked “What do you do here?”

And we’d reply, “We help folks make their own jewelry.”

“Really!” they would say. Or sometimes: “Really?” We could tell they had doubts. After some trialing and erroring, we figured out that earrings were a great place to start. Mostly these curious potential customers were women with pierced ears: prime candidates to take up beading—they just didn’t know it yet.

“Let me show you how easy it is. Follow me.” This became our standard line. We’d introduce the customer to headpins, help them select earwires, ask them their favorite color, and before you could turn around three times and sing Yankee Doodle, they’d be holding a finished pair of earrings.

“That’s amazing! It’s so easy!” Huge smile, sparkling eyes, another bead addict born and ready to shop for beads.

Now it’s 2009, seventeen years later, and guess what? New beaders are still coming into our store and we’re still helping them get started. “You’ll show us how? We can use your worktable? That’s great!” Or the ones whose friends drag them through the door saying: “You’re going to love it, I promise!”

Now I’ve put this entry in the beginner’s corner of this blog, so just in case you have not yet had the pleasure of visiting a bead store—which means you have a great adventure in your future!—let me build a simple earring right now.

I’ll need these tools:
  • Round nose pliers
  • Cutters
Round Nose Pliers
Wire Cutters
And these supplies:
  • An earwire
  • A headpin
  • Beads
Earring findings

In its simplest form a headpin is a straight wire with a small flattened bit at one end, like the head of a very small nail (#1 in the image above). They can also end in balls (#2) or be quite fancy like the swirly headpins (#3). There are lots of other variations not only in headpin styles but also in earwires; three are shown in the photo. In each case the ‘head’ of the headpin keeps the beads in place.

  1. Choose beads and stack them on the headpin.
  2. Bend the earwire at a right angle above the beads and trim it with the cutters.
  3. Make a loop with the roundnose pliers.
  4. Slip the earwire onto the loop and close the loop.
  5. Admire your handiwork!
Beads on a headpin Simple loop step one Cutting excess headpin wire
(1)Stack the beads. (2)Bend the wire. (2b)Trim the wire.
Round nose pliers making loop Finished simple loop Opening earwire Finished simple loop earring
(3)Grab the tip of the wire with the roundnose pliers and roll a nice loop. (3b)The finished loop. Practice makes perfect. Your first loops probably won’t be perfect. Save your scrap wires to practice with! (4)Open the loop of the earwire. Do this by pulling or pushing the end of the loop perpendicular to the plane of the earwire. (Don’t worry; the bead store folks will show you!) Slip on the earwire and close the loop back up so the earwire can’t fall off. (And so the earring can’t fall off either…)

Et voila! A finished earring made with a sterling silver headpin, earwire, and spacers, and three sizes of Swarovski crystal cubes for some classy sparkle! Good job!

I have nothing against mail order catalogs, but do you know how much you save when you make your own jewelry?

Some closing notes for new beaders. The earrings shown above are the easiest kind to make. There are innumerable variations but it’s not a bad idea to start simple, especially if you don’t have someone to help you. Once you learn how to make proper loops—and it’s not hard; you just need practice—the sky’s the limit. In another post I’ll show how to make wrapped loops which can also be used for making linked bracelets, necklace dangles, and more. Fun!

Thanks for reading!

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