What’s your tolerance for risk? I tend to take a different (arguably a riskier) approach to feature focal beads in my wirework. In more typical wire-wrapped jewelry, the stones tend to be less of a focal point and more of an accent in the design. But I really love clean lines. I prefer my wirework to be more of an accent than the main feature. And I can hardly stand to cover even just the edges of a beautiful gemstone bead. So I frequently suspend my focal beads within wire woven frames using just my weaving wire.
If you’re familiar with Door 44 jewelry, you’ve probably already noticed that several of my designs, including the Chalice Earrings, Chalice Necklace, New Moon Pendant, and the Egyptian Sun Pendant, involve suspending beads seamlessly within a wire woven frame.
Using the weaving wire to suspend beads works reliably when using copper wire. It allows me to create a seamless weave that makes the bead seem to float freely within the frame. Yet it still securely supports the bead in most cases. When working with silver wire or heavy gemstone focal beads, however, I do recommend the alternate method to suspend focal beads that I’m about to explain in this tutorial.
For best results, use this technique whenever you create one of my designs using silver wire. This is especially important if you choose fine silver wire for weaving. Even when using copper wire though, I still recommend this technique if you have the slightest concern that your weaving wire won’t support your bead(s) over time.
Copyright & Disclosure
This tutorial covers a very specific wirework technique that can be applied to many different wire jewelry designs. In that sense, there is no design here to which I claim copyrights.
When it comes to my written tutorials, however, I reserve exclusive rights to all images and written content. You may not reproduce or redistribute any portion of this tutorial in any way, shape, or form. If you would like to share this technique as part of one of your own jewelry tutorials, you may do so only by linking directly to this page.
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Choosing Your Suspension Wire
If you use fine silver wire for weaving, choose half-hard sterling silver wire to suspend your focal bead. If you’re using copper wire, you may choose either dead-soft or half-hard wire for this method. Both work equally well, but dead-soft copper is always easier to work with. Especially in tight spaces.
Whether you use copper or silver wire, choose a wire gauge between 20ga and 26ga for your suspension wire. The specific gauge that you should use depends on two factors: 1) the weight of the bead you plan to suspend, and 2) the span of the bead frame in which you’re suspending the bead.
Always choose the heaviest gauge that works both physically and visually for your specific circumstances. Heavier gauges tend to be stronger, but lighter gauges will be less visually distracting. I find that 24ga wire works well for most of my needs. It’s both strong and unobtrusive when blended with 28ga weaving wire.
Alternate Method to Suspend Focal Beads
If you have any doubts at all that your weaving wire is strong enough to support the weight of your focal bead with two to four passes of weaving wire, you can use this alternate method to suspend your bead. Done well, this method maintains the seamless look of the weave while securing your focal bead with a heavier gauge wire.
I strongly recommend this method for silver jewelry where you’re using fine silver wire for weaving. Fine silver wire simply isn’t strong enough to support the weight of a gemstone bead. I learned that lesson the hard way, so I always use this alternate method to suspend my focal beads with sterling silver wire on the rare occasions that I make silver jewelry.
Weave the entire bead frame, as instructed in the original design tutorial, only without suspending the focal bead. Once your weave is finished, form your frame as instructed in the original tutorial.
Feed a straight piece of scrap wire through your focal bead(s). Place the bead(s) in the frame and use the scrap wire to determine where to pierce your weave. Mark all points on the bead frame where you’ll need to pierce the weave.
Use a sharp beading awl to pierce the weave between the two innermost core wires on both sides of the frame at the points you marked in Step 2.
Cut a piece of 24ga wire (or whichever gauge you decide works best for your unique circumstances) about 6 inches long. If you’re making a silver piece, be sure to use sterling silver wire to suspend your bead. Fine silver wire will not hold up over time.
Feed one end of your wire, front to back, through the hole you pierced on one side of the frame. Bring the short end of the wire from the back and secure with two wraps Trim the tail on the rear of the frame. Tuck in the cut end with chain nose pliers.
String your bead(s) onto the long end of the suspension wire. Then feed the end of the wire through the remaining hole on your bead frame. Again, from front to back.
Pull the suspension wire tight and make sure the beads are suspended neatly within the bead frame. Then secure the suspension wire with two tight wraps between the bead and the woven frame. Trim and tuck the tail on the back side of the frame.
If you have multiple focal beads within a single frame, repeat Steps 4 through 6 as many times as necessary. And that’s it! Your focal piece is now ready to finish.
Discover More Behind Door 44
Thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you find this technique for suspending focal beads in woven frames to be useful. As a reminder, this technique is suitable for my Chalice Earrings, Chalice Necklace, New Moon Pendant, and the Egyptian Sun Pendant.
Would you like more useful tips and techniques like this one?
I like to share useful wire weaving tips and tricks on my social media channels, and we have some great conversations about wire jewelry in my private Facebook Group. Also, be sure to connect with me @door44studios on Instagram, and Facebook to keep up with everything that’s happening behind Door 44. And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel where you’ll find new wire jewelry videos weekly.
Until next time, go make something beautiful!