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Jewelry Design – Not Just A Visual Feast

Jewelry design is, like all other types of design, the designers way of expressing something affecting them at the moment of creation. It is also an important part of the physical properties of the jewelry, like how it will behave when you wear it.

2008 AGTA - 1st Place Evening Wear

The first part of jewelry design is individual and can be expressed in several ways, like with color, texture, rhythm and shape to mention some. The second falls under more strict rules like weight, balance and materials used etc.

The first phase of learning jewelry design, is to learn from others with more experience. That is why we love tutorials. Tutorials are gold worth when it comes to learn the technical parts of jewelry design, but also to trigger your creativity. When a new technique is mastered, you start to experiment with it to create something special, something unique. You start to design your own jewelry.

With the individual elements of jewelry design you have no rules or boundaries to what you can do or cannot do. But before we take a look at them, let's see what have to be right regarding the physical properties of jewelry desing. How to make a functional piece of jewelry.

A piece of jewelry must be comfortable to wear. If it is not, it will likely be worn very seldom or not at all. So, there are a few things to consider regarding how you make it and from what.

Lots of people have allergies against metals, mainly Nickle. Nickle is used in the process of plating metals. Using plated metal in your jewelry design is a cheaper option to achieve the same visual beauty as you would with precious metals, but may cause problems for people who wear them. If you use it and sell your jewelry, it may be a good idea to make your buyers aware of this.

Sharp objects:
Wire endings, can sometimes prick your skin, if they are not filed or tucked in properly. Beads with bumps on them, like some lampwork beads, can be unpleasant to wear over time. Wire crimps can also be very sharp to the skin, if not covered with a crimp cover or crimped into a ball. So can short stubs of beading wire. Jump rings or wire that is marred by your tools, can prick your skin if not filed smooth. It may be a good idea to wear the jewelry yourself for a while, to make sure that there are no irregularities that may make it unpleasant to wear.


Weight and balance:
The weight of the beads used in a jewelry design has a lot to say about how it will drape it self around your neck and wrist or hang in your ears. If you have a very heavy focal it may pull the necklace into a V-shape, or pull the whole piece forwards and down. The same is if you have a light necklace and a heavy clasp. It will then pull the jewelry tight against your throat. A bracelet with a heavy focal point and a light clasp, may cause it to turn and have the clasp on top of the wrist instead of the focal point.

Gravity works on everything, and with jewelry design there is no exception. If the weight of the jewelry is placed wrongly, it will pull the jewelry out of the intended shape or drape. If your earrings are too heavy, they may pull the ear wire or stud out of your ear, unless you counter balance them. Making the embellishment on a ring bigger than the shank may cause it to topple over. Heavy beads on a thin chain or wire, may cause them to cut unpleasantly into the skin.

Balanced weight in a piece of jewelry can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical means that the two halves of the necklace are of equal weight, which will cause it to drape evenly around your neck.

If it is asymmetrical, the halves are different. You can however create symmetrical weight balance in a asymmetrical jewelry design, by substituting one heavy bead on one side, with two lighter ones on the other side. The weight is then equal on both sides, although the design is asymmetrical. This principle applies to both front/back and right/left side of the jewelry. So you see, balance in weight is not the same as balance in visual appearance.

When it comes to a piece of jewelry's functionality, how it is to put on and take off, is very important. Bracelets can sometimes be hard to put on by yourself. Handling the small clasp and attach it to the other end of the bracelet can be a frustrating business. If you don’t have someone to help you, the result may be that you choose to leave it in your jewelry box.

Elastic bracelets are bliss. You simply just slide them over your hand and they stay in place. So choosing that as an option when you make bracelets may be a good idea. But sometimes you create something that cannot be made elastic. Using a magnetic clasp takes care of the problem, but then you have the danger of losing it, if it is pulled. Adding a safety chain will keep it on your wrist, but then you have this small clasp again which is just impossible to handle with just one hand.

There is of course a solution. I read this in Bead & Button magazine, and found it so useful, that I want to bring it on to you. All you have to do is to string a piece of tread through the ring you shall fasten the clasp to. Hold the thread inside the hand on the arm you will wear the bracelet. This will keep that end of the bracelet in place, and you can easily fasten the clasp with your other hand. When done, just remove the thread.

The clasp can be a beautiful element in jewelry design, but it has to be functional as well.

I remember creating a beautiful bracelet with a very artistically created toggle clasp. A few days after I sold it I got it in return because the clasp was impossible to handle with only one hand. This woman lived alone, and had no one to help her put it on. Sadly that was before I read about the solution in Bead & Button. So the functionality of the clasp is very important, especially when it comes to bracelets.

Lisa carlson jewelry design

Elements used:
With elements I mean the beads, metal and other stuff you use to create the jewelry. When you choose them, be aware of what kind of jewelry you are going to make. Is it going to be something that can be worn every day for every occasion, or something more exclusive used for evenings out or special occasions only?

Gemstones have different hardness, and some are more porous or will chip easier than others. In a jewelry design meant for everyday use, they are not the best choice. Find out all there is about a gemstone before you use it in a jewelry design. Will it loose its color, can it be cleaned, will it chip easily? Many gemstones are enhanced, but some of these enhancements are not permanent and may wear off with time.

What kind of metals will you use? It may for instance not be a good idea to use silver beads in a bead embroidered collar, since silver tarnish with time. The beads will then alter the glamor of the collar, since there is no way you can clean them. Also, using less expensive plated gold or silver with other more expensive elements may look nice while new, but will ruin the jewelry when the plating wears off. If you plan on making cheaper everyday jewelry that is easily disposable, plated metal may be fine to use. If you use glass pearls, the pearl coating will wear off with use, just like with plated metals.
So, decide what kind of jewelry you will make, and then choose the elements, or the other way around, use the elements you have to decide what you will make, either way, be consistent.

The size of jewelry depends on who it is meant for. The diameter of the neckline in a necklace that fits you, may not fit someone else. This naturally cause some concerns when designing jewelry for sale. Which size shall you use? This mostly applies to necklaces that are meant to have a tighter fit around your neck or a bracelet around your wrist, but also to finger rings.

I love making beaded collars, and used a standard size as diameter of the neckline on the first ones I made. I am very petit, and they therefor became too big for me. The weight of the beads on the front pulled the collar downwards in the front, making it look all wrong. Later I have started to make them narrower, so that I can use them myself. They fit me, but will they fit others? This really creates a dilemma if I will later put them out for sale.

So, what do you do? One solution is to make the closure of the jewelry adjustable with, for example, a chain. Another one is to change the clasp to a bigger or smaller one. On my beaded collars I have, for instance, sometimes changed the clasp to a beaded toggle clasp which gives a few cm extra length on each side.

When making jewelry, it may be a good idea to always keep a few extra beads and other elements used, in case you need to alter the length of the jewelry. I have began to do that, and keep them until the jewelry is sold or until I take it apart again to reuse the elements for another piece of jewelry.

Also, if you design jewelry for a particular person, take into consideration how that persons physical appearance is, like height, weight and so on. A small, thin necklace may look very odd on a big person, while large, bold jewelry may be all wrong for a small one.

Polymer clay ring

Have you ever had a ring or a bracelet that was beautifully visually designed, but got stuck on everything you touched? Or a necklace that constantly moved around so you got the clasp everywhere around your neck? The way the jewelry behaves when you wear it decides whether it will be worn or not. It can be so beautifully designed visually, but just impossible to wear without tons of irritation.

When you buy jewelry you do not always have the opportunity to try out how functional it is, but if you make jewelry, you MUST make it functional, or the buyer will never come back for more of your jewelry. So, test it out, wear it for a while and adjust until you know exactly how it will behave. Make sure that it is comfortable, stays in place and look good. And then, only then, put it out for sale.

Creating functional jewelry comes with practice and failure. Creating stunning jewelry comes with practice, failure and creativity. And remember: Wouldn't the world be a boring place if everything was perfect from the start. If there was no trying, failing and learning. If there was nothing left to learn? Experimenting is good, so is pushing limits, daring to try new things. But make your jewelry designs functional as well as unique and interesting.

Now let's move on to the more visual and individual parts of jewelry design. The fun part, where you can go wild and daring, challenging and creative. Jewelry Design - Creating With Your Heart

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