Jewelry Making Tools: An Introduction

Jewelry making is a great way to tap into your creative side. Learn what jewelry making tools you’ll need to get started.

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Jewelry making is a great way to tap into your creative side. As a bonus, you'll also have something cool and original to wear. Don't like what you see in stores? Make what you do like. Wear it, make it for others, or sell it. However, before you start, you'll need the right jewelry making tools. Here you'll find a list of the basics.
zircon brooch - jewelry making tools
Zircon brooch. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Some tools you'll have to buy. Others you could potentially make. The links in the lists for specific jewelry making tools below will take you to articles that explain their use in depth.

A lack of proper tools won't inhibit your creativity. However, it may cause problems when you try to construct your designs. In the long run, spending money on cheap tools will just lead to frustration. Look for well-made tools — not necessarily the top-of-the-line, but as close as you can afford. Take the time to choose your tools carefully. Even if you never use them for making jewelry again, many of these tools have other uses.

Basic Jewelry Making Tools

  • Pliers
  • Magnifying visor(for working under magnification)
  • Prong pusher, burnisher, bezel roller (for setting stones)
  • Metal stamps (SS, .999, sterling, karat, etc, for marking jewelry)
  • Needle files
  • Saw frame , blades, and beeswax
  • Hammers
  • Bench
  • Bench pin
  • Sandpaper
  • Flex shaft
  • Wire cutters
  • Ring mandrel (for making rings to size or measuring existing rings)
  • Ring gauges (for measuring fingers for ring size)
  • Calipers
  • Ring clamp
  • Metal ruler, scribe, compass, and dividers (for layout, designing, and measuring)
  • Hand drill and small drill bits (for drilling)
  • Containers (for holding filings and scrap)

Tools for Soldering

If you want to get a little more advanced, you could turn up the heat and try soldering.

  • Torches
  • Pickle
  • Pickle pot
  • Flux
  • Flux brush (for applying flux, a small model paint brush works just fine)
  • Tongs
  • Soldering surfaces
  • Third hand
  • Solder pick
  • Solder
  • Yellow ocher (stops solder from flowing in a previous joint)
  • Straight and T pins (forholding parts in place during soldering)
  • Binding wire (for holding pieces together while soldering)
  • Tweezers (for locking onto and picking up small pieces and hot metal)
  • Shears (for cutting sheet metal and large parts)

Safety First

When you start making jewelry, you'll be working with chemicals, sharp cutting edges, and heat. Soldering temperatures for silver range from 1,325º to 1,490º F (718º to 810º C ). Take your time and familiarize yourself with the tools, materials, and procedures you'll be using. If you feel uncomfortable with a tool or procedure, research it first and ask questions.

At a minimum, you'll need:

  • Safety goggles
  • Metalsmith or leather apron
  • Fire extinguisher

It's very easy to get lost in the joy of creating a jewelry piece and start rushing through the procedure. That's usually the easiest time to get burned or cut. If nothing else, taking your time might keep you from making errors and having to restart your project. Please work safely.

Jewelry Making Tools and Metalsmithing

The key skill required for jewelry making is metalsmithing. A good reference book for this is The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight. The text and drawings are clear and easy to understand. It's divided into eight major sections: materials, surfaces, shaping, joining, casting, stones, mechanisms, and tools. The quotations and reference section are great.

Precious Metals

One thing you'll need to start that's not a tool is metal. Silver and gold are available in sheets of different thickness as well as round, square, triangular, and oval wire in different gauges, patterned wire, and patterned bezel material. (Made from 0.999 pure silver, silver bezel is very soft. This makes it easy to push it over a gemstone).

Try making your first project with sterling silver. It's less expensive than gold.

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