Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How to avoid slipping crimps & run-away wires

The dreaded broken bracelet. I was shopping out of town this summer and was in a cute, trendy clothing shop - the kind I would love my designs to be sold out of - when disaster struck. My beaded watch broke and beads went rolling everywhere. As the salesgirl helped me pick up beads, all I could think was, "thank goodness I'm out of town where they don't know I made this watch!". What did that say about my quality?? It was very embarrassing. In my defense, this was the first watch I had ever made for myself back in 2006 - before I had ever imagined I'd sell my jewelry designs! As I was rebuilding it, I reflected on all the things I do now to ensure quality. I've learned quite a bit in the three years I've been creating.

Six Things to Look for in Quality Handcrafted Jewelry
(How to Make Your Jewelry Stand the Test of Time)

#1 - Use quality nylon covered stainless steel wire. The more strands in the wire, the better flexibility. (I cringe thinking about the cheap wire used in my first few creations...)

#2 - Use good quality specialized beading tools. I had used a set of needle nosed pliers back then to close the crimps. I wonder why they took so long to slip!? Specialized crimp pliers are a must for solid crimps.

#3 - In order to avoid a slipping crimp or a pulled out wire, add a small seed
bead beside your crimp. The seed bead takes pressure instead of the crimp if the wire is pulled sideways. This avoids accidentally opening a crimp by pulling on the wire loop. A crimp is metal & will wear the wire out eventually if the wire is twisted often on the end of it. This occurs most often on bracelets or watches. A smooth seed bead is less likely to tear the nylon on the outside or wear down the stainless steel wires inside. I actually have started to put a clear or matching seed bead on both sides of my crimps for added security. Remember, using metal beads, even high quality sterling beads, can wear the wire as much as a crimp. Seed beads are smooth both on the inside and out.

#4 - Use wire guardians. These are small wires that go on the inside of the loop where we often attach a connection ring or clasp. The wire guardian keeps the wire protected from wearing against the metal of the connection ring. It also makes the wire wider and less likely to escape that wee gap that occurs in connecting rings from time to time.

#5 - Work harden your 0-rings by twisting them back and forth 5-6 times when putting them on, or hit them with a rubber hammer before putting them in your design. This ensures that the rings are less likely to open up if pulled. Make sure the ends touch. You should not see a gap when they are closed. You should feel a click when they come together. Sometimes it's necessary to file the ends so that they fit together more seamlessly. Here is a good youtube video on how to open & close 0-rings properly - (Thank you to elanaadamsdesigns).

#6 - Use crimp covers. Not only do these look more professional, (like another bead), they sometimes can stop clothing or other things from catching on a crimp and opening them up.

These extras are more costly, but in the long run, you will do many less repairs on your jewelry over the years. Customers appreciate jewelry that lasts & a designer who stands behind their work. Look for these extras if you are a buyer of handcrafted jewelry.

I will be taking all of these precautions on future creations. Maybe my rebuilt watch will last much more than three years as a result!

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