Findings are basically everything in your jewelry that’s not a bead. They’re not necessarily the pretty parts, but they’re the necessary parts to jewelry making. They are the small “parts” used to assemble your pieces together.
We’ll start out with metals. It is very important to know what metal your findings are made of, not only for your own knowledge, but more importantly if you are planning to give your jewelry as gifts, or if you’re planning to sell your wares. People will ask, since approximately 30% of the population is allergic to nickel, which is found in a lot of jewelry making components.
Base metal findings can be made mostly of nickel or a brass mixture which can contain nickel. They’re usually plated with a silver or gold coating that can also contain nickel.
Surgical or Stainless Steel findings are dark grey in color and they can also contain small amounts of nickel.
Sterling Silver is 92.5% solid silver with an approximate 5% (+/-) nickel content. Although sterling does contain a small amount of nickel, it’s usually not enough to cause a reaction to someone who has a nickel allergy. In some cases, you will come across someone who cannot wear regular sterling, in which case you could search for NF Sterling, which stands for nickel free. There are also other silver colored alternatives that you could use such as fine silver (99.9% silver), Bali silver (sometimes a higher silver content than sterling), Thai silver (92.5-99% silver), or white gold findings.
Gold-Filled findings are made by heat and pressure bonding a layer of gold to a brass cone. It basically becomes a new compound when it is bonded and will not rub off like a plated metal might.
Copper and Brass findings have recently become readily available and very popular. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to work with because of their malleability. Some people have certain acids or chemicals in their bodies which react with these metals to create a dark marking on their skin.
An earring finding is the “part” that goes into your ear. They can be decorative, so I won’t say that they’re not a pretty part. They are what you attach your beads to. Below are the most popular styles of earring findings.
FRENCH WIRES – the most popular of all of the earring findings, very easy to put in, relatively inexpensive, dangly, discreet, rubber stoppers can be used to prevent the wires from slipping out
LEVERBACKS –the second most popular, very secure because of the clasping back, easy to put in,
BALL STUDS/POSTS –usually for lightweight or short earrings because they can tilt or fall out otherwise, the back part that pushes on is called an “ear nut”, sits up higher in your ear so the dangle hangs shorter
KIDNEY WIRES –usually seen on older jewelry because they’re hard to put in, some really like them because if it’s not easy going in, it’s not going to fall out very easily, made a fashion comeback recently in an oversized form used with a very short dangle or simple bead, relatively inexpensive
EAR THREADERS –usually box or small link chain at the end of a post that is threaded through your ear to desired length, a rubber stopper can be used to secure longer lengths, beads can sometimes be strung directly onto the ear threaders, or just a simple bead or short dangle to be dramatic, can be looped through multiple holes if ears are double pierced
HOOPS –can come pre-made but are very easy to create out of wire, beads are threaded directly onto the hoop, the wire is then bent with chain nose pliers to secure into the loop on the other side
CLIP-ONS –clips on the ear, can be adjusted to relieve the headache or so that you don’t lose them, women who have worn heavy earrings and have holes that sag may prefer these for heavier earrings because they are more comfortable, usually more expensive than other types of earring findings because there is more metal used in making them and a little bit more engineering as well
INTERCHANGEABLES- a subcategory of certain earring findings that allow you to interchange your dangles as you see fit, make great gifts because you can send a couple pairs of earrings with just the investment of one pair of interchangeable, most of them are made so that the dangles are not able to come out when the earrings are put in the ear, usually found as french wires, leverbacks, or kidney wires
A clasp is what attaches one side of your jewelry to the other so that it stays on you. There are many other types of clasps besides these, but these are the most popular and accessible clasps for beginners.
SPRING RING –usually found on children’s jewelry or inexpensive jewelry, tend to not last long/not made well for heavier jewelry, there is an actual spring on the inside that can hop off track, thin metal that can bend out of place, attaches to chain, a tab closure, or a soldered jump ring (Any time you use a jump ring as a part of a clasp in basic stringing, you need to make sure that it is a soldered ring.)
LOBSTER CLASP –most popular style of clasp, better engineered version of a spring ring, the spring mechanism inside is an arm that rocks back instead of a spring on a track, good in almost any application, also attaches into chain, a tab closure, or a soldered jump ring, great for making your jewelry adjustable if you finish off with chain, you can clasp the lobster into any link to wear your necklaces at different collar lengths or to fit others appropriately if you are selling your jewelry or giving it as gifts
BARREL CLASP – I don’t really recommend using these clasps ever. One end of the barrel screws into the other and can unscrew very easily, very hard to put on, not easy to work with, swivel around and can get caught in your hair
FISH HOOK – usually found on pearl strands or lightweight necklaces because they are mostly made of thin metal, very secure for lighter projects, most of them are made using a filigree design which basically means it has cut outs to look fancy, has an extra safety hook to prevent losing your jewelry if it happens to open
BOX CLASP – most often found as a multi-strand clasp because they are so wide (The advantages to using a multi-strand clasp instead of crimping multiple strands down to a single strand clasp are as follows: Any time there is break in a design, that is where your eyes are going to go to first, so if you’ve worked hours on a beautiful 5 strand bracelet and you crimp down to a dinky lobster, it’s going to look like it doesn’t fit. Your projects will also lay on your neck or wrist a lot better if the strands aren’t overlapping one another at the ends, and chances are they will wear better as well. You should always find a clasp that fits well with your design.) , pinch and pull them to unclasp, sometimes are set with stones or are decorated with other things to make them look nice since they make such a statement in your jewelry
MAGNETIC CLASP –good for lightweight projects only, can come in many styles (and strengths!), be sure the wearer doesn’t have an insulin pump or a pace maker, don’t wear next to a watch or while working on electronics for long periods of time, doctors advise pregnant women to stay away from magnetic jewelry, a safety chain (small piece of chain that attaches from one side of the clasp to the other that bridges the gap, yet still allows your hand to fit through) can be added to prevent the wearer from losing jewelry if the magnets come apart
TOGGLE –my personal favorite, the easiest to get on when used on a bracelet (with the exception of a magnet clasp), very secure when a bracelet is sized appropriately to the wearer, good in almost any application, come in many different styles and designs
S-HOOK –strands are finished off on both sides to soldered jump rings that slide into the arms of the s-hook, very secure for necklaces, great for changing necklaces from single-strand to multiple-strands by interchanging the strands, very easy to attach, can easily be made out of wire with a bench block and a chasing hammer
HOOK AND EYE –very secure for necklaces, hook side attaches into a specific eye, a soldered jump ring, or chain to make the project adjustable, hooks can also easily be made out of wire with a bench block and a chasing hammer
BAR CLASP –designed for wide, tight fitting projects because the clasp attaches by sliding in from the sides, spring mechanism on the inside prevents clasp from opening by itself, sometimes available with magnets inside to attract the sides to one another (not necessary for staying secure, just makes it easier to find the hole to put it in), usually always available as a multi-strand clasp
HEADPINS –shaped like an upside down nail, beads are strung onto it to make earring dangles, charms, or pendants
OPEN JUMP RINGS –round or oval rings used to connect parts together that cannot be linked directly together themselves
CRIMP BEADS –small beads that you smash with a crimping tool in order to secure your jeweler’s wire to your clasp (Chances are you’ll only need to worry about size 2x2 crimp tubes, which are the standard crimps anyway. Crimps are what hold everything together, so even if you’re using lesser expensive findings in other places, this is no place to cheap out. You want to make sure you’re using good malleable metals such as sterling silver, gold filled, or copper, because base metal or silver plated crimps will crumble as you crimp, or could crack with time.), will turn into a flat hot dog bun shaped bead or a round ball depending on your crimping tool
LARGE HOLE BEADS –small beads with extra large holes (compared to other beads that size) so that you can tuck the jeweler’s wire back into them at the end of your necklace, scales down the necklace to the crimp for a nicer finish than tucking the wire into your last bead, usually 3 or 4mm round balls, but often other beads are used
WIRE PROTECTORS/GUARDS or BULLION WIRE–optional horseshoe shaped tube that protects the jeweler’s wire from an abrasive clasp, covers the wire that shows at the end of the project between the crimp and the clasp
CRIMP BEAD COVERS –metal shells that are closed over a crimp bead that has been crimped using the standard crimper, covers crimp abnormalities, looks like a seamed bead when closed correctly, can also be used to fill in spaces of empty jeweler’s wire left by allowing too much slack before crimping
JEWELER’S WIRE –flexible nylon coated steel wire used to string necklaces and bracelets. I strongly recommend Soft Flex brand jeweler’s wire in the medium gauge. Soft Flex is pretty much the only one that does the job right, in my opinion. It is 49 strands of stainless steel, micro-braided and nylon coated, with a 26 lb. weight test. You may be thinking, “Why would I ever want to wear a 26 lb. necklace?” Well, it’s not the weight of the necklace; it’s what could be pulling on the necklace. You’ll want to use medium for just about everything, unless you can’t fit it through a hole. In that case, it’s acceptable to use the fine gauge, but you’ll have to use a special crimp or special crimper. You could also use heavy for super abrasive or heavy beads or for something you’ll be wearing every day that will take a lot of wear and tear. Not all jewelry is indestructible, but Soft Flex is one of the most durable materials to use.