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Jewelry Design for Beginners

May 21, 2015

by Aleksa Brown handmade and vintage goods

When you were a kid, you didn’t let your lack of a design background stop you from stringing a macaroni necklace or knotting up a colorful friendship bracelet. Even if it’s been decades since your last jewelry DIY, Nancy Soriano’s new collection of approachable how-to projects in The Jewelry Recipe Book just might inspire you to try your hand at a grown-up statement piece.

Jewelry designer and author Nancy Soriano has a creative pedigree that includes ten years as the editor in chief of Country Living magazine and founding the Creative Connection conference for female craft entrepreneurs. In The Jewelry Recipe Book, she transforms easy-to-find materials like ribbon, keys, felt, yarn, wire, and even candy (!) into eye-catching pieces of jewelry, in styles to suit every taste. Each design includes an “ingredient list” and instructions for creating a stunning necklace, bracelet, or pin. Nancy also provides an overview of basic jewelry-making techniques, such as crimping, dyeing, and knotting, as well as savvy tips for how to wear your new designs.

Today, we’re talking to Nancy about the best tools for beginners, her favorite supply shops on Etsy, and how to get started creating beautiful, wearable jewelry.


How can I get inspired to find my signature jewelry style?
To get inspired, I think you need to be out and about. Go to flea markets, look in shops, and look at books and magazines.

How do I pick a medium and get started making jewelry?
I would suggest starting with one simple project using materials or objects you are already comfortable with (and may even have on hand, like a stash of textiles or yarn or a collection of charms). Begin with that one project and material, and that success will lead to another. Your confidence and sense of what you like and are comfortable with will begin to take shape. And when you’re ready to take on new materials, make time to simply look at them and play with them before you tackle a specific project.


What supplies does a new jewelry maker need?
Key jewelry-making supplies depend on what type of jewelry you are going to be making. With that said, for the projects in The Jewelry Recipe Book and for overall beginners, I would suggest the following (be sure to keep them all together in a designated container!):

  • Round-nose pliers, which have tapered tips and are good for opening and closing jump rings
  • Wrapping wire
  • Flat-nose pliers, which have wider tips and are ideal for gripping, crimping, and holding jump rings in place
  • Jump rings (several sizes)
  • A good pair of scissors you use only for jewelry making (your fabric shears will get dull from cutting other materials)
  • Adhesive (like Magna-Tac 809)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Ruler (both for measuring and for its straight edge)
  • Needle and thread
  • X-Acto knife
  • Nylon thread
  • Crimps
  • Wire snips (they’re not essential, but I find them so useful!)

What are your favorite jewelry supply sources on Etsy?
Oh, this is hard — there are so many great resources. I like to trawl Etsy for vintage items as well as new materials. Several shops I particularly like are:


Let’s talk about wearing jewelry. Any tips for that?
The first and probably most important tip is to be comfortable with what you wear. Wearing something well is about how you feel in it. You should wear the jewelry — the jewelry shouldn’t wear you. A few other things that help:

  • Create a focal point. It can be a stack of bangles on one or both wrists, a statement necklace, a collection of pins worn together on a lapel, or a strong minimal look with stud earrings. The key is to let those items be the focal point and pare back on wearing other jewelry at the same time.
  • Layer with care. Consider the length and scale of the items: You want the pieces to work together, not to have one piece outshine the other. Be careful about mixing a chunky necklace with something delicate, for example.
  • Mix and match metals and materials. Try pairing handmade pieces with vintage or finer jewelry — especially for bracelets. It will make a strong statement.
  • Know what works for you. What makes you comfortable, feel great, and look fabulous? When in doubt, I say don’t. That doesn’t mean not to try new things, but do know your comfort level.

Finally, remember that the beauty of fashion and jewelry today is that we can each create our own style, regardless of price, quality of materials, and where we live. There is a freedom in how we dress and embellish. It’s a process — one that is fun, always evolving, and forever personal.

All photographs by James Ransom, from The Jewelry Recipe Book by Nancy Soriano (Artisan Books). Copyright 2015.





For more jewelry projects and inspiration, check out The Jewelry Recipe Book, available in Nancy’s Etsy Shop or at an independent bookstore near you. 




1 Featured Comment

  • artsyana

    Ana from artsyana said 3 years ago Featured

    Loved this post. I am fairly new at jewelry making and it is so much fun. I love different and quirky jewelry I have tons of ideas but I know I need to learn more about making jewelry to realize my look. Thanks for the post.


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