DIY Projects: Jewelry (Part 2)

[Ed.: This and Part 1 were originally in a single post. I've divided it to make it less bulky.]

Last time I talked about the benefits of making your own jewelry. Today I'll go over the finer details of how to do it. While jewelrymaking is not a hobby to undertake if you're broke, you can maximize the bang for your buck.

No matter what skill level you're at, take advantage of sales and use coupons if you can! When I first got started, JoAnn's had a 30% sale on all jewelry findings, which helped me cut down on the starting costs. Several readers have kindly pointed out that JoAnn's sends out coupons regularly (including 15% on a single item) if you sign on to their mailing list, and I've heard that Michael's has coupons as well (though personally I don't shop there). Some online stores such as Artbeads.com also have weekly specials.

It's also important to do price comparisons. It's relatively easy to compare between e-stores, but don't forget to compare against your local crafts store. Online isn't necessarily cheaper. I'm fortunate enough to have a relatively easy time getting to the Downtown LA Jewelry and Fashion districts, where supplies and gemstones can be obtained much cheaply than online stores or JoAnn's/Michael's. I recommend Bohemian Crystal in the Fashion District (near 8th/Maple) and Bella Finding House (7th between Hill and Olive). Bohemian Crystal is a good place to go for glass crystals, glass beads, and base metal findings. They also sell Swarovski crystals, though I've yet to buy them. Bella's is a good place for precious metal findings at wholesale, even without a resale number. Their semi-precious gemstones are very affordable, but you'll have to inspect carefully to pick out a strand that doesn't have inclusions. Quite a few places along 7th also sell gemstones at wholesale, though some may require you to pay cash only if you don't have a resale number.

If you're just starting out, stick with cheap beads and base-metal findings; don't dabble with precious metal components in the early stages unless you're allergic to base metals. If your ears are sensitive, try using stering earwires, but see if you can use base-metal findings for anything dangling from the earwire. As for the beads, you can get a bag of them from a crafts store, or you can recycle beads from cheap necklaces. Many craftsters like to get cheap necklaces from thrift stores or from the Claire's clearance bins, take them apart, and end up with new and nifty creations.

As you become more proficient, you might want better quality materials to work with. In order to save money, you might want to consider buying in bulk; it works the same way as Costco's or other warehouse/club stores. However, keep in mind that some wholesalers (online and offline) are limited to those in the trade (which means you'll need a reseller's permit from the local authorities), or even if they're open to the public, there might be a huge minimum purchase requirement. Also, when you're buying in bulk, you run the risk of wasting money on things you end up not using or can't use. Before you dive into wholesale quantities, evaluate what your needs are, and buy a few to try them out first. Here are a few things you should consider:

-What components do you use the most? It's probably safe to buy lots of headpins/eyepins, jump rings, crimp beads, and wire, but don't plan on buying lots of bails or crimp ends unless you really use them frequently.
-What kinds of beads do you need the most? It's also important to consider color. For instance, black is one of the most versatile, so it's pretty safe to get lots of black. When it comes to hot pink, it's probably not a good idea to a 10000-pack, even though the price-per-unit is a lot cheaper when you buy bulk.
-Will they keep? It'll do you no good to amass 50-foot spools of sterling silver chain if you can't keep them sealed to prevent oxidation. If you've got no cool storage space for glue, they might dry up.
-Are you really going to use all 1000 jumprings? Be realistic about how much jewelry you make, and how often.

Even if you're good at what you do, if you're coming up with a new design, use cheaper beads and findings to do a model first. You don't want to screw up with the expensive stuff.
Another way to save money is to use "alterative media." Come up with creative uses for small baubles that are lying around the house. Buttons are favorites because they are cheap and easy to work with. I've made a couple of button rings, including the one on my thumb in a picture above. Some people have used washers, marbles, Scrabble tiles, toothbrushes, forks, bottlecaps, you name it. If you're broke and can't afford to buy beads, you might be surprised by how far your creativity can take you.

The best thing about the Internet is the availability of information. Just Google for help. About.com has a lot of tutorials, as with Artbeads and Fire Mountain Gems. Craftster is a place I often visit for inspiration. If you need more free resources, your local library might also have books on jewelrymaking. Some libraries might even have videos.

Have fun! If you have any recommendations for vendors, please do share, but no shameless self-promotions; there's a thing called the "delete" button if your plug isn't legit.

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