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Wire Wrapping with Michelle - An Intimidating Art

The snow was thick on the ground in December 2019. My mom gave me the book Wire Jewelry Masterclass by Abby Hook (affiliate link) for Saturnalia that year. Up until that point, the only jewelry I had made of pure continuous wire was my own bracelet clasps and the occasional earring hook. I fell in love with the gorgeous photos and incredibly detailed guide to crafting rings, bracelets, and necklaces out of wire, pliers, and the occasional stone. Then I promptly shelved the book and tried to forget about it for a few years.

Every so often I would pull the book down and page through the glossy photos calmly describing how to turn coils and loops of metal into finished pendants that look like a cross between High Fantasy and straight Sci-Fi. Then I would place it back on the shelf and sigh wistfully. Wire wrapping is a rather striking art form and I was quite intimidated.

Wire wrapping is one of the oldest forms of jewelry making. Surviving examples have even been pulled from the Sumerian city of Ur (sumerianshakespeare.com). The Greeks, Etruscans, Romans, and Celts also utilized wire wrapping, although typically without any other material such as glass or stones. Fibulae (brooch pins) were often made of spirals of wire (harvardartmuseums.org1 and mgur.com/). Torcs (open necklaces) showcase wire braiding as well as decorative coils depending on the piece (britishmuseum.org.

9th-8th century BCE spiral brooch or fibula from the Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Etruria
Image from https://harvardartmuseums.org/art/304071

I am no stranger to working with metal. After all, I have been making chainmail for some 16 years. At first glance, wire wrapping demands a continuous length of wire to weave about in effortless loops to yield a stunning finished piece. Chainmail is constructed of hundreds of individual rings. If I biff a ring and say, scrape the finish off with my pliers, it is no great loss to remove the individual ring and replace it with another. In actuality, wire wrapping is more forgiving than it appears at first glance. Extra coils for stabilization can and should be freely worked in to strengthen the piece as needed. While some attempts unfortunately end up too damaged and tossed in the scrap bucket, others can be salvaged with a bit of cleverness and a deft hand.

I finally decided to take a stab at wire wrapping stones when I bought my first quartz arrowheads. These pieces NEEDED some way to mount them as pendants. As they are modern works, the arrowheads were also affordable enough that I would not cry if I accidentally shattered one. I am extremely happy with how they turned out.

Arrowheads are historically found anywhere arrows have been used. They are commonly associated with Native American cultures in North America but archery developed all over the world. As such, prehistoric stone arrowheads are found in the caves of France, the cliffs of Greece, the fields of China, and countless other locations. I wanted to emphasize an Etruscan look and so focused on smooth spirals that still showcased the beauty of the quartz arrowhead. I wanted it to be a piece anyone could wear, and so used fine silver (.999) to avoid any nickel sensitivities. The cordage is 100% silk while the clasp is a nickel-free sterling silver (.925).

Wire wrapping is an intimidating art but not nearly as scary as it looks. I am sure I will wrap many more pieces in the coming years. I am especially looking forward to working with other semi-precious stones such as carnelian, amethyst, tiger eye, and apricot agate.

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