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The best tips for making copper jewelry include experimenting with different techniques and considering its finish. Untreated copper will, over time, develop a color-changing patina, or surface. Both copper pieces as well as wire may be used in making interesting earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings.
Copper wire is sold in different textures from soft to hard. It's often best for beginners making copper jewelry to experiment with a medium grade of wire. One tip to help beginners create uniform decorative copper links to use in bracelets, earrings or necklaces is to cut wire pieces in equal length and then coil them. Copper coiling is simply rolling up a length of wire into a circle shape.
The copper coils may be used as they are or hammered flat. For a flat, smooth texture, a board should be placed between the coils and the hammer. A roughly textured, dented look is created when a hammer is used to flatten the coils without a board in the middle. If needle nosed pliers are used to create a loop at the end of the coils, they can then be linked with small jewelry finding rings to form finished pieces.
The coils may also be combined with glass, metal, wood or plastic beads to make jewelry. A simple, yet stunning pair of copper earrings can be made with two coiled pieces and a few beads, plus some jewelry findings such as joining rings and head pins in copper. Head pins for jewelry making are pliable straight lengths of wire with a top part that will actually form the bottom of each earring as this will hold the last bead onto it.
The same coiling idea can be used in more advanced techniques when making copper jewelry rings. The coiling is done as a "frame" for a stone or gem. A strip of copper that is sanded on both sides could be used for a ring base while a larger piece may be formed into a cuff style bracelet. The bracelets created when making copper jewelry may be left smooth or flattened or textured with a hammer.
If a darkening of the metal is desired after time, then no finish for either copper wire or strips is required. If the shiny, bright orange-brown color is preferred, acrylic spray should be used on the pieces when making copper jewelry. The acrylic spray coating may also help avoid the temporary greenish discoloration that may result after wearing copper jewelry.
@indigomoth - I'll second that you should look for forums with one caveat.
I think when you are starting out with a new craft type, and learning a bunch of basic techniques, it can be easy to spread yourself too thin. This doesn't matter so much if you are learning for fun, but if you're hoping to develop your skills and maybe eventually sell some jewelry, you need to focus a little more.
Don't try every little thing on the forums. There are too many techniques to focus on all at once. Find a few that look interesting and practice them until you have them right.
This way, you can develop your own style without just scraping the surface of a bunch of other peoples' styles.
Copper jewelry making is a lot of fun though and can produce some gorgeous items. Good luck!
One of the best tips I know for making any kind of jewelry is to find an artisan forum and start looking through it. If they have photos, all the better.
There are so many talented artists teaching themselves how to make copper jewelry out there. And many of them post their successes and their failures on forums.
Looking at the failures is just as important as at the successes in my opinion. You want to learn what works and what doesn't so that you can apply it to your own work.