Asking what materials you need to make earrings is like asking what ingredients you need to make a meal. Tuna salad has a completely different ingredient list than Peking Duck. If you are serious about jewelry-making, purchase a wider variety of tools and findings. Any serious jeweler’s kit will have everything from studs to earring backs to French hooks.
Hooks, Clips and Studs
Collect a variety of stainless steel or hypoallergenic clips, studs and French hooks. While it is less expensive to use plated or base metal hooks, it is worth the extra couple of cents per pair to use hooks that are less likely to infect the wearer’s ears. If you intend to sell the earrings, you will find that many people won’t buy earrings without stainless or hypo-allergenic hooks.
Findings and Beads
“Finding” is the jewelry term for decorative jewelry parts. They are usually stamped, molded or cast, but your earring findings may be made from just about anything that you can work into an aesthetically pleasing form. You may decide to purchase readymade findings from a jewelry supply house or craft store. Beads of all kinds may be used in making earrings.
Jump Rings, Wire and String
Jump rings are small wire circles used to connect French hooks to findings or one finding to another. They may be purchased, or you can fabricate them by wrapping wire around a mandrel and cutting the coil into rings with wire cutters. You may also want jewelry wire or waxed nylon jewelry thread to string or bind beads or findings together.
Finishes and Adhesives
This includes instant adhesive, a hot glue gun, white glue, rubber cement and epoxy for bonding parts together. You will also need a selection of paints. Clear coat, nail polish, colored sand, glitter and other decorative touches can also give your earrings the desired finish.
You will need two pair of jeweler’s needle-nose pliers and a wire cutter at minimum. You may want mandrels and jigs, an artist’s utility knife or two, a torch or alcohol burner, jeweler’s saw and a Dremel or other rotary grinding tool, depending on how creative and adventurous you are. Charles Lewton-Brain recommends using a flex-shaft emery mandrel and several other handmade tools (ganoskin.com).
According to Gypsy Wilburn, veteran artisan metalsmith and jewelry maker, “I have never been upset by having too many jewelry parts, but I have been furious because I ran out of this or buy enough of that way too many times. Buy three times as much as you think you need, buy twice as many as you want. If it’s a bargain, buy them all, because when you go back to buy more they will be gone or overpriced.”