Findings refer to those parts of jewelry other than gemstones, beads, or stringing materiel. These include earwires, clasps, head pins, decorative drops, etc.
The term findings probably originated from a time when jewelers had to make every component they needed for a piece of jewelry. The system we know today with retail sales and wholesale manufacturing as separate entities was not yet in place.
Every jeweler, his or her apprentices, and /or journeymen and women had to be able to make all their own components. Each project required the jeweler or apprentice to hammer out a sheet of gold or silver and draw lengths of wire. Being cautious, they generally hammered or drew a little more metal than was needed.
The leftover bits would be set aside for later use on small projects or to modify an existing piece of jewelry. These bits came to be called findings. They were used to make eye pins, jump rings, or other small components. A small piece of wire could be used to replace a missing earwire. A leftover piece of metal might be folded to form a catch for a necklace. No scrap would be thrown away, even the filings were kept, remelted, and used again. This practice remained common until jewelers began to specialize.
Jewelers, goldsmiths, and silversmiths, in large cities, would set up shops near one another, and nearly every city would have a jewelers street or goldsmiths quarter. As they banded together for mutual support and security, they would also specialize. This specialization was one way of avoiding excessive competition. They became interdependent and supported one another by having several shops contribute labor and expertise on a specific piece of jewelry. One shop would make gold or silver table ware. Another would chase and engrave that tableware. There were ring makers, button makers, stone setters, and even jewelers who only worked on weapons.
Many specialists went on to create new guilds and crafts outside the realm of gold and silver smithing. Pewter smiths organized into one guild, engravers another. Other changes were also taking place in the jewelry trade. Findings specialists were not just working in small shops, they were expanding as well. They expanded from shops to factories, then to industries with set standards and practices.
Eventually large manufactures could present an entire line of jewelry components on a wholesale basis to retail jewelry shops. Retail shops in turn could present findings of several wholesalers to provide greater variety.
The trend in specialization has continued to the present day, and now anyone can purchase finished findings that are ready to use. This is a real boon to both the professional jeweler, as well as the part time jewelry artist or crafter. Your local craft or bead shop has a variety of such components readily available to be assembled into unique pieces of wearable art.