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Jewelry Findings

History of Findings

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.


A History of Jewelry; 1100 to 1870 by Joan EvansAn Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry by Harold NewmanProfessional Goldsmithing A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Jewelry Techniques by Alan RevereWomen Silversmiths 1685 - 1845 by Philippa Glanville and Jennifer Faulds Goldsborough

Making Findings

Beading is so much more than beads and string. There is a whole range of items that you will find necessary or at least useful. These include catches, clasps, ear wires, and a multitude of other things. Nearly all of these 'findings' are made of gold, silver, pewter or base metals. Today these components generally come from two sources. The first source is independent craftsmen working for small companies in India or Indonesia. These are advertised as handmade and are priced accordingly. An advantage, or disadvantage, depending on your point of view, is that no two pieces are identical. The second source is large manufacturing companies based in North America or Europe. These produce finely machined components made to exacting standards. Both types are readily found in most bead shops and craft stores. A third type of finding is made by artisans who produce all their own components as part of unique creations. Some jewelers and bead artists make all the metal components for their creations from ear wires to jump rings to head pins. The artist cuts, shapes, and polishes a piece of raw wire until it becomes an ear wire, or a jump ring, or a catch. These findings are the result of careful thought and long hours of practice. Turning out a series of findings like ear wires or catches or even head pins is tedious work. As an example let's look at the process for making ear wires. The first step is to cut multiple pieces of wire (use sterling silver or gold fill) to a set length, in this case two inches. Start with a small batch of about ten pieces. The next step is to make a loop on one end of each piece using about a quarter inch of the wire. When this is done, add a 3 mm spacer bead and an additional short coil of wire.Each piece should now have a loop at the bottom with a spacer bead and coil above the loop. Next, a 90 degree bend should be placed above the coil. This is the point where the ear wire should be curved to fit through the ear comfortably. Using a wooden dowel of about 5/16 inch diameter, bend the wire to form the familiar shape of a shepherd hook ear wire. The next step is to make a slight bend on the last 1/16 inch of each wire. This will make inserting the ear wire into the ear easier. The last step is to remove any sharp edges where the wire was cut. This is done using a metal file or emery board. The sharp edges, although very small, can be dangerous and any open cut will be painful and prone to infection. A last optional step is polishing. This can be done by hand, but it is a tedious process. A better method is to use a tumbling machine. A hobby sized rock tumbler works well. Load the tumbler about 1/3 full of steel polishing shot and ear wires. Add a tablespoon of tumbling soap (a combination of borax and granulated soap powder). Then fill the tumbler to 2/3 full with water and run it for about two hours. Remove the polishing shot and ear wires from the tumbler and rinse them thoroughly. A common household strainer works well for this. As soon as the ear wires are dry, they are ready to use.The result will be 5 pairs of bright, shiny, highly polished ear wires that look just like the ones in the catalogs. Commercial findings are made in a similar fashion, just in larger batches. The steps are the same, but done by machine. In fact most commercial findings are made in just this way.


Jewelry 7,000 Years edited by Hugh TaitJewelry Concepts and Technology by Oppi UntrachtProfessional Goldsmithing by Alan RevereNotes from Metalsmithing Classes by Beverly Fernandes

Making Wire

Wire is an integral part of most jewelry and fine gold or silver wire has been used to make ornaments for thousands of years. Wire is also the basis for most findings like earwires or pins. One of the first things early people created was string, and the concept of wire may have been based on that. Since wire does not occur naturally, how did early people create it?Wire starts out as ore that is melted and refined to remove impurities. Then it is poured into a mold to create an ingot or lump of raw metal. Next this lump has to be hammered into a flat strip. The process of hammering makes the metal hard and brittle (work hardening). The next step is to soften the metal. This is done by heating the strip to a soft red color (annealing) and allowing it to cool slowly. Annealing allows the metal to reform its internal crystal structure, making the metal workable again. Next the metal is folded lengthwise, in halves or in thirds, this is where the process starts to get complicated. After the metal is folded, it must be annealed again before the twisting process begins. This is where making wire is similar to making string. Twisting individual fibers into a string creates a strong flexible yarn and twisting the folded metal into a single cord has the same effect. Round wire is easy to work with and will take any fold or bend it is given. As the metal is twisted it is work hardened creating the round form we are accustomed to seeing.The work hardened twisted wire is then annealed again. The process of hammer, anneal, fold, and twist can be repeated over and over again until the wire has been worked down to the required thickness. Each time the metal is hammered it gets thinner and longer. If the wire becomes too long the metal smith will cut it and work with a shorter piece, saving the remainder for another project.This was the method used before hardened steel tools were available. With the advent of steel, metal smiths created draw plates. These are steel plates that have been punched to create a series of holes of ever decreasing diameter. The draw plate is held in a secure brace. The ingot is filed to a point on one end and then pulled through the smallest hole in which it fits. Then the ingot is then pulled or drawn through a series of smaller and smaller holes.After two or three such drawing, the wire is work hardened and needs to be annealed once more before it can be drawn again. In this manner wire can be drawn to any desired diameter. An advantage to using draw plates is that the process is faster. Also the holes in the plate can be made in many shapes; triangular, square, or even star shaped wire can be drawn from the appropriate plates. Rectangular or square wire, produced by drawing, is much more difficult to work with and will not always take the fold or bend it is given, but the wide variety of shapes possible makes it an important factor in design.The modern method of wire making is completely automated from pouring the ingot to the final draw. Artists can now buy wire from a supplier in any shape, size or hardness desired, ready for immediate use.


Greek Gold; Jewelry of the Classical World by Dyfri Williams and Jack OgdenJewelry 7,000 Years edited by Hugh TaitJewelry Concepts and Technology by Oppi UntrachtProfessional Goldsmithing by Alan RevereNotes from Metalsmithing Classes by Beverly Fernandes