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.