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Glass insulator earrings & necklace

Wire-wrap pieces of telegraph glass insulators for a summer treasure necklace

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Jones, who has an unusual hobby: collecting antique glass telegraph insulators. While running on the Hank Aaron State Trail in Milwaukee, she found a colorful shard of glass. She began to notice them everywhere. Doing some sleuthing, she found that the pieces came from large glass telegraph insulators, first used in the late 1700s. They became commonplace in the 1800s and early 1900s, but their use was discontinued in the ’70s. You can still spot the pieces near railroad tracks or underneath old telegraph poles. Lisa tumbles the shards, using olive oil to create a matte finish. The pieces often have interesting ridges and drip points — perfect for wire wrapping. Their wonderful colors and shapes (as well as their fascinating backstory) will give your jewelry special meaning.

SUPPLIES

Necklace 19 1⁄2 in. (49.5 cm)

  • 3 30–40 mm glass insulator shards, sea glass pieces, or stones
  • 2 14–18 mm sea glass beads
  • 4 3–7 mm pearls
  • 4 9 mm hammered round links
  • 7 ft. (2.1 m) 24-gauge wire
  • 6 in. (15 cm) 22-gauge wire
  • 13–15 in. (33–38 cm) chain, 8 mm links
  • 1 1⁄2-in. (3.8 cm) head pin
  • 21–22 6 mm jump rings
  • hook clasp
  • chainnose, flatnose, and roundnose pliers
  • diagonal wire cutters 

Earrings

  • 2 14–18 mm sea glass beads
  • 2 9 mm hammered round links
  • 6 in. (15 cm) 22-gauge wire
  • 4 6 mm jump rings
  • pair of earring wires
  • chainnose and roundnose pliers
  • diagonal wire cutters

Supplies from Eclectica, 262.641.0910. Check your local bead store for supplies. 

INSTRUCTIONS

Components

Glass insulator earrings 01
Simple connector

Simple connector 

Cut a 3-in. (7.6 cm) piece of 22-gauge wire. Make a wrapped loop (How-tos). String a sea glass bead and make a wrapped loop.


Embellished connector 

Glass insulator earrings 02
Step 1
Glass insulator earrings 03
Step 2
1. Cut two 14-in. (36 cm) pieces of 24-gauge wire. At the center of each wire, twist the wires together two or three times. Grasping one end of the twist with chainnose pliers, gently twist the wires with flatnose pliers to tighten the twist.

2. About 3⁄4–1 in. (1.9–2.5 cm) from the twist, make a second twist. Tighten the twist.
Glass insulator earrings 04
Step 3
Glass insulator earrings 05
Step 4
3. Insert a 30–40 mm piece of glass or stone into the loop formed between the twists. Curve the pairs of twisted wire along the sides of the glass.

4. Near the end of the glass opposite the loop, twist one wire from each pair together several times.
Glass insulator earrings 06
Step 5
Glass insulator earrings 06
Step 5
5. On the other side, near the same end of the glass, twist the two remaining wires together several times.

6. With one wire from each pair, make a twist about 3⁄8 in. (1 cm). Make a loop with the twist centered over the end of the glass. Coil both wires around the twist you made in step 4 or 5. Do not trim the excess wire.
Glass insulator earrings 08
Step 7
Glass insulator earrings 09
Step 8
7. Use two wires to embellish and reinforce the setting: Separate the wires and occasionally wrap the working wire around one of the other wires. String a pearl and secure the wire by wrapping it around another wire.

8. Use the two remaining wires to wrap in a free-form but balanced way, moving toward the other side of the glass and reinforcing with wraps and twists along the way. Make a twisted loop at the end of the glass. Trim the excess wire. Wrap and tuck the ends.
13_BDSF0712_P11
Step 9

9. To tighten the wire, use chain-nose pliers to grasp a segment of wire between the twists. Gently rotate the pliers to make a “Z” shape. If necessary, use chainnose pliers to adjust the end loops.

For complete project instructions, click here to download & print this PDF

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