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Wire framework pendant

Wire wrap a delicate frame around a gemstone briolette


Sterling silver wire, dead-soft:

  • 20-gauge (0.8 mm): 21 cm (81⁄4 in.)
  • 22-gauge (0.6 mm): 65 cm (251⁄2 in.) 
  • 28-gauge (0.32 mm), 273 cm (9 ft.) 

Sterling silver beads:

  • 2 mm hollow and seamless, 3
  • 2.5 mm hollow and seamless, 3
  • 11–16 mm briolette (I used an 11 mm marquise mystic topaz)

additional tools & supplies

  • Ring mandrel: U.S. sizes
  • Bentnose pliers
  • Planishing hammer
Wire framework pendant 1
Step 1
Wire framework pendant 2
Step 2
The key to creating wirework that truly flows is to be meticulous about where you position support wires, connections, and trimmed wire ends. Thoughtless placement of even one wrapped connection can detract from the look or ruin it entirely. Be mindful to position utilitarian, often less-than-attractive parts at the back of your piece or under other, prettier components.

For instance, I designed my pendant so that all the bridge wires that connect the spirals and swirls face the back of the pendant; this creates a continuous visual line. I also nestled my briolette up under a decorative spiral so that the connecting wires are hidden, avoiding a messy look. Keep these guidelines in mind when you design your own wirework, and you’ll have people marvelling at how you can create such fluid pieces.

The wires connecting a top-drilled topaz briolette to the pendant are well hidden, tucking neatly under the top spiral embellishment.

Form the outer frame. Using wire cutters, cut a 21 cm (8 1⁄4-in.) piece of 20-gauge (0.8 mm) wire; this will be the frame. Using roundnose pliers, make a 4 mm (5⁄32-in.) loop at one end of the wire; this loop will be the bail.
Using flatnose pliers, grasp the loop. Position the loop’s opening away from you, and bend the wire tail 45° to the left. Using a fine-tip marker, mark the wire 55 mm (2 1⁄8 in.) from the base of the loop. 

Center the mark on a ring mandrel at size 15 U.S. Use your fingers to bend both ends of the wire around the mandrel [Step 1] to form a teardrop shape approximately 43 mm (11 1⁄16 in.) long. Do not trim the tail.

Form the inner frame. Mark the wire tail where it overlaps the base of the bail loop. Using flatnose pliers, grip the wire at this mark, and bend the wire until the tail is laying inside the outer frame. Mark the wire 37 mm (17⁄16 in.) from this bend. 

Center the mark on a ring mandrel at size 2 U.S. Bend the wire to make a smaller, matching inner frame teardrop approximately 30 mm (13⁄16 in.) long [Step 2]. 
Wire framework pendant 3
Step 3
Step 4

Trim the wire tail 4 mm (5⁄32 in.) beyond the point where it meets the top bend. Using roundnose pliers, make a 2 mm (5⁄64-in.) counterclockwise loop [Step 3]; this loop should rest within the crook of the top bend. 

Stabilize the frame. Cut a 20 cm (8-in.) piece of 28-gauge (0.32 mm) wrapping wire; you’ll be using this gauge to wrap throughout the project. Starting at the top of the bail loop and leaving a tail, wrap around the front of the bail loop until you reach the base of the bail loop [Step 4a]. Then make three wraps on the left side to attach the inner and outer frames [Step 4b]. 

Wrap once around the inner frame only. Then make two wraps to attach the inner frame and the loop. Thread the wire through the loop, and make two wraps on the right side to attach the loop and outer frame [Step 4c].

Wire framework pendant 5
Step 5
Wire framework pendant 6
Step 6

Continue to wrap the frame, heading upward until you reach the bail loop [Step 5]. Position the wire tails at the back of the piece, and use flush cutters to trim them. Use bentnose or chainnose pliers to flatten them into the wraps.

Shape the frame. To slightly adjust the curvature of the outer frame, hold it vertically and gently press it onto a flat surface [Step 6]. Use nylon-jaw pliers to adjust the base of the inner frame to mimic the shape of the outer frame. Lay your frame on the Template (Download PDF) and adjust the frame until you’re satisfied with its shape. 


Step 7
Wire framework pendant 8
Step 8

Hammer the frame. Place the frame on an anvil or bench block, and lightly hammer it with the flat side of a chasing hammer. Do not hammer the wrapped section or the bail. You want to slightly flatten and harden the wire; don’t hammer too much, or you could distort the shape. 

Wrap the outer frame. Cut 50 cm (19 3⁄4 in.) of wrapping wire. Beginning at the top left, next to the stabilizing wraps, wrap the entire outer frame. At the end, leave two to three wraps’ worth of space unwrapped.  

NOTE: These wraps need to be a little loose. Later you’ll wrap between these wraps, a technique I call “overwrapping.” The overwrapping wire should disappear into the first layer of wraps, which can’t happen if the first wraps are too tight. 

You’ll need another 50 cm (19 3⁄4-in.) piece of wrapping wire when the first piece runs out; see “How to Add Wrapping Wire” below. 

When you’re finished, position the wrapping wire at the back of the frame. Trim the wire, and flatten the tail to hide it in the wraps [Step 7a].

Wrap the inner frame. Cut 30 cm (12 in.) of wrapping wire. Leaving a 50 mm (2-in.) tail, start wrapping at the top left of the inner frame. Wrap loosely to allow for overwrapping. Stop just before you reach the loop. Trim the tail on the right, and flatten it. Do not trim the left tail [Step 7b]. 

Attach a briolette. Thread a briolette on the wrapping wire tail, and position the briolette at the top of the frame, beneath the loop. Filling in the small gaps that you left on the right side, wrap the inner and outer frames together two to three times. Trim the tail and flatten it [Step 8].

For the rest of this project, download the full PDF here.

How to add wrapping wire

It’s important to work with manageable lengths of wrapping wire (30–50 cm/12–19 3⁄4 in.); longer lengths can easily kink or tangle. This means that you may need to add wire to complete a set of wraps.

To begin a new length of wrapping wire, hold the new wire next to the previous wraps. Leaving a small tail to hold as an anchor, begin to wrap with the working end of the new wire. 

Do not trim the wire tail from the newly added wire until you’ve completely finished wrapping. If the wire shifts and you find you have a small gap between the new and old wires, you can use the tail to wrap a few times to cover or fill the gap. Then you can trim the tails at the back of the piece and flatten them using bentnose or chainnose pliers.
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