Monday, April 7, 2014

Jewelry Expanders...A Lifesaver for My Business

Gee folks, I am so sorry to be gone so long. Season here in Florida was super busy for me, and I was a real slacker when it came to taking care of my blog. But...I am back and with a vengeance.

Have you ever had someone try on a bracelet or necklace, only to complain that it is too small or too short? That has been a constant issue for me, since I make my own chain and bracelets, well, you know how it goes. They are either too small or too large. If you weave and try to make lots of different sizes, you will often be left with some that won't sell due to size. At least that is how it goes for me. So...I came up with a really cool solution that I am going to share with you now.

It's extenders. I have been making them for a while now. Some I sell separately, so the peeps can add them to my jewelry or to other pieces they may have at home. Some extenders are right on the jewelry I market.

First of all, I purchase 8 to 10mm closed jump rings in sterling silver and copper. Yes, I purchase these from UnkamenSupplies on Etsy, actually. If you remember, my husband isn't quite sure about me having a torch. I told him, "Shoot. I can only burn the house done once." But he didn't think that was too funny. He did reluctantly agree that I could get one, but I just don't have the time to deal with learning how to use it right now, so currently I do buy these (Sorry to all of you purists out there...) I am trying to get there. Fire scares the @#8& out of me, too!

I'm sure you can request closed jump rings in other metals, as well. Ralph, owner at UnkamenSupplies, is pretty accommodating and does custom work, too. Anyway, here is how I do it and some pics to give you visual designers a bird's eye view.

 This is an expander that has been permanently attached to the bracelet clasp using 6mm open jump rings x 2 (for added strength) and 8mm closed jump rings. This usually gives me 1/2 to one full size expansion on a bracelet. Cool, huh?

These expanders were created to add to a bracelet or necklace a customer wants but needs or wants a larger size. They are created using a figure-8 link and 8mm closed jump rings. The 8mm closed jump rings I use are made of 23 gauge sterling silver. Sounds like a small gauge to use for this project, but I have never had an issue with them losing their shape with normal handling or wear. And they give the extenders a finer more elegant look.

First of all, I get out my needle nose pliers that has the smallest noses on them. I mark the noses at about 1/8 of an inch from the edge using a Sharpie. Don't worry, it does rub off. You will see that the more you use them. Set them aside for right now.

I like my figure-8 chain pieces as small as I can get them, so I cut my 20 gauge dead soft wire pieces just a little over 5/8 of an inch long. Don't worry. If you have never made figure-8s before, start out with 3/4 inch of wire or a little more. Once you have them cut, trim the ends so they are flush on both ends. Trim as little as you can to get a flush end. The more you practice this technique, the smaller you will be able to make your links. My links are 1/4 inch long when they are finished, and here is an example. Trust me, they didn't used to be that little!

You want to position the end of your cut wire piece into the needle nose pliers right on the ink mark, about 1/8 inch in from the end of the noses. Keep a moderately firm grip on your wire. Don't use a death grip or you will dent the wire every time, and some of those dents are hard to get rid of, even in a tumbler.

You are going to hold the end of the wire that isn't in the pliers and with that great grip of yours, twist the pliers toward you slowly. If you do this slow enough, you will be able to tell when your wire's flush end comes down on itself. You can now take the half done figure-8 link off your pliers.

You can see here that I didn't quite get my wire to where it touches itself. I can either correct this now or when I finish the link. Your choice, but you will want to do that eventually or your link will not be smooth and could possibly catch on clothing or worse yet, someone's hair or skin.  Ouch!

Place the straight end of your figure-8 wire back into the needle nose pliers, remembering you are going to bend the wire in the opposite direction that you bent it before. I stress this only because you have no idea how many times I bent both sides the same way, only to then have a piece that was not exactly what I hoped for...

 I grab the end of the wire or use my other hand's index finger to help bend back the wire and stabalize it to get a more accurate bend. Yep, you will get sore fingers. I can do about 100 links before I have to move onto something else. If you like, instead of using your index finger, hold the finished end with your flat or chain nose pliers. If you use this technique, a firm grip is needed. The wire may slip otherwise and leave you with a damaged link.

Remember to bend around the needle nose pliers so you get a uniform bend.

You are going to keep bending until your link looks something like this.

Now that you have your connector link done (the figure-8 link), you will be using your flat nose pliers and your chain link pliers to properly bend the figure-8 link out, so you can add your closed jump ring. With the upper part of the figure-8 link held firmly in your flat nose pliers, grasp the upper part of the lower loop of the link with your chain nose pliers and twist the loop toward you.

Make sure you have a firm grip on the chain nose pliers, as well. If the pliers slip off the wire, it can mar the wire enough that it will render the link unusable. Trust me, I've done this. 

Slip the closed jump ring on the figure-8 link. Carefully close the figure-8 link with your needle nose pliers. Sometimes I put the entire link in my flat nose pliers to give my figure-8 link a nice flat shape. Make sure your looks are closed. Add another closed jump ring to the other end of the figure-8 link and continue the same pattern until you have your desired extender. Add a claw clasp to one end or the clasp of your choice. are done!! Yippee!

I hope this has been informative for you, no matter your skill level. I do have to apologize for some of the pics. I was taking pictures myself, using my own hands, and snapping my shutter with my chin. Yep, it was a sight to see.

Anyway, love you guys! As always...Stay Wired Up!!!


  1. Very useful, Gail. Thank you very much!

  2. Thanks for sharing such an informative post. It was a nice way to elaborate the use of
    Copper wire

    1. Thanks, Max! Glad you enjoyed the article!

  3. Thanks for sharing! Was looking for an update on your copper sealing and came across this.

    1. Welcome, dear! Yes, there will be more on the sealers...

  4. Terrific idea! I just came across your blog today searching for Protectaclear, happy to have found you!

  5. Oh so glad you found me, too, Jan. I will be publishing a new blog on ProtectaClear soon, that addresses some questions I get. Thanks!