Good crimping practices and quality crimps play an important part in jewelry design, but many designers minimize the roles these components play in favor of the more visible components.
What is a jewelry finding?
In jewelry terms, a "finding" is a component of jewelry less than a finished piece.
What is a jewelry crimp?
A jewelry crimp is a jewelry finding pinched or pressed together with the purpose of holding findings onto a jewelry piece or fixing beads in place. Crimp tubes, crimp beads, crimp-on eyes and crimp-on hooks are four forms of jewelry crimps commonly used.
Jewelry beads are spheres with the hole cut through. When they are flattened, they usually form an hourglass shape. Crimp tubes have a uniform diameter and flatten into rectangles. Twisted crimp tubes have a spiral pattern cut into the tubes that might add patterns to the crimp, but they still flatten into rectangles. Crimp-on hooks and crimp-on eyes have either a hook shape or an "eye" (a closed loop) attached to a tube made of heavier gauge metal.
How are jewelry crimps used?
Bead Wire Projects
A first use of crimp tubes and crimp beads is to fasten findings such as toggles or lobster claw clasps and jump rings onto stranded beading wire. The end of a piece of bead wire is threaded through a crimp, around a finding and back through the crimp before the crimp is flattened with one of two jewelry-making pliers: flat nose pliers or chain nose pliers, both of which are smooth on the inside and meant to minimize marking on the findings.
Some use two alternate tools for crimping: two stage crimping pliers and magic crimping pliers. The author does not recommend either of these two pliers because of either the amount of labor involved to crimp or because of the damage to the underlying bead wire.
Floating Bead Projects
Jewelry crimps are also used with bead wire or beading chain to "float" beads in a style like the "tin cup" necklace popularized by Rene Russo in the 1996 movie of the same name. In this case, the crimps should fit snugly around the beading chain or beading wire. For instance, 1.5mm diameter or 1.1mm diameter (outside diameter) crimps will fit a 0.6mm beading chain or beading wires in .018", .015" or .012" diameters.
Crimp-on Eyes and Hooks
Crimp-on eyes and crimp-on hooks are ideal for some jewelry pieces, such as those using the 0.6mm beading chain or some cords such as leather. The ends of a beading chain or cord are placed into the tube before the tube is flattened.
Crimps are available in a variety of sizes. Two strands of bead wire between .012" and .019" should be able to fit (doubled) into a 2mm diameter crimp tube; larger crimp tubes may not hold the wires securely and smaller crimp tubes will not fit the wires through the tube very well. Crimp tubes of 1.5mm diameter may be more suitable for .010" or .012" diameter wires. Fabric cords should be tested with crimps to verify holding power.
Crimps tubes are available in many metals to match the primary metal of the jewelry piece: gold-filled, sterling, and plate over brass. Crimp beads are more often available only in the base metals. Crimp-on eyes and hooks are often available in gold-filled, vermeil (gold over sterling), sterling and some plated metals. Silver-plated crimp beads have a reputation for cracking not seen in the other plated crimps.
Jewelry crimps. although unseen, are important jewelry components. Jewelry designers need to determine the highest quality crimp materials and methods to keep their jewelry pieces from falling apart. Quality of the finished piece many times depends on the quality of crimps and crimping practices.
Paul Brandon knows crimps and writes for OhioBeads.com, which specializes in jewelry chain and jewelry components (in sterling silver, gold-filled, antique brass, antique copper, gunmetal, imitation rhodium, gold-plate and silver plate) for the U.S. market.
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