Beau Dangles

Handcrafted Jewelry — Designed to be Different

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Tinfoil. Who knew?

Sterling silver jewelry is beautiful. It can also be kinda yucky when tarnish sets in, as it will eventually.

Some people like the dark patina. In fact you can actually use certain chemicals to speed up the tarnish.

But what if you want that shiny look?

You can buy special polishing cloths that do a pretty good job of bringing back the sparkle — but if you’re dealing with something small, like ear wires, those cloths don’t work quite as well.

I needed to clean up several pairs of heavily tarnished ear wires. I looked online for answers and found one that used tinfoil and baking soda.


It sounded weird but several people swore it worked. I gave it a try.

  • In a heat-proof bowl (I used glass), place a piece of tinfoil.
    (One recipe said to crinkle it in the bottom. Another said place it flat. I tried it both ways.)
  • Place the ear wires on the tinfoil.
  • Sprinkle them with 1 or 2 teaspoons of baking soda.
    (I used enough to cover the pieces with a bit to spare.)
  • Gently pour in boiling water, enough to cover the ear wires and tinfoil.
  • Wait 5 or 6 minutes — water the plants, play with your dog or make a cuppa.
  • Rinse the wires in cool clean water. Dry.

You know the saying: When something seems to good to be true, it usually is. 

Not this time.

This stuff works. Really. This little chemistry lesson in a bowl gave me back a pair of shiny ear wires. Wow.

As for using crinkled or flat tinfoil, I couldn’t see the difference. Wait time? You can see the reaction take place so when things are shiny, take them out. Lightly tarnished pieces will be ready sooner than ones with a heavy layer.

Magic aside, I wanted to know why this worked. If you’re curious about the answer check out this explanation.

Spoiler Alert: If you have sterling silver jewelry with gemstones, pearls or beads you’ll need to do further research before trying this technique.

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Easy Earring Display

I’m teaching a new class on earring making and needed a way to display samples so that prospective students could see firsthand what they might make.

I tried several ideas but none of them showed the earrings off to advantage — they looked crammed together and uninviting.

Styrofoam to the rescue!

I have several pieces of styrofoam that I use under display cloth at my show booth. Also in my stash of why-did-I-ever-buy-these things were some pins I’d bought years ago and never used.

I covered the styrofoam with a large sheet of white paper. I did a neat, taped down fold to finish it off so that I could pin earring samples to all 4 sides.

Sytrofoam block

The tricky part was getting the display to stand upright without falling over. I thought about making a base around the foam but didn’t have time.

Instead I made foldover loops of masking tape, stuck them on the bottom of the foam and then stuck that into the bottom of a pretty glass plate. I filled the plate with dried beans to add more support and to finish off the display.

This turned out to be a quick and easy display and it didn’t cost me anything (always a nice benefit).

While I’ve used it to show off individual earrings, it could be used to display earring pairs. Although I put most of my earrings on individual cards, I also have some discounted and sale earrings that sit in a small basket. This upright display would show them all at a glance.

Since these forms are easy to make you could create a nice tiered effect by adding 1 or 2 more of different heights. When earrings sell and you want to add another pair, use the same pinholes to keep it looking neat.

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Earring Bling Class

Earrings are fun to wear — and even more so when you’ve made them yourself. If you’d like create your own earrings you might want to sign up for my new class Earring Bling! 

The class is designed for beginners (more experienced jewelry makers are also welcome). I’ll take you step by step through the process from idea to finished piece. At the end of the evening you’ll have 3 pairs of lovely earrings.

I bring all the supplies — beads, crystals, pearls, charms and more — and the tools. I’ll have earring samples you can use for inspiration or you can create your own designs. If you have beads or charms at home you’d like use, be sure to bring them along.

The class runs Wednesday June 10 at the Sundre Library. Registration is limited to 8 people. Please call the Library to register (403) 638-4000.

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Robin’s Eggs

Our resident robins raised two broods this summer, amid long months of soggy weather. The last batch of young are fledged and on their own now.

I started this necklace about the time Ma Robin was brooding her first clutch. I finally finished it today. She’s obviously a faster worker. Mind you I did a lot between times — I just couldn’t figure out how I wanted to finish it.

The main holdup was the clasp. I knew what I wanted to do but I kept putting it off. I tried some of my own variations but they didn’t work. So I googled “wire wrapped cord” and came up with a site that had just what I needed — a tutorial!

Handmade clasp

Many thanks to Erin & Eric at Lytha Studios for posting this technique. 😉


A Desire to Wire

Sometimes the quickest way to learn something — for me, at least — is to take a class. A few weeks ago, with my renewed desire-to-wire, I signed up for Rena Klingenberg’s new online class titled “Design and Make Artistic Jewelry Components.”

I’m an avid reader of her Jewelry Making Journal and I’ve learned a lot. But I also know there’s a heck of a lot I don’t know. That’s why her course appealed to me.

The lessons are very well structured — videos, printable lesson plans and detailed how-to sheets. Rena starts with the basics — learning to make simple loops, spirals, hooks, folds and an assortment of squiggles. A solid base from which to set off in new directions.

It was while I was practicing the flat fold that I wondered what would happen if I opened it up. So I did. Now, what if I wrapped it around a pen? And then scrinched it a bit here? And then a bit there? And why not add some beads. And maybe a couple of loops.

Wait a minute! Houston, we have earrings! I made some hoops and we’re done. It was love at first glance.

Pink Heart

I was truly enamoured with these delicate delights. For a day. (I am so fickle.)

I’ve been working with copper lately. What if . . . well, out came some copper wire and dyed copper pearls. Once more I made some flat folds (Rena, thank you for starting us with basics). Moments later, a new pair of heart earrings.

Copper Heart

I love these two too.

Meanwhile back in online land, I’m into Part 3 of the course making clasps and bails and surprising myself with how easy it is to learn — thanks Rena!

P.S. Eagerly looking forward to your next course. 🙂


How To Glue: 527 & Me

Browsing in a local bead store (again) I discovered some brushed aluminum “leaves” in bright, rich colours. My bead brain kicked in and I could already see several different sets of earrings.

I scooped up 30 of the shiny little beauties. My first thought was to arrange them in groups of three, fan-like.

Good in concept, not so good in practice. Because the leaves are slightly rounded and only touch in a few places with this design I’d need a tight bond. Out came the 527 Multipurpose Cement.

I don’t use 527 very often and forgot that it takes quite awhile to dry. Long after I thought the glue should have set, I could still wiggle the leaves. It seemed like my bead store brainstorm was fizzling.

I decided to apply a bit more glue but — oops — it oozed out between the leaves. Dang. Okay, it was on the back and probably wouldn’t show but I’d know it was there. I’d keep those ones for myself.

Plan B: Since I needed more contact between the pieces I overlapped them. Aha! A much better fit.

I also discovered a solution to the oozing glue.

By the time I’d make several pairs of earrings, the glue on the first pair was setting up nicely but was still workable. Using a toothpick I was able to carefully pick away the few goopy bits that seeped out between the leaves.

The backs of these earrings show the difference — no mucky stuff on the upper right pair.

Poifect. 🙂

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How To: Simple Elegant Earrings

Only have 10 or 15 minutes to be creative? Try these simple but elegant earrings.

They work up quickly and can be made to go with any outfit from casual to classic.

silver wire (sterling or plated), 20 or 22 ga
4 pearls, 6 mm
2 post-&-ball earring findings

wire cutters
round-nosed pliers


1. Cut 2 pieces of wire, each 2 inches (5 cm) long.

2. Make a loop on the end of one piece of wire.

3. Slide a pearl onto the wire.

4. Using your pliers, make a gentle rounded curve about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the looped end of the wire. (The gentle curve allows the earring to sway; too tight and the earring dangle remains rigid.)

5. Slide on the earring finding and another pearl.

6. Make a loop on the end of the wire and you’re done!

7. Make the second earring.

Voila! You’re ready to go.

You can design any number of variations. Coloured wire? Crystals? Faceted beads? Different sizes? Hang smaller pearls off the wired loops?

Go wild. Then send me some pics — I’d love to post your designs. 🙂

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How to Eliminate an Unwanted Bead

Sometimes I find myself with an extra bead in a piece of work that is a noticeable problem. (Or at least noticeable to me.)

If I discover the problem early enough I simply undo the work back to that point. But what happens if it’s in a finished piece or at a point where I can’t easily do that?

Crimp pliers to the rescue. 🙂 Here’s how.

1. Working over a bead mat, slip a beading needle through the unwanted bead, separating the bead as much as possible from the surrounding work.

2. Place the oval hole of the crimp pliers (the one furthest from the handle) over the bead-needle combo.

3. Gently close the pliers. (I usually hold my other hand over the bead/needle/pliers combo while doing this, to keep bits of glass from flying away.)

Voila! The bead breaks and the glass falls onto the mat.

If there’s some extra thread showing where the bead fell away, gently tease surrounding beads to take up the slack.

The key to this process is the beading needle — it elevates the bead above the surrounding work and therefore away from beads you don’t want to break, ’cause there ain’t no easy way to insert a bead if you take out too many.

If you don’t have crimp pliers, needle nose pliers (the kind with the pointy nose) will work. Again, the beading needle is important — in this case it helps keep the pliers from crushing the glass against the thread and weakening or cutting through it.

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How Not to Crimp

A woman came by my table at the Market last week and asked if I could repair an anklet that had come apart.

I liked the colourful, dainty design. The original artist had finished the piece with a sterling silver clasp and sealed jump ring so she cared about quality.

Unfortunately her crimping technique wasn’t up to snuff. She’d cut the wire too short and it pulled free of the crimp tube.

The photo below (with the failed crimp already cut off) shows what happens if you’re not careful.

Wire pulled loose from crimp

You can see the same problem on the clasp end in the next photo — the artist cut the wire flush with the end of the crimp. A better (and more secure) technique is to let the wire extend beyond the crimp and into the first few beads.

I think the artist’s problem started with the beads. The wire would only go through the first metal bead after the crimp — the holes in the little bugle beads weren’t big enough to allow the wire to pass through twice.

Wire cut too short

So, how to solve this problem?

I started with a fresh piece of wire and restrung the beads, leaving enough wire on both ends to properly add the crimps.

Having the right tools certainly helps. In this case, a pair of good crimping pliers. They’re the funny looking pliers with two “holes” in the jaws.

I strung the wire through the crimp, through the sealed jump ring and back through the crimp. Then I put the crimp in the “hole” nearest the handle. Now the tricky part: I have to position the wires so they’re not crossed — then, when I gently press the jaw together, the wires are separated.

Next I move the crimp to the front “hole” on the pliers, placing it vertically, and gently close the pliers. The circular crimp bead is now flattened, twice, and the wire is tightly caught in position.

Keep the wires separate

Here’s the restrung anklet. The crimp beads have a strong hold on the wire so the owner should be able to wear it for many years without a problem.

Finished anklet

Sometimes taking a few extra minutes means the difference between a quality piece of jewelry and a disgruntled customer.

As with many other jewelry-making techniques, there’s more than one way to crimp a bead. Check out the crimping instructions at Beadalon. Just the opposite of how I do it 🙂

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How to Make Earring Cards

My first attempts at displaying jewelry for sale were pretty bad. I knew at my first show that what I was doing wasn’t working so I began looking for better ways.

Eventually I hit on a design for earring cards that works for me. It does two things. First, it displays the earrings vertically so that potential buyers can see how they hang. Second, it incorporates my business card so that it doesn’t detract from the earrings.

I make these in batches of 10 or 15 at a time. That way as soon as I finish a pair of earrings they can go on display.

Step 1

I use 4×6 inch blank file cards and cut them in half lengthwise using a matte knife. I use a metal ruler to guide the knife as it has a smoother edge than wood or plastic. An old bread board protects my work surface.

Step 2

Fold one end of the file card up one inch, then make another fold above that. (I have a handy little ruler that’s an inch wide — I lay that on the card and fold.)

Step 3

Next tape the folded end of the file card to the business card. Make sure the folded file card is facing up as in the photo below. This will ensure that when a buyer looks at the back of the display your business card will be visible. Otherwise it will be facing to the inside of the display.

I use clear/matte removable tape so the buyer can save my card. It may take a little practice to decide exactly where to tape the file card to the business card. Fold the cards together to form a upright display.

Step 4

I use a large hat pin to poke holes for the earring findings. A piece of cork works well for this. Heavier earrings should be a little lower down otherwise the card will be top heavy and have a tendency to fall over.

Step 5

Add the earrings and voila! A pretty display for your lovely creations.

Did you notice the rock in the last photo? If I’m selling outdoors or have a top-heavy pair of earrings, I tuck a small round stone out of sight inside each display to keep it upright. But don’t be too clever.

At a recent show a woman was about to buy a pair of my earrings but decided they were too heavy. I suddenly realized that she didn’t know about the rock. When I pointed it out she laughed and said in that case they were just what she was looking for and I made a sale!

P.S. All things change — and so it seems do file cards. My original stock from years back finally ran out. It took me quite awhile to find blank cards again and when I did I discovered that they aren’t as stiff as the originals. They’re also slightly narrower — which means my business card sticks out a wee bit so for now I’m cutting the size to fit and only using one half of the original file card.