The high cost of precious metals has certainly forced many artisans to seek alternatives.  That in turn has encouraged increasing numbers of people to embrace previously overlooked materials and in doing so, appreciate creativity and inventiveness all the more.

One such artisan who has happily made the switch is Brenda Schweder. Lark Crafts sent me her latest book, Steel Wire Jewelry which is an inspiring collection showing readers how to work with steel wire.  The designs are contemporary in style and an urban, edgy industrial look about them.

The steel she uses is not stainless steel but the kind used in construction. Note there are different kinds of steel which contain mostly iron with up to 2% carbon.  Different ratios result in different types of steel.  Unlike the incredibly hard to work with stainless variety,  the steel Brenda and other artisans in this niche use is annealed or heat softened. 

The dead soft metal is then very easy to work with - a key factor in its favor. It's also readily available at any hardware store at very affordable prices. The dark grey color will also be preferable to those who don't like the look of copper. Copper tones do not suit everyone.

There are more than 30 beginner level wire work projects in the book. Brenda shows how to use simple techniques like bending, coiling, twisting and wire wrapping steel wire to make either all metal or mixed media jewelry.  Brenda's informal styles are most forgiving for those who are learning basic work work.  One striking design is the All-Calder Revue necklace featured on the book's cover (above).

Don't Try This at Home (With a Real Snake) Necklace
Along the way, she shares her tips on how to clean and protect the wire with micro-crystalline waxes such as Renaissance wax. Construction steel is not the same as stainless steel wire. It will rust. Just as you find your fingers blackened when working with sterling silver that has already oxidized a little, working with steel is even more so. That's due to the layer of oxide that forms during the annealing process. So be prepared to get dirty.

Take heed of the above two points - if you don't like the hassle of cleaning and waxing, then steel is not for you.

Gwand and Squigella Wigella Necklace

There are 2 free tutorial pdfs if you would like to sneak a peek. The Zulu in Teal tutorial is for a bib style mixed media necklace. The tribal inspiration combines both steel and colored wax cord.

The ButterReallyFly ring tutorial is a real delight as Brenda walks through how to make it from steel, Japanese candy paper and epoxy resin. A truly inspirational technique and definitely worth a look.

There is also an interview with the author here.

If you like the look of this metal and are ready to explore designing with steel, then this book will get you started.

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Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips