I’m often asked by people who silversmith/metalsmith “C’mon now, is wire wrapped jewelry “real “jewelry. You know you don’t use any metal smith techniques in it.” I always answer with an unequivocal “Yes”. Even though metal smith techniques may not be incorporated into wire wrapped jewelry, it does not diminish its value as an art form nor the effort and time it take to make it. It can take anywhere from a couple of hours to dozens of hours in order to complete one piece depending on the weave and complexity of the design. Plus there is a certain charm and uniqueness to wire wrapped jewelry that just can’t be readily transferred into any other jewelry making medium. I personally make jewelry that is either all 100 percent wire wrapped/weaved or a combination of wire weaving and metal smithing. So to all the Nay Sayers out there who think their way is the only way, I say wire weaving is just one of many art forms in jewelry making and is no less or more valuable than any other. So for those of you who are using wire wrapping/weaving to make jewelry, please don’t under value your skill and time as you master this intricate art form.
For those of you thinking about getting into the craft, If you want to make jewelry and don’t know where to start then wire wrapping/weaving may be for you as it is a fairly inexpensive inroad to making jewelry that you can wear and sell with a minimal starting investment in a few basic hand tools and some wire. While learning your craft you can always add to your collection of tools as you progress, just as I did. It’s one of those mediums you can definitely work your way up through as you add hammering, soldering, torch work, enameling, etc. to your repertoire of skills.
And to all those in doubt, here is a little background on wire wrapped/ weaved jewelry. Examples of wire and beaded jewelry made using wire wrapping techniques date back thousands of years. Museums across the world have samples of jewelry from the Sumerian Dynasty, found in the cemetery of Ur that contain spiraled wire components. This jewelry is dated at approximately 2000 BC. Other samples of jewelry from Ancient Rome show wire wrapping. This Roman jewelry is dated to approximately 2000 years ago. In the manufacture of this early jewelry the techniques for soldering did not exist. Later, as the technique for soldering developed, the wire wrapping approach continued because it was an economical and quick way to make jewelry components out of wire.
The true art of wire-wrapping has been around since the time of the Phoenician Empire, since about 1000 B.C. where Gold or Silver was hammered into thin sheets, cut into narrow strips and the edges filed smooth, making the wire. The wire was then woven into a design and usually set onto a breast plate armor.
The earliest reference to drawn wire versus cut wire is in the 8th century in France and the first commercial wire operation was in 1270 AD in France. During the Medieval period, Knights brought wire back to England to make chain mail for their armor. Gold and silver wire were drawn in France and transported back to England. The earliest mention of wire production in England was 1465. During this time, wire-wrapping was limited to fastening crucifixes and other religious symbols to lanyards and chains.
In the 1800’s the Bohemian culture made wonderful necklaces and bracelets using wire to connect beads and stones. These jewelry items were popular with European aristocracy for over 50 years.
Today, wire wrapping has become popular because of the uniqueness and the individuality of each piece - no two are ever exactly alike! Now you have a little knowledge in defense of your craft the next time someone ask “ C’mon is that wire work “real” jewelry”.