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The Different Schools of Wire-Wrap Jewelry

inspiration jewelry wire wrap jewelry

For some time I’ve been mentally dividing wire wrap into a number of schools/styles, and since I end up explaining it a lot, I figured I might as well write it down.   Please note my designations of each school are pretty arbitrary— I’m happy to be corrected if someone knows better!  Also, for the purposes of this overview, we’re talking about wire wrap that is primarily about just the wire— no soldering involved.  Since wire jewelry has been around since the late bronze age,  there really is nothing new under the sun, so fashion kind of comes and goes.  

For instance, here's a medieval example of a wire ornament:
Medieval Wire Ornament, Wikimedia Commons, CCO

Here's some Egyptian crowns from about 2800BC:
 By Memphite jewellers of Egypt's XIIth Dynasty; photographer not credited [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

An Iron age torc:

Iron Age torc By dun_deagh [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There are certain elements that are common to most wirewrap— for instance, wrapped loops, braiding, and weaving— it’s how those elements get combined that make a style or school.

Traditional Wire Wrap/ Preston Reuther School:   

Years ago, Preston Reuther ran one of those “have your own home business if you buy these videos for 9.99 a month for the rest of your natural life!” type wire-wrap school.   He’s still around, and his style of wire wrap is very formal, involves a lot of measuring, often uses square or half-round wire, and ….well, actually is fairly visually similar to what I encountered in books ranging from the 40’s to the 60’s, and for all I know, ranging even farther back in time.   I subscribed to Wire Wrap Magazine back in the 90’s and much of it is visually similar.   I will say that I’ve heard some not so nice things about the character of the company, and I suggest strongly you google his name if you want to know more, especially before you buy any of his products.  The style is very pretty, though:

By Michael Kelly mikelly97321 (https://unsplash.com/photos/51j9zGKT074) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Organic School:

This is the school that I fall into!   There are a handful of us out there, some of whom I would characterize as having wirelines to each other (wireline instead of bloodlines, get it?  *grin*)   Our work is characterized, I feel, by a more open, airy feel, lots of spirals and swirls, an interest in balance without strict symmetry, and we tend to use round wire.   I trace my wirelines and influences back to Dianne Karg of Wrapture Wire Jewellery, Loren Damewood of Golden Knots, Szarka from Magpie Gemstones —all of whom I used to chat jewelry with on About.com back in the late 90’s, early aughts— and I am very proud to have passed down some connections and hopefully some inspiration to Kythryne of Wyrding Studios and Gayle Bird of Gaylebird Designs (Gayle has written a marvelous book--buy it!).

Here's a couple of my tiaras-- note the spirals, loops and open spaces in the work:

and a couple of pendants:

Rainbow Wrapping/Wire Weaving:

I will preface this by saying I firmly believe these folks are bananas in the best possible way.  I was told at one point that the Rainbow Wrappers were so called because it grew out of the wire wrappers who followed the Grateful Dead, and sold jewelry to support themselves.  I have no idea if that’s true, but the work is characterized by fine weaving techniques, a use of several sizes of wire in one piece (typically, larger for the frame and eye-bleedingly tiny for the weaving) and setting several stones into a single piece.  It’s gorgeous, complex, and VERY VERY TIMECONSUMING which means I would probably be pitching a handful of stones across the room before I got halfway through.   Here's a lovely example;  I searched for some of the multi-stone ones, but couldn't find another in the public domain:

 By Naomi.Hinds.Designs [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Finally, there’s the chainmaille folks, who are also brilliant; their designs are based on a billion little rings of wire, and is another discipline that…er….eludes me.  I would suggest for that you take a trip over to gander at Ben's work at Knitting Metal and take a look!

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  • Kate From Antika Nueva on

    Michaela, the only photos that actually belong to me are the ones of my work, which can be used with attribution and a link to my shop, if possible. The others are in the public domain.


  • Michaela Schneidermeyer on

    Hi there! I am working on an infographic of a timeline that shows the history of wire wrapping. Would you mind if I use some of your photos from this blog post? I can send you the infographic when it is finished and you are more than welcome to publish it on your site! Let me know, thanks!

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