Elegant and Romantic Beaded Heart Earrings: a Step-By-Step Tutorial
These beautiful heart themed earrings are the perfect accessory to dress up a simple outfit. They also make a wonderful gift for a special occasion like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, a birthday or anniversary, or just to say "I love you" to someone special. This simple, step-by-step tutorial shows you how to make a pair in a less than an hour!
The design features jointed dangles to create movement, so the crystal beads sparkle and shine. For extra glitz, you can replace the corrugated silver rondelle tire beads with silver-plated crystal rondelle spacers. And whether you use sterling silver findings and rare vintage beads and Swarovski crystals, as I did, or substitute less expensive beads, the earrings you make will look like a million bucks.
Change the Bead Colors to Change the Look
You can change the appearance of these earrings quite a bit just by choosing different colors or finishes (for example, crystal heart beads instead of opaque heart beads) to suit your preference or coordinate with a special outfit. You can easily adapt the design for bridal earrings by substituting clear crystal or crystal AB (aurora borealis coated) heart shaped beads for the red hearts. Or if you're a bride to be, choose heart beads and/or round faceted beads in your wedding colors and make several pairs as gifts for your bridesmaids or maid of honor.
How Much Jewelry Making Experience, If Any, Do You Have?
Have you ever made a piece of beaded jewelry before?
What You Will Need for This Project
Time required: 20–60 minutes, depending on jewelry making experience level
Cost: Varies depending on beads, findings and tools selected and purchased vs. on-hand
Two silver 1.5" head pins, 23 or 24 gauge. I prefer using sterling silver but you can also use silverplated pins.
Two silver 2" eye pins, 23 or 24 gauge. Again, I use sterling eye pins but you can use silverplated ones if you prefer.
Two 4.5 mm silver corrugated rondelle tire beads OR two 4–6 mm clear crystal and silver rondelle spacer beads for more glitz.
One pair of silver earring findings. These can your choice of lever back, fish hook, post or clip earrings, just make sure they each have a loop for hanging the dangle.
Eight 3 mm pearls, cream or white. You can use natural freshwater pearls or high-quality glass pearls. Swarovski makes beautiful glass pearls in a wide range of colors.
Two clear crystal 3 mm bicone beads, preferably Preciosa crystal or Swarovski crystal Xilion bicones (style 5328) for the best clarity and sparkle.
Four clear crystal 4 mm bicone beads. Again, the Preciosa crystal bicones or Swarovski crystal Xilion bicone beads style 5328 are the best choice.
Two 7 x 5 mm or 8 x 6 mm vertically drilled jet black faceted glass teardrop beads, either Czech fire polish or vintage Swarovski crystal teardrop beads.
Two vertically drilled 12 mm red glass heart shaped beads or the new Swarovski crystal heart-shaped beads style #5741. If you can't find 12 mm heart-shaped beads, you can substitute any size between 10 mm and 14 mm, although obviously the proportions of the design will change.
Two 8 mm jet black faceted round crystal beads, preferably Swarovski or Preciosa crystal for the best sparkle. Alternatively you could substitute jet fire polished glass beads.
Bead board AKA beading board with flocked surface (optional but recommended)
Very fine pearl reamer (if using natural pearls)
Nylon-jaw pliers (optional)
Two pairs of pliers, your choice of bent-nose, chain-nose and/or needle-nose pliers (I recommend using at least one bent-nose pair)
Standard size crimping pliers (for 2 mm crimp beads)
- Small, sharp, tapered or angled flush cutters
Choosing Jewelry Pliers and Other Basic Tools
As a jewelry designer, I own a large collection of pliers, including a few that are quite expensive. If you aren't a jewelry professional, you certainly don't need to invest in top-of-the-line tools. If you are very new to making beaded jewelry or only create a few pieces a year, you probably can make do with inexpensive "economy" pliers from the crafts store. But if you enjoy creating these types of projects and plan to make them frequently, you'll probably get more than your money's worth by buying a few pairs of reasonably priced, good quality pliers. They can help you work more comfortably and achieve better, more professional looking results faster and easier than you could with cheap, poor quality tools. There are also some inexpensive tools that work fine. I'll share which types of tools I think are worth spending a bit more on and which ones are fine to use cheap versions.
The Tools I Used in This Project
I'll start with two of my favorites. The first is the . The short, cushioned handles fit my small hands very comfortably, and as you can see in the step-by-step photos, the narrow tips make it easy to form very small, neat loops at the tops of the head pins and eye pins that don't distract from the beads or the design. In addition, the jaws of these Baby Wubbers pliers are less likely than most others to mar fine gauge wire, such as the thin 23 or 24 gauge wire head pins and eye pins in these earrings. I recommend these highly for people with small hands and for projects that use lightweight wire. Wubbers also makes full-length version of these fine round nose jewelry pliers that are great for people with medium- to large-size hands and for forming heavier gauge wire. Baby Wubbers Fine Round Nose Jewelry Pliers
I also used . What I love most about these is that their tips are shorter and narrower than those of most other bent-nose pliers I've tried. I use them much more often than I did my previous bent-nose pliers, in large part because the short, narrow bent tips make opening and closing jump rings—especially small, lightweight rings—so much easier! Xuron 450BN Bent Nose Pliers
The pliers and cutters with the two-tone light blue and black handles are made by Excelta. They're designed for comfort and precision work (albeit in the microelectronics industry), so they're a very good choice for jewelry making and very well priced. The company changed the material it uses for the grips (the parts that cover the handles) after I purchased my set about six or seven years ago. I don't own any with the newer, single-color aqua grips, so I can't confirm the manufacturer's claim that the new material is an improvement. However, assuming the company hasn't changed anything else, I can definitely vouch for the quality of the pliers for jewelry making purposes. They're certainly not top-of-the-line, like Tronex or Swanstrom, but for anyone who isn't a full-time jewelry professional, they're a great option.
Which Tools Can You Cheap Out On?
For a couple of tools, there are inexpensive models that work fine for most projects. For example, the Hakko CHP-170 Micro Soft Wire Cutter makes nice, clean, flush cuts on fine to medium gauge soft wire and is ridiculously cheap. And I've been using the same pair of fairly inexpensive crimping pliers for probably fifteen years. (True, they don't work as well as they used to, but they still work well enough for me to get by until I can afford to upgrade them.) Put the money you save on those into getting better quality round nose, chain nose, flat nose and bent nose pliers.
Choose Function Over Looks
Don't feel you need to buy a matching set of tools from a single brand or line. As with kitchen knives, you can often get better quality for the same or less money by choosing each type of pliers you need individually and mixing and matching.
Step 1: Set Up Your Work Area
Create Your Jewelry "Mise en Place"
In the culinary world, "mise en place" refers to setting up the kitchen work space and doing all the prep work for each ingredient before the chef begins to cook, so that everything is ready to use and where it belongs. I find it very helpful to go through a similar setup, selecting, setting out and organizing whatever materials, tools, supplies and equipment I will need before beginning any type of project, be it jewelry, crafts, painting or DIY. If any of the materials need to be prepped before using, this is the time to do it.
- Choose someplace with good natural light, or use a task lamp with a good daylight bulb. I recommend using some form of magnification whenever you are doing a jewelry making project.
- Choose and set out the beads and findings you will use. I almost always design jewelry projects on a flocked bead board with channels and recessed compartments to keep the materials organized. The flocked surface prevents the beads from rolling around and, very likely, off the work surface and onto the floor (voice of experience here!).
- Place the pliers, cutters and whatever else you need within easy reach.
- If one of the eye pins or head pins you will be using is curved or slightly bent, take a moment to straighten it by pulling it through nylon jaw pliers three or four times, rotating the wire approximately 1/4 turn between passes.
- If using natural pearls, check to see whether the holes are large enough for the head pins and eye pins to fit through. If necessary, widen the hole slightly with a very fine wire pearl reamer, dipping the tip of the reamer in water frequently to lubricate it and rinse away the material you removed from the hole.
Step 2: Make the Bottom Section of the Dangles
Each earring dangle is made up of two sections that are attached to form a hinged joint to add extra movement. We'll start by making the bottom section of each dangle.
Slide the Beads Onto the Head Pin
Thread the following beads in order onto a head pin:
One 3 mm crystal bicone bead
One 7 mm x 5 mm faceted glass teardrop bead
One 3 mm pearl
Bend the Excess Head Pin Wire to Start a Wrapped Loop
Use the remaining wire that extends above the beads the create a wrapped loop:
Grasp the head pin just above the beads with chain nose, needle nose or fine bent nose pliers.
Use your fingers to bend the rest of the wire over one jaw of the pliers at a 90-degree angle.
Remove the dangle from the pliers.
Make the First Half of the Loop
Hold the bent "leg" of the wire between the tips of the round-nose pliers, placing them right against the bend you just made.
Hold the end of the wire with your fingers and pull it over and around the top jaw of the pliers, making a partial loop.
Make the Second Half of the Loop
- Re-position the pliers so the tips are holding the top, rather than the bottom, of the partial loop you just made.
- Tip: Don't hold the jaws closed too tightly or they will likely mar the wire.
Pull the wire the rest of the way around to complete the loop, with the remaining tail extending at a 90-degree angle.
Begin Wire Wrapping the Loop
Use your fingers to bend the tail back down very slightly so that the first wire wrap will start directly under the loop and not wrap around it.
Wrap the Tail to Create a Tight Coil
Grasp the loop you just made between the jaws of a chain-nose, needle-nose or bent-nose pliers. You also can use a flat-nose pliers for this if you prefer. Place the jaws of the pliers across the loop, not inside it, with the lower edge of the jaws right at the bottom of the loop. Note: In the photo I'm holding just one edge of the loop in the pliers so you can see the loop, but you want to place the jaws of the pliers across the entire width of the loop.
Use your fingers or another pair of pliers to grab the very tip of the wire and wrap it snugly in a coil, starting the first wrap directly under the loop. Continue wrapping until you reach the top of the pearl.
Trim the Wire Flush
Use the flush cutters to trim the wire as close to the pearl as you can, taking care not to scratch the pearl with the cutters.
As you will see in the close-up inset in the photo below, no matter how closely you are able to trim the wire, the very end will stick out a bit and need to be tucked in. Wrap the wire a little bit past where you want to trim it, then loosen the end just enough to allow you to make the cut. Curving the wire tail before you trim it will make it easier to tuck in the trimmed end neatly.
Tuck the Tail of the Wire Under the Coil
While it's possible to use the tip of a chain-nose or needle-nose pliers to tuck in the trimmed wire end, it's faster, easier and neater to use this professional trick. Place the wrapped wire coil inside the outer opening in the jaws of a standard-size crimping pliers and squeeze gently. This tucks in the trimmed wire end more neatly than using pliers with straight jaws, because the end of the wire continues the curve of the coil.
Make sure to use the opening near the tips of the jaws (the one used to round a crimped crimp bead) so you don't ruin your wrapped loop.
Here's what your dangle should look like after you use the crimping pliers to tuck in the end of the wire. See how much neater it looks than before?
You'll also notice that the loop isn't perfectly round. No worries—we'll fix that next.
Re-Round the Loop, if Needed
If your loop needs re-rounding (and it probably will), slide it onto one of the jaws of the round nose pliers. Keeping the jaws open, use your fingers to gently push and wiggle the loop toward the base of the jaw, rounding the loop. Take care to keep the dangle perpendicular to the jaw.
Slide the dangle off the pliers jaw, turn it around to the other side and repeat the pushing and wiggling motion to finish rounding the loop, taking care not to accidentally bend the loop at an angle.
As you can see in the photo below, the loop is now perfectly round and the bottom section of the dangle is complete.
Make a Matching Bottom Dangle Section
Repeat Step 2, periodically checking the dangle in progress against the completed one to make sure they match. Pay particular attention to the size of the loop and its distance from the pearl at the top.
Step 3: Make the Top Section of the Dangles
Slide the Beads Onto the Eye Pin
Thread the following beads in order onto a 2" eye pin:
One 3 mm pearl
One 12 mm heart shaped bead
Another 3 mm pearl
One 4.5 mm corrugated silver rondelle tire bead or a 5 mm crystal rondelle
One 4 mm crystal bicone bead
One 8 mm jet faceted crystal or glass round bead or a vintage jet Swarovski Art. 349 or Art. 5101 bead
Another 4 mm crystal bicone bead
Another 3 mm pearl
Note: For the Queen of Hearts Earrings shown in the photos I used two styles of rare vintage beads from my personal bead collection: red opaque glass heart beads and jet (black) vintage Swarovski crystal "aspirin" beads, Art. 349 (later renumbered Swarovski Art. 5101). However, I designed these earrings to look just as good made with contemporary pressed or lampwork glass heart beads and 8 mm round faceted glass or crystal beads.
Make a Wrapped Loop
- Repeat what you did in Step 2 to create the loop and wire wrap it.
Rotate the Eye Pin Loop
Rotating the unwrapped eye pin loop at the bottom of the upper dangle component at a 90-degree angle makes the loops at the tops of the upper and lower dangle sections face the same direction:
- Hold the loops at the top and bottom of this upper dangle section firmly, using two pairs of chain-nose, needle-nose, flat-nose and/or bent-nose pliers. (The jaws of the pliers should be across each loop, not inside it.)
- Turn the plain, unwrapped eye pin loop at the bottom of the upper dangle at right angles to the wrapped loop at the top.
Step 4: Connect the Top and Bottom Sections
Open the Eye Pin "Eye"
Next we need to open the "eye" (open loop) of the eye pin.
- Hold the completed top section of the dangle upside down, so the open loop is at the top and the wrapped loop is at the bottom.
- Using chain-nose, bent-nose or flat-nose pliers, grasp the unattached half of the loop (annotated on diagram, above).
- Gently angle that half of the loop either forward or back just a little, as shown in the photo below.
Hook the Bottom Section Into the Opened Eye Pin Loop
Slide the wrapped loop of the bottom dangle section onto the eye pin loop you just opened.
Close the Eye Pin Loop
Use the pliers to close the eye pin loop by holding the side you opened, reversing the direction of the movement you used to open the loop.
Note: Opening and closing an eye pin is similar to opening a jump ring. To maintain the round shape of the wire loop without distorting it, it should be opened by angling the open half on a vertical plane, rather than by pulling the sides apart horizontally,
Complete the Second Dangle
Repeat Step 4 to connect the top and bottom components of the second dangle.
Step 5: Attach the Ear Wires or Earring Findings
Open the Loop on the Ear Wire or Earring Finding
To attach the dangles to the ear wires or other earring findings, such as ear clips:
Twist open the loop on each earring finding the same way you opened the plain loop of the eye pin in Step 4. Open the loop just enough to be able to slide the wrapped loop at the top of the beaded dangle through the gap.
Attach the Dangle and Close the Loop
Slide the earring dangle into the open loop of the ear wire.
Use pliers to close the ear wire loop, reversing the motion you used to open it.
Tip: Try to open and close each ear wire loop only once since bending the metal back and forth can cause that part of the loop to weaken or break off, ruining the ear wire.
Repeat to attach the remaining dangle to the other earring finding.
These beautiful drop earrings are ready to wear or to give as a gift.
Questions & Answers
© 2014 Margaret Schindel