Jewelry Inspired: Getting Started with Gemstones

Back when I started jewelry making, the thought of using actual gemstone beads in my designs seemed unattainable. I was unemployed, and I had to decide between jewelry making supplies or food much of the time.

Then one day while browsing ebay I stumbled upon chip beads. Long, 18 to 21 inch strands of stone chips with a hole drilled in each – and if you think of how many beads you get per strand, that makes them more affordable than machine cut glass beads.

I must admit in the beginning I had a hard time using these irregular shaped gems in designs. But soon I grew to appreciate the raw feel of the stone. It also was a good practice in judging detail. For example, if I were to make a pair of earrings with chip beads it is important to try & find beads that are similar in shape & size so that both the earrings in the pair appear balanced.

I still have quite a few chip beads from “back in the day”- and will even pick up a strand or two here and there at a Gem Show if they catch my eye. My only word of caution is, they can be soft & fragile due to their irregular shape thickness, so if wrapped too tightly they can break.

Here’s some examples of jewelry I have made with gemstone chips:

Malachite

Mookaite

Howlite (dyed)

Turritella agate

Red tiger eye

Lapis lazuli

emeralds

turquoise

amethyst

garnetLeilani Cleveland Deveau is a self-taught jewelry artist with over sixteen years of experience. 4 years ago she added the fiber arts (wool processing/dyeing/carding/spinning, knitting, crochet and felting) to her long list of creative interests. Leilani welcomes questions or comments from other crafters and handmade artists, as well as requests for custom, wholesale or consignment jewelry. Her home studio is located in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. You can contact her by email: leilani@bb3.com or stay informed by subscribing to her monthly newsletter (a draw for a giveaway each month!). See sign up button at right on main blog page.

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