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Make a Roman Fibula Brooch Jewelry Tutorial

This tutorial will show you how to make a simple pin suitable for hanging whatever you like on it, with just a few tools and some wire. My instructions assume you have some basic experience with jewelry making, but even if you don’t, this is still pretty simple. Practice on some thin, cheap craft wire if this is your first project, and if you have any questions, just ask. I’m happy to help!

But why do you call it a “fibula”? It looks like a safety pin.

Simple. Because that’s what the Romans called it, and yes, they did invent the safety pin. Here’s a link to a ​super-simple example. Roman pins typically had high backs because they used pins like this to keep their clothes on, and the fabric needed room to bunch up. While the first example is dead simple, others were lavishly decorated, ​like this one. Even the highly decorated fibulae were still intended to be semi-functional.

While this pin is appropriate for light to medium fabrics, I made it specifically for my SCA and Rennie friends to hang favors, bits of largesse, or even small tools on. You could even give these pins as favors with a small starter token already on. These could make great presents for people who make or use beads – There are always a few “orphan” beads laying around they can’t bear to part with!


Tools and Materials
Tools:

  • Round Nose Pliers
  • Chain Nose Pliers – These are for holding, so any pliers with smooth, flat jaws will work.
  • Wire Cutters
  • File
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Safety Glasses – Not kidding on this one. I’ve personally seen people get wire ends flung into their face hard enough to draw blood when they’re just nipping the end off a little coil. If you’re using tools, use eye protection.

Optional Tools:

  • Hammer – I have a chasing hammer, but you can use a normal hardware store ball-pein hammer. It just needs to be flat and relatively smooth so it doesn’t mark up the metal.
  • Steel block – or similar hard surface to hammer on
  • Ear protection. There’s not a lot of hammering, but you should still wear ear protection when you do it.

I tried to use tools that most people I know have laying around the house. If you have fancier/higher quality tools than these, feel free to use them.

Materials:
16 gauge Copper Wire – From the local craft store is fine.
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If you want fancier tools than this or square/triangular/thicker/titanium/whatever wire, here’s some Suppliers:

Just to be clear, I have no connection to these sites, these are just places where I and/or my jeweler friends buy from. Just be careful of your wallet, especially if you’re a tool junkie like me!

 

 

Step 1: Measure, Cut and File

  1. Using the ruler, marker, and wire snips, measure and cut an 11 inch length of wire. If this is your first project, give yourself another inch or two of wiggle room in case you make your loops a bit big. We’ll be cutting the excess off at the end.
  2. ​Round the end off with your file* so it’s smooth. This is the end we’ll start working with.

* Most files only work one way – When you “push” the file away from you. This is copper, so there’s no reason to go crazy and muscle it. Just move your arm forward and let the file do the work.

Step 2: Make the Catch

The catch is the part of a pin that secures the pin stem, which is the part that goes through your fabric. Some of this might be tricky, but you can do it!

Picture 1: ​Measure and mark at the 1 inch and 1 1/2 inch points from your just-filed end.

Picture 2 (The Tricky Bit): Using your round nose pliers, make a bend at the 1 inch mark. It won’t be a tight fold like you see here, but that’s where your flat pliers come in. Squeeze the rounded end carefully until you get it nice and tight, as close to this as possible. If you have a hammer and something to hammer on, you can use those to tap the loop down, too.

Picture 3: Make a 90 degree bend at the 1 1/2 inch mark.

Picture 4: Wrap that end around the wire. I recommend using the flat pliers to hold onto the folded part right above the bend, and using the round nose pliers to wrap. You’ll probably need to use the flat pliers to squeeze the end in close to the wire.

Step 3: Make the Hanging Loops

Here’s where you’ll be making the loops, and where you can go crazy with the design. You loops might turn out bigger or smaller than mine, and that’s fine. You might decide you only want three loops, or maybe you have some of those fancy square pliers and want to make diamond-shaped loops. You could even add beads between the loops as you go, or forego the loops all together and add your beads on right now. Go Nuts!

But if you’re just starting out, keep following along.

Picture 1: Make a 90-degree bend right under your catch, and make a mark about 1/4″ in. This will be the top of your loop. I made my loops at about the midway point on the jaws of my round nose pliers.* You can make them wherever you like, depending on how big you want your loops.

Picture 2: I’m figuring out where I want the top of my next loop to be. For me, it turned out that 3/8″ away from the top of my first loop would look the best, so I marked it. You want to keep some space between your loops so you have space for all the cool things you’re going to dangle from them. My loops are 1/4″ wide, so I put in an extra 1/8″ buffer. Alternatively, you could always just make your next loop where you want it and use that as a guide for spacing. Whatever works for you to keep it consistent.

Picture 3: Make the other loops, being sure to keep their size and spacing even. This is the more fiddly part, but congrats! You’re almost done!

*Feel free to mark your jaws with your marker so you always bend the wire in the same spot. This keeps your loops nice and even. If you don’t want to mark them up, a shred of masking tape wrapped around one of the jaws works just as well.


Step 4: Even It Out

Chances are good that your pin is looking quite loopy and nice, but it’s probably a little wobbly. Here’s where we fix that.*

Picture 1: Looks a little wavy, doesn’t it? That won’t lay right when you’re wearing it, so let’s take care of that.

Picture 2: Put on your ear protection (do it) and give it a few gentle taps with your hammer. You don’t want to hammer it, or otherwise you’ll flatten the wire and get horrible squash marks where they cross over. You just want to even it out.

Picture 3: Nice and even! Much better, isn’t it?

*You could always squish it between some books or carefully bend it straight with your hands if you don’t have a hammer. So long as it’s flat.

 

 

 

Step 5: Make the Spring & Finish the Catch

Picture 1: Using the lowest point on your round nose pliers, wrap a loop of wire with the end going back over your hanging loops. This is the spring part of your pin.

Picture 2: Looking mighty pin-like, isn’t it?

Picture 3: Now you can bend the end of the catch over so it actually “catches” the pin stem.*

Picture 4: Almost done!

*We didn’t do this earlier because the wire tends to get caught in it while you’re making the hanging loops if you do.

Step 6: Trim & File the Pin Stem

Picture 1:
Catch the stem and use your cutters to nip off the extra wire. Don’t cut too close, or else it might come undone easily. Keep about 1/4″ on the end.

Picture 2:
File it sharp. You don’t need a long needle point on this, just enough so it can get between the fibers.

Picture 3:
Nice and pointy, like a little cone.

Picture 4:
You’re done! High Five! ^_^

Variations & Final Thoughts

As I said earlier, there’s a lot of variation to be had here. You can use thinner or thicker wire, square wire, or colored wire. You could hammer the loops for texture or leave them off altogether. You can replace the loops with a fun squiggle or a pattern, or add beads.

I want you to take this Tutorial and make something beautiful with it.

Make a couple of these to start, then go nuts! I’d like you to comment with links back to your creations so we can all see them!

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Coming Soon: New Parent Charm Collection

Finally! Charms for us who want sentimental jewelry that’s classy and nerdy!

What you’re looking at are the castings for my new line of charms, which debuted at Pennsic. We’ll be casting another run of them in sterling silver this weekend or early next week.

So what are they, exactly? These charms are meant for parents to wear in honor of their children. You’ve probably seen similar ones; charms that are shaped like people, usually with birthstones. While the idea is wonderful, the current selection in stores is pretty limited in terms of style.

My new line or parent charms was inspired by heraldry and cadency marks indicating birth order. Diamond shapes are for your daughters, while shields are for sons. The symbols on them show which order they were born in. The bridge-like shape, called a label, is for firstborns, the crecent moon for second, and so on. I’ve been able to find records of marks up to the double-digits, but I’ve decided to go up to five for now.

Once the second run is finished, we’ll be able to photograph them and put them up on the site for sale! There will also be an option to add birthstones or other personalization options for later runs.

I have an organizational question for you: Should I add the charms to the Pendant section, or make a new one specifically for Charms? Let me know in the comments!

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Venus Earrings History and Craftsmanship

Because pearls come from the sea, they gained a permanent connection to Venus, goddess of love, who was born from the waves’ foam and carried to shore on a clamshell. Venus was also the goddess in charge of everyday drinking wine, while Jupiter was in charge of sacred wine used for religious ceremonies. Venus’s wine festivals were celebrated throughout the Empire and were very well attended. As a result, wine-purple amethyst also became a stone associated with love while green stones were connected to spring and fertility. These gems were often placed together in various combinations.

A jewelry staple for centuries, pearl studs can be as fancy or as simple as you’d like. We added our own twist with a granulated border and riveting. I chose to rivet the pearls in place, rather than glue them, not only for added security but also to showcase an ancient technique not typically used today.

These earrings were directly inspired by Greek and Roman earrings discovered in the late 1800s. Flat discs covered in granulation and set with gems or dangling pearls seemed to be a popular earring style throughout the ancient world.

Before I begin cutting the back plate from sheet silver, I had to match the cultured, freshwater button pearls. The pearls are then placed on a silver wire that I soldered to the back plate of the earring. Then, I carefully hammered the end of the wire until it flattened out like the head of a nail. This delicate work requires patience, but results in a secure, timelessly elegant earring.

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My First Cloisonné Enamel Piece

I love to use color in my work. I may wear all black every day, but I love color. That’s why I decided to try enamelling. There’s only so much you can do with gemstones to add color anyway, and enamelling has been used in jewelry to do just that for thousands of years. The type of enamel work I’m talking about is vitreous enamel. It’s pretty much colored glass ground up so fine that it’s like sand or sugar. You put the glass grains on a backing material – gold, copper or fine silver for jewelry – then put it in a kiln or hit it with a torch. This melts the grains of glass and fuses them together to make a smooth surface. It seems like there’s as many different ways to use enamel on jewelry as there are for using paint on a canvas, and just like with paint, it can be simple or complex.

The enamelling technique I decided to try is cloisonné. It invloves the use of thin strips of metal or wire to make cells (cloisons in French) that are then adhered to a backing material and filled in with (usually) different colors of enamel. The cloisons can be used to separate the colors, or be an important design element in and of themselves. Upon reading this article on Ganoksin, I was inspired to make a pendant after the designs on the gold rings from Kouklia in Cyprus, some of the oldest examples of cloisonné enamel ever found. The rings date from around the 13th century, BC.

For my first piece, I decided to use transparent enamel with fine silver. The technique I used to apply the enamel is wet-packing, where the grains of glass are mixed with distilled water and applied with a brush or small spatula. I made a little animated gif of the process, which goes roughly like this:

  1. The shaped cloisons are stuck in place, fused with a layer of clear enamel
  2. Wet-packing in the first layer of color. I used a fine sable brush.
  3. The first layer dry and ready to fire. Note the color change.
  4. Layer one is fired!
  5. This is after a few layers. You can see it’s quite high, almost to the top of the wires. I also decided to try blending from light to dark blue on the curly bits.
  6. Fired and looking good. The jewel tones are gorgeous! Almost finished…
  7. After the final firing. The wires are still a little high, but those will be ground down.
  8. The metal and glass surfaces have been ground down to be even with one another, and the enamel itself is finished!
  9. Now it’s a pendant and ready to wear.

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Heavenly Ring History and Craftsmanship

Sugarloaf Larimar Medieval Handmade Sterling Silver RingOur Heavenly Medieval Ring is modeled after medieval European bishop’s rings, which were worn by both clergy and common folk to symbolize their faith or indicate having made a pilgrimage. The rings were set with blue stones to symbolize Heaven or, in the case of nuns, Mary’s traditional blue robes. While clergy wore rings set with sapphires or lapis, regular folk would have set theirs with more economical choices in a variety of colors.

We selected a cool, refreshing larimar stone with a curved, pyramid-like shape called a sugarloaf. This shape is hard to find today, and Brian cuts the stones in his lapidary workshop before I craft the setting from sterling silver. The stone itself is a fairly modern addition to the jewelry world. When a monk first discovered the interesting stone in the Dominican Republic in 1916, his requests to mine the larimar were rejected. Not until the 1970s was the stone rediscovered and mining allowed to take place.

To date, there is only one known source of larimar, which makes the stone sought-after for mineral collectors and jewelers alike. Larimar is a beautiful stone with light or dark veins running through it. Because of this variety in shades and patterns, each ring will be unique. Rest assured, all of them will be beautiful.

 

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Labradorite Crown Ring History and Craftsmanship

Handmade Labradorite Sterling Silver Crown Ring

Brian and I work hard to ensure our labradorite’s intense colors dance with fire. We think there is nothing sadder than a beautiful piece of jewelry with a dead labradorite in it. Brian selectively sources each rough stone through various dealers and then cuts them to size for my rings in his lapidary workshop.

The stone offers a wide range of color–mixed greens and blues are most common, but you can also find red, orange, and yellow. Purple labradorite is quite rare, but sometimes you’ll see threads of the royal shade mixed with the other colors. Because of the variety in shades and patterns, each ring will be unique as its wearer. Rest assured: all of them will be beautiful.

In medieval times, jewelry was as symbolic as it was decorative. Accessories could signify both your rank within an organization, such as the military or church, and the types of stone or metal were often tightly controlled by sumptuary laws. These laws were designed to reinforce strict social classes–everything from food to clothing could be regulated, depending where you lived. Only the upper classes were permitted to wear fine jewelry and clothes, which meant many jewelers could not legally wear their own creations!

Symbols connected with royalty, such as the crown-inspired setting in these rings, were restricted to those of royal blood and people with a high rank in Court. One theory surrounding medieval portraits suggests that people held (rather than wore) certain pieces of fine jewelry because they weren’t allowed to wear the pieces, unless they were gifted to them by royalty.

This sterling silver ring is a special piece–labradorite is my favorite stone and I craft each ring by hand, carefully tracing the outline of each stone to make the crown-inspired setting just right. This fairly modern addition to jewelry was first discovered in Labrador, Canada, in the late 1700s, but wasn’t used as a gem until spectrolite, a labradorite variety, was found in Finland after World War II.

The stone has been well known to the Inuit, who believe the flashes of color and fire are the Northern Lights shining within the stone. Legend tells us a passing warrior saw the lights trapped within the stone and freed them with a mighty strike from his spear, releasing the wonder into the night sky. Some of the lights remained within, and that’s how we came to have this magical piece of nature.

Handmade Labradorite Rings In-progress

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Our Fluorite Jewelry History and Craftsmanship

Handmade Fluorite Fine Silver Roman Necklace

Rainbow fluorite was highly prized by the Romans, not only for its rarity (their only source was Parthia), but also for its beautiful bands of color.

Historically, fluorite was worked into cups and dishes to best display the patterns of this relatively-soft stone. The Romans believed that wine drunk from a fluorite cup tasted sweeter. This was partially true, as the vessels were typically covered in a clear, protective resin to prevent cracks or chips–the resins reacted to the acid in the wine and actually did make the drink a bit sweeter!

The bracelet and necklace on this page are made from fine silver, with rainbow fluorite beads spaced evenly between the lengths of chain. As I always do with my chains, I cut, fused, and formed each link by hand before weaving them together while Brian drilled the soft stones one by one. This let me thread the beads directly onto the chains as I made them.

The natural banding in the stone means each set is unique. The most common shades are greens, purples, and clear with thin bands and wisps of color.

I handmade the clasps from sterling silver as well, using a toggle clasp on the bracelet and a hook/eye clasp on the necklace.

Handmade Fluorite Fine Silver Roman Bracelet Sinclair Jewelry Torch Jewelry Making Sinclair Jewelry Making Fine Silver Links

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