CRAFTER'S GUIDE TO MAKING MAGNETIC JEWELRY
By Herb Halling of Magnetic Hematite Shoppe
Magnetic jewelry is a fun and profitable art medium that is easy to make and sell at art and craft shows. In fact we know many people that make a nice income to supplement their regular income working part time from home. Many just make the magnetic jewelry as a hobby to give to patients or friends to help them recover or live with pain. Others use their income from magnetic jewelry as their primary source of income. In this article we hope to tell you almost everything you need to know to start your own magnetic jewelry hobby or business. First we will discuss how to make the basic pieces of magnetic jewelry, then we will discuss how to set up at craft shows and fairs.
Before we start with making a piece of magnetic jewelry, lets discuss the tools you will need. First visit a Staples or Office Depot store and purchase a small "Magnetic Dry Erase Bulletin Board" for less than $10. This will be your work station. It provides a light metallic surface that enable the magnetic beads to stay where you set them. I usually take a felt tip Sharpe and draw a 22 inch ruler along the bottom edge and cover this with clear packing tape to keep it from wearing off. This ruler provides you a way to measure the length of the jewelry you are making. Next you need a pair of sharp scissors for trimming the monofilament. I usually look for a small pair of tungsten craft scissors at Wal-Mart or Michaels. Next you need an inexpensive cigarette lighter to burn the monofilament. Some additional tools that are occasionally used are; needle nose pliers, an ice pick or awl and a small pocket knife.
The basic components of a magnetic bracelet, anklet, or necklace are the same. The main difference is the length. The basic components are; half the clasp, some 80 lb monofilament fishing line, some magnetite beads, and the second half of the clasp. If you are making a bracelet, cut a piece of monofilament line about 3 or 4 inches longer than needed. Then string the first half of the clasp on the line and use a cigarette lighter to burn the line and form a ball. Then pull the ball into the clasp and lock it in place. Next string a 4 MM round bead next to the clasp providing a small rolling surface for the clasp. Then for about 7 inches string the beads in a pattern you like, finishing with another 4 MM round bead and the second half of the clasp. The most difficult part is locking the second half of the clasp in place and there is a web page dedicated to installing clasps you should review. For ladies bracelets, I usually make them 7.5 inches long. Men's bracelets are about 8.25 inches, Anklets are usually made to order and can vary from 9 inches to 12 inches. Necklaces are generally 18 to 23 inches long. If you are making them for a craft show, make them on the long side as it is easy to shorten a piece, whereas lengthening a piece involves re-stringing a new piece. At a craft show you will hopefully be pressed for time and shortening them is fast. Generally speaking you want the bracelet to be close to the skin and large enough to slide one finger under the bracelet.
Lets discuss the different types of clasps we use at the Magnetic Hematite Shoppe. The basic clasp is 6 MM in dia and 6 MM long for each half. The hole in the center is large on the mating surface and small on the bead side of the clasp as shown on the right. 6 MM clasps are good for necklaces and light weight bracelets. For heavier bracelets, I recommend using an 8 MM clasp. Also anklets should only use 8 MM clasps as it is very easy to open a clasp when walking hard, jumping off a curb, dancing, or getting out of a car. An 8 MM clasp is about 3 times stronger than a 6 MM clasp. The clasps are made out of Neodyminium and the typical material grade is N35. At the Magnetic Hematite Shoppe we special order the 6 MM clasps to be made using a N40 grade material and they are about 20 percent stronger than the average clasp seen in the industry. As far as we know, we are the only source for these strong 6 MM gun metal clasps. Neodyminium is typically a soft material that tends to corrode when exposed to water and sweat. For this reason the clasps are typically coated with a hard material such as nickel, gold, or silver. The hard coating lengthens the useful life of the clasp. It is important to protect the mating surface of the clasps by not trying to screw them together. This grinds the protective surface and shortens the life of the clasp. There are also clasps coated with black epoxy paint and they have a very short lifespan. We have stopped selling these black epoxy coated clasps at the Magnetic Hematite Shoppe. As an alternative, we special order clasps with a gun metal grey hard coating and they have become the most popular clasp in our inventory. In addition to the 6 MM and 8 MM clasps we carry a double and triple clasp as shown in the side images. These clasps are only available in gun metal grey and feature two or three holes for making double or triple string bracelets. The picture of the batwing bracelet at the top of this article is an good example of the use of a double bracelet. The double and triple hole clasps are also very strong like the 8 MM round clasp. As mentioned above, terminating the second half of the clasps take some experience and there is a web page set up just for installing clasps and we strongly suggest reviewing this page prior to making any magnetic jewelry. As mentioned above, the mating surface of clasps are the most vulnerable surfaces and difficult to keep clean. For example when dragging a magnet through a sand box, it picks up small pieces of iron ore dirt. The same is true with Neodyminium clasps. They tend to attract metallic dirt. It is impossible to wipe the dirt off a clasp. You just tend to move the dirt around. For cleaning we recommend taking a piece of Scotch tape and pulling the dirt off the clasp on a weekly basis.
Lets discuss the monofilament fishing line. Magnetic jewelry is typically strung on fishing line, stainless steel wire, or stretchy cord. When we see a stretchy cord bracelet we relate it to a cheap Chinese import. These cords eventually rot out and break. The stainless steel wire is commonly used by beaders and many beaders prefer the stainless steel wire as their main stringing line. Our experience is the stainless steel wire is more difficult to work with and has a shorter life than 80 lb monofilament fishing line. Monofilament fishing line can be an expensive line for competition grade sport fishing. Or it can be an inexpensive leader line. For magnetic jewelry the least expensive leader line tends to be perfect for our needs. The recommended sizes are 80 lb test for most magnetic jewelry. However a 60 lb test monofilament is frequently used when the beads have a smaller hole than usual. Or 60 lb line is used when making a magnetic wrap which needs to be more flexible. These larger sizes of monofilament fishing line is generally only available near ocean ports where deep sea fishing is normal. Inland lake fishing uses a much smaller line. Wal-Mart carries fishing line, but is is light weight for lake fishing and not good for magnetic jewelry. At Magnetic Hematite Shoppe we carry both 80 and 60 lb test monofilament fishing line for our beaders.
Next are the magnetic beads. The proper name is magnetite beads. Also called magnetic hematite or hemalike. Magnetite is made from magnetic iron ore and pressed into a bead and then polished. If you strike a bead with a hammer, it will become a red powder of iron ore. Likewise, hematite is non-magnetic iron ore pressed into a bead and polished. The only difference between magnetite and hematite is the magnetic field. The grade of magnetism in the beads can very from weak to extra strong. At the Magnetic Hematite Shoppe, we order beads with an average magnetic strength of 800 gauss. Some times we get a stronger bead in stock but that is not the norm. The 800 gauss beads are the industry norm and satisfactory for most applications. There is another type of magnetic bead made from Neodyminium like the clasps. These beads normally do not have a hole for stringing them. They are strong enough to stay together without a string. Each beads functions as a clasp and the bracelet can be opened anywhere. These bracelets are attractive and generally use gold and nickel coating. The main problem with these beads is keeping them clean. Because they are shinny and high strength, they tend to pick up iron ore dust. Specially if worn while doing some gardening. It is almost impossible to to clean the jewelry properly and for this reason we do not recommend the wide use of Neodyminium beads in magnetic jewelry.
With magnetic beads, you should be aware of the direction of the magnetic force. Some beads the magnetic field is inline with the hole. Other magnetic beads the magnetic attraction may be side to side. When stringing beads in series on monofilament, it does not matter much which direction the magnetic field is directed. However there are those that may argue this point. There are also times when you want the magnetic fields to have a sideways attraction. This is the case with magnetic wraps where faceted beads are generally used..
The magnetite beads come in many different shapes. There are; round, rice, faceted, twisted, tube, double cone and spacer. Below is a table illustrating the different shapes. Each shape has a variety of sizes usually measured in MM or millimeters. For a reference, a 6 MM bead is about 1/4 inch and the most common size. Round beads are usually 4 MM, 6 MM, or 8 MM diameter. The 4 MM is the least expensive and used a lot as a filler bead to keep costs down.
Any discussion on creating a magnetic jewelry business must include how to market the magnetic jewelry. The easiest way to market your jewelry is to find a craft fair, swap meet or festival where the rent is not too expensive and you can set up a table to display your goods and sell them. The items you will need are a couple of 4 x 2 ft folding tables. Some 2 ft sheet metal squares to place on the tables, and a table cloth to cover the tables. The sheet metal squares are under the table cloth and help keep your jewelry organized. Without the sheet metal all your jewelry will come together in an unorganized ball. Specially after a few customers touch them. In addition to the display tables, you will need a third table as a work station to make adjustments on the jewelry you sell. A proper fit of the bracelets and anklets is critical to the success of the magnetic therapy. One of the problems with making adjustments to magnetic jewelry outside is the wind. It is hard to focus the flame of the cigarette lighter on the monofilament line when the wind is blowing the flame out. Some consideration to a wind block may be necessary.
A trick I use at craft shows is to have two trays of bracelets. The bracelets will be similar, but one group will have 6 MM clasps and the second group will have 8 MM clasps and sell for $5 more than the 6 MM clasps. When customers compare the strength difference between the two clasps, they will pay the extra $5 per bracelet 80% of the time to have the stronger clasp. I don't know if this is because too many people have lost their bracelets because of a weak clasp, or they just want to purchase the stronger magnet.
There is a lot of information covered above, and it is possible I have confused many on specific points. If you wish to call me to clarify an points made above, I invite you to call. The best time to call is after 11 AM Pacific Time. I have difficulty sleeping at night and I am not an early riser. My phone number at the Magnetic Hematite Shoppe is (562) 594-8265. Ask for Herb.
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