Wire Wrapping Enamel Pieces

2 Minute Read

By Ingrid RegulaMore from this author

Everyone has long seen gems wrapped in small wire cages with hanging devices, and more recently, the Dichroic glass pendants with their caressing wire sculpture made into a bail for hanging on a chain or neck ring. They do provide a light weight addition to 3-dimensional shapes, making them functional to be worn.

So why not try that with enameled, slightly domed copper or silver pieces, provided that they are sturdy enough and enameled perfectly on both sides. The backs will be open in contrast to the traditional fabricated bezel settings.

An Overview of the Procedure Wire Wrapping Enamel Pieces

A condition is that the shape is compact with convex curves, as in rounded squares, ovals etc. Start with selecting the gold-filled or sterling square wire, size 20, 21 or 22 ga., and decide between half -hard or dead soft. Also get half-round wrapping wire, always half-hard, about 21 ga. I have found that dead soft square wire works fine, hardening later in the process. This is easier on the fingers!

Purple Gold Cloisonne Pendant. Gold cloisonné, three wires, bail on top, whole wrapping with prongs.Purple Gold Cloisonne Pendant
Gold cloisonné
Three wires, bail on top, whole wrapping with prongs.

Now measure the circumference of the piece with narrow tape which represents the length of my wire, straighten it and add 1 ½" more for each end (3″ longer than the circumference). Cut 3-4 wires and lay this 'bundle' on the table, marking the center. Twist one or two wires for extra interest. Wrap them with temporary binding wire. All markings for secure points should be made at this time, on the tape and on the wire. See step-by step pictures for earrings and Crane Love below.

Pre-formed wire bezel
Pre-formed wire bezel
Wire bezel attached to earring
Wire bezel attached to earring
Finished earrings
Finished earrings
Assembly of wire-wrap pendant.
Assembly of wire-wrap pendant.Assembly of wire-wrap pendant
Crane Love. Basse taille enamel, gold foil, gold-fill wire, beads. Inset: Backside of Crane Love.

The goal is to cover the edges of the piece with wire and bring them together at a 45° angle at the top center. Wrap segments with half-round wire at the appropriate spots. Bend wire supports inward on both side to hold the enamel piece securely. At the end, create a bail with the ends of the wire bundle, to be able to attach a necklace. Temporary binding wire as well as tape are needed for this process, and wooden dowels might aid in the forming along the way. Good wire end cutters, round nose and flat-nose jewelry pliers, and pen knife are all the tools needed.

Wire-wrap Earrings by Ingrid Regula.
Wire-wrap Earrings by lngrid Regula.      Wire-wrap Earrings by lngrid Regula.
Assembly of wire-wrap bezel for earrings
Assembly of wire-wrap bezel for earrings
Little White Heron. Basse taille enamel, cloisonne, three-wire Argentium silver bezel.Little White Heron.
Basse taille enamel, Cloisonne
Three-wire Argentium silver bezel.

I sometimes turn the bundle of wire so that the ends would be gathered at the bottom of the piece, allowing me to incorporate beads where they don't overpower the front design. The top then must have a worked in loop for attaching a metal or beaded necklace.

Holiday. Enamel on copper, gold-filled three-wire bezel, beads
Blue Heron. Basse taille enamel on copper, silver foil, wire, seed beads
Pansy. Cloisonne enamel, Argentium silver Photo shows construction of bezel with wired Pansy.
Cloisonne enamel
Argentium silver

Photo shows construction of bezel with wired "loops" for supporting additional elements

Spring. Basse taille enamel on copper, three-wire gold filled bezel, beads
Golden Glow. Basse taille enamel on copper, four-wire gold filled bezel


I have found that using Argentium silver wire, rather than traditional sterling wire, is the way to go. It tarnishes much less and requires little polishing. The gold-filled wire is still affordable in comparison to gold, as needed for fabricated gold settings. It blends in with other gold jewelry a person might be wearing.

By Ingrid Regula [Volume 27, Number 3, June, 2008]
In association with
glass on metal
Glass on Metal is the only publication dedicated to enameling and related arts. Technical information, book reviews, how-to articles and insight on contemporary enamelers highlight each issue.

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Ingrid Regula

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