(Last updated 12/16/08)

On this page I've tried to illustrate the various techniques and styles of wrapping, and also the wide variety of stones, that I've used to make wire-wrapped jewelry. However, the stones (and styles of wrapping) shown here only scratch the surface. There are literally thousands of types of stones that can be used, many of which I've collected for future use; I'll be adding pix of some of my favorites in the near future (see Available Cabochons). I should also add that to me the stone's the star, with the wire wrap a way to present - and hopefully enhance - its beauty, not overshadow it.

Shown below are pendants containing the most common type of cabochon, an oval, in this case 30x22mm in size (except for the stone at left, which is a 40x30), all symmetrically wrapped but finished in a variety of styles. [Relative sizes of pendants can be estimated by comparison with the bail (the wire "vee" at the top), which I try to make the same size in most cases - usually large enough to accomodate a 3mm omega (or cord) necklace.] The stones, from left to right, are Namibian blue lace agate, Russian charoite, Willow Creek (Idaho) jasper, and South African tiger's eye, respectively (all are types of microcrystalline quartz, or chalcedony, except for the charoite, which is a rare mineral so far found only in the Murun Mountains of Yakutia). All are wrapped in sterling silver wire (s/s, 92.5% pure silver by weight), except for the tiger's eye, which is wrapped in 14kt gold-filled wire (GF, a 14kt gold sleeve, 20% of the total by weight, "shrink-wrapped" onto a wire core that work hardens to provide stiffness so the setting will maintain its shape).

The pendants below contain similar oval cabochons that are wrapped in ways that still hold the cabs securely in place, but also (hopefully) compliment the asymmetric patterns in the stones themselves. On the left is an onyx (an agate, or type of translucent quartz, that's black and usually striped with white), and on the right an interesting combination of milky and dendritic quartz (milky's color comes from microscopic liquid inclusions, while dendritic gets its name from its black tree-like inclusions - which are really fissure-filled stains of manganese dioxide).

The pendants below contain several other standard shapes of cabochons: on the far left a large round sardonyx (a variant of onyx in which the colored bands are formed primarily from different shades of reddish sard), symmetrically wrapped but asymmetrically finished (in 14kt GF); and (from left center to right) pear shaped cabs of Russian amazonite (a layered type of microcline feldspar, probably from the area of Miass in the Ilmen Mountains southwest of Chehabinsk), Brazilian rose quartz (unlike in the crystalline form, in this "massive" form the color was recently found to be caused by microfibrous inclusions of a still unidentified mineral), and Mookaite (the popular name of a fossilized siltstone formed from billions of tiny silicified shells of sea organisms known as radiolarians, found mainly in an outcrop along Mooka Creek - on Mooka Station, a sheep farm - on the west side of the Kennedy Range in Western Australia!).

Irregularly shaped cabs can also be wrapped, as illustrated with the delicately spider-webbed Chinese turquoise stones shown below.

In fact, most cabs cut from unusual or exotic materials are irregular in shape and non-standard in size. Shown below (from left to right) are a pietersite (related to tiger's eye) from Namibia, a relatively small polka dot jasper from Oregon, a huge slab of Montana agate, a thick orbicular ocean jasper from the northwest coast of Madagascar, and a large Koroit boulder opal from Queensland, Australia.

To further illustrate, the pendants below all contain rutilated quartz cabs of various sizes and shapes. Even though these pieces are composed mainly of the common mineral quartz (with needles of the mineral rutile encased within), because of the way they are formed in nature, no two rutilated cabs are ever alike, and pieces with attractive needle patterns, in quartz that is crystal clear, are very rare. (I usually wrap these cabs in 14kt, but think they also look attractive in s/s, as on the far left.)

One of my favorite exotic materials is ammolite, the fossilized shell of a sea creature called the ammonite. An ancestor of the squid that resembled the modern day chambered nautilis, ammonites became extinct about 65 million years ago. While ammonites were very common in all the oceans of the world and fossils of many different species are widely distributed, gem quality ammolite is found in only one place - along the banks of the St. Mary's River in southern Alberta, Canada (once under the Bearpaw Sea)! The two pendants on the left contain ammolite doublets - thin layers of fossilized shell on a natural hard stone backing. The two pictures on the right are of the same pendant, which contains an 18x13mm ammolite triplet (a doublet with a clear cap of spinel to protect it) that shows an amazing chromatic shift - a dramatic color change that depends on the angle from which it is viewed. In my opinion, ammolites are the stars of the optical "-escence" world (eg, opalescence, adularescence, etc), surpassing all but the very best of opals in their color play.

Another favorite of mine is BALTIC amber (there are over 300 different amber deposits scattered around the world), one of the oldest gem materials used by man, and also a fossil - formed in the case of Baltic from the sap of an ancient pine tree containing succinic acid (possibly of the genus Pseudolarix, recently found to still exist in the mountains of China) that was buried about 40-50 million years ago. Because of amber's very low density, very large pieces can be used for pendants, as in most of the examples shown. While Baltic amber is normally thought of as yellow (left) or honey to amber/brownish red (center) in color, green varieties are also common (center right), and there are even unique specimens of blue. More unusual (and much older) are varieties of opaque yellow amber (often called butterscotch) in which pale yellow or white streaks are distributed on a darker yellow background (2nd row, center left), and opaque white varieties called chalky (2nd row, center right). Most pieces also contain air bubbles or other inclusions, eg, plant materials in the case of greens or, most famously, bugs a la Jurassic Park (2nd row, right).

In addition, the unusual shapes and thicknesses that are usually cut to make maximum use of this fairly rare material require special and often unique wrapping techniques. This is illustrated in the front and back views of the very thick and extremely irregular pieces pictured below (left and center left, center right and right, respectively).

In that regard, one of the unique wrapping techniques that I've developed is what I call the "impossible" setting (left): as in, "How did the stone get in there, given that it doesn't bend?" Finally, special techniques and custom wraps can be used to turn almost any stone into a pendant, as illustrated with the very thick and irregularly shaped crocodilite and lapis lazuli rocks (left center and center), and in the front and back views (right center and right) of a very large piece of opal rough (from Coober Pedy, Australia) that had been polished on the front to show its opalescence, but otherwise left with its very irregular natural shape.

Wire wrapping techniques can also be used to set faceted stones, as shown (at left) with this large (nearly 100 carats!) pear shaped smoky quartz (the trick is to fashion a setting that extends below the culette/bottom of the stone so the pendant will lie flat on the neck). And finally, matching pairs of stones - like the elongated Wild Horse magnesite cabochons or the mirror image cut, paisley-shaped Indonesian fossil coral cabs can be symmetrically (center) or mirror image (right) wrapped (in 14 kt gold, in these instances) to produce spectacular dangle earrings.

For completeness, I've shown below a simpler style of cabochon setting that I've also used to produce earrings (and pendants); both examples make use of natural-colored cab-cut shell from the Paua, the Maori word for three species of the sea snail genus Haliotis, a relative of the abalone found in the coastal waters of New Zealand.

Go to Gems-1 | Go to Gems-2 | Go to Gems-3 | Go to Available Cabochons | Return to Home Page