How to Choose and Use Jump Rings

jewelry maker working with pliers and jump ring on a necklace

 

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Jump rings make jewelry connections and making a piece of jewelry without jump rings can be difficult. The jump ring is the connector of choice in a variety of jewelry making applications.

Some of the things jump rings are used for include:

  • Hanging a pendant
  • Connecting a clasp to a necklace or bracelet
  • Extending the length of a necklace or bracelet

Jump rings solve all of these problems and more. For onething that is so important, you may not be giving choosing the right size jump ring enough thought. After all, if the connection at the jump ring is weak, it's very likely the jewelry might break or be lost forever.

Selecting the Size of Jump Rings

There are two facets to the size of a jump ring that matter:

  • Diameter: how large or small the ring is measured across the shape
  • Gauge: the thickness of the wire used to make the jump ring

As the size of the jump ring gets bigger (diameter increases), the thickness of the wire should increase for it to hold more weight. 

For example, a 4 mm, diameter jump ring, made out of 20 gauge wire is a lightweight jump ring. A 4.5mm jump ring in 18 gauge wire is still small in size but will be considerably stronger.

To attach clasps on necklaces or clasps on bracelets, 6mm 18 gauge jump rings are a good choice. For lightweight earrings, 3.5-4mm 20 gauge jump rings are a size that works well.

Interestingly, not all vendors measure jump rings the same way. Some vendors measure jump rings by the outer diameter (OD) and others by the inner diameter (ID). Try to make sure you know which measurement is being used and be consistent buying jump rings in that size. The sizes in this article refer to the outer diameter size of the jump ring.

Selecting the Best Shape Jump Rings

Do you mean that jump rings are not all round? Jump rings aren't all round. There are plenty of other shapes of jump rings, but the two most important when using jump rings as connectors are round and oval. Oval jump rings are important when you want to make sure a cord or chain link can't slip through the jump ring opening. By putting the opening on the side of the oval, the cord is not in contact with the gap, thus making it less likely to slip through the opening. For that reason, oval jump rings are always great to have on hand.

Selecting the Quality of Jump Rings

Not all jump rings are created equal. In general, the highest quality jump rings are those made for creating a type of jewelry called chain mail. Chain mail (also spelled maille) is adornment (it can be jewelry or armor or a headpiece) made from metal rings linked together. Since mail design depends on the jump rings, they tend to be perfectly round with the joining ends smooth and perfectly closing. The jump rings are cut with a saw, not a blade like wire cutters. Because a blade pinches the wire, it tends to leave a slightly domed or pointed center with rough edges. This can make it hard to make the jump ring close tightly.

Of course, if you want to be sure your jump ring will never fail, you can get closed jump rings that are soldered shut. You must thread these on to your project as you make it though.

Another option is to use jump rings that snap closed. These are offered by a variety of manufacturers and are slightly more expensive, but they can be worth it for knowing that the jump rings will stay securely closed. A popular brand of jump rings that snap closed are called Snapeez, and you hear a snap when you have properly closed the jump ring.

Types of Wire Used in Jump Rings

Jump rings can be found in sterling silver; gold filled, stainless steel, copper, aluminum and some other specialty metals such as niobium.

Sometimes your choice of material is obvious - as in knowing that a sterling silver charm looks and lasts best joined with a sterling silver jump ring. Other times, the color is important, but the silver colored ring could be made of stainless steel, silver coated copper, aluminum or any other alloys or coatings.

Regardless of the material used, the jump rings should be work hardened, which is a step in the manufacturing which makes the metal harder. Test a few jump rings to make sure the wire is not too soft to hold tightly closed. You can work harden jump rings by lightly twisting them from side to side, hammering the side with a rubber mallet or tumbling in a rotary tumbler.

Proper Technique to Use Jump Rings

The best jump ring information is saved in this last section. Even if you get all of the first four criteria right, you'll ruin your jump rings if you open them the wrong way.

Always open your jump rings by twisting them open to the side NOT by pulling the ends apart. You will hold a pair of pliers in each hand, grasp the ring on either side of the opening and twist in opposite directions.

You can also use a jump ring tool in place of one pair of pliers. The jump ring tool is a ring that you put on the top half of your finger; It has slits that match the different thicknesses of jump rings. You find the slot that the jump ring fits best in, slide it in halfway with the opening above the slot and twist on the other side with your pliers. Learning how to use a jump ring tool can be super handy if you are using a lot of jump rings in a project.

If you give selecting your jump rings a second thought in your jewelry design, you will ensure many years of wearing enjoyment.