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Beaded wire


#1

Hello,

I am very interested in using gold beaded wire in my work. I am sure
someone must make it, but I only seem to be finding beaded wire in
silver from my regular suppliers.

Does anyone have any idea how it was made in ancient times? I keep
finding references to articles by Naimb Whitfield, who is an expert
on medieval Celtic jewelry, but have not yet found a souce for these
actual articles. I would love to take a crack at trying to duplicate
the technique used in the early middle ages. I would supploes some
kind of dies were used, but the product does not show any parting
line. The stuff was widely used, so how difficult can it be?

Stephen Walker
Walker Metalsmiths
http://www.celtarts.com


#2
I am very interested in using gold beaded wire in my work. ... Does
anyone have any idea how it was made in ancient times? 

Hello Stephen,

There are two good sources for on how it was done, or
might have been done, by the ancients. The first is Jack Ogden’s
"Jewellery Of The Ancient World" (Rizzoli, 1982). On page 53 there are
a couple of small diagrams showing how single and double edged
"forming" blades were used to make beaded wire. This is an
exceptionally good book for on the work and methods of
ancient jewellers. It’s long out of print and it can be a bear to
find a copy at a decent price but it’s well worth the effort if this
is a subject of interest to you.

Jewelry of The Ancient World
By Jack Ogden

The other reference is of course Oppi Untracht’s “Jewelry Concepts
and Technology”. On page 169 there is a detailed diagram of dies used
to “swage shape” beaded wire. I’ve attempted to make such a die.
Although my results were pretty crude it was sufficient to prove to
me that the technique could produce good results if the dies were
carefully cut and finished. FWIW I learned that a milling machine
would be invaluable in making these dies since dead flat surfaces and
careful alignment of the die parts is critical to producing
acceptable results.

Jewelry Concepts & Technology
By Oppi Untracht

Cheers,
Trevor F.


#3

Try and find a copy of

Silversmithing and Jewellery, by H Wilson, published by Pitman,
ISBN: 0 273 42953 1

This was first publish in about 1902, but reprinted in 1973. It is a
textbook of ‘anchent’ methods written by a teacher - craftsman who
was working in the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Silverwork and jewellery : a text-book for students and workers in
metal
By H. Wilson, Unno Bisei

Bill Bedford


#4

I have made small quantities of gold beaded wire as follows:

  1. start with square wire

  2. make a mandrel with 4 separating disks separated by 3 worn out
    disks such that it will cut evenly spaced grooves along the wire

  3. Cut the first four grooves about half way through the wire.

  4. For subsequent sets of grooves use the first disk on the mandrel
    as an index into the last groove cut.

  5. When you have the desired length of wire with "square beads,"
    round the beads with a cup burr. (I haven’t tried it but I would
    expect a beading tool would work as well…perhaps without even
    going through the grooving steps.) My method worked for some fairly
    large beads.

Howard Woods
Eagle, Idaho


#5

Try this book: On Divers Arts by Theophilus (ISBN 0-486-23784-2).
It has a section on tools that describes the tool used to make such
wire in the 12th century. It’s about the oldest surviving metal
working text. The tool he describes is pretty much the same as the
one described by Herbert Maryon in his book on metal work and
enameling.

On Divers Arts: The Foremost Medieval Treatise on Painting,
Glassmaking, and Metalwork

Called Also Rugerus. Theophilus

Price: $10.17

Media: Paperback
Manufacturer : Dover Publications
Release data : 01 June, 1979

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR afn03234@afn.org


#6
Try this book: On Divers Arts by Theophilus (ISBN 0-486-23784-2).
... The tool he describes is pretty much the same as the one
described by Herbert Maryon in his book on metal work and
enameling. 

Hello Ron,

FWIW, the beading tool in Theophilus is on p.89-90 of the Dover
addition. Although it will only form one full bead at a time it looks
like a more forgiving version of the tool in Oppi’s book.

Do you have a page number for the beading tool in Maryon? I thought
there was one in there too but I’ve looked twice now and can’t find
it. This has always been one of my favourite books on the old-school
ways of doing things (“Metalwork and Enamelling” by Herbert Maryon,
Dover, ISBN 0-486-22702-2).

Metalwork and Enamelling
By Herbert Maryon

Price $9.71

Media: Paperback
Manufacturer: Dover Publications
Release data: 01 January, 1984

Cheers,
Trevor F.


#7

Does anyone have any idea how it was made in ancient times?

Stephen, I can’t speak for the medieval period, but in Jack Ogden’s
book, Jewellery of the Ancient World (Rizzoli; 1982), he shows how
ornamental wire, including beaded wire, was made, from the
mid-second millennium BC onward. See especially pp. 52-57 and
Figures 4:38 (tools to produce beading) and 4:45 (beading produced
"by hammering a gold wire into a line of conical holes in a metal
die").

Ogden also refers to Theophilus (12th century AD), whose book, On
Divers Art, is available as a Dover paperback. See pp. 88-90 for a
discussion of the tool(s) used for swaging beaded wire.

Judy Bjorkman


#8

I have have the book cited “Silverwork & Jewellery” I don’t recall a
section on beaded wire. Looking at the index and Table of contents is
no help. Such a wire cannot be drawn, but perhaps could be stamped.
It would be necessary to make a male and female mold, or, the
cheaters way: which I have seen on high end designer jewelry in the
retail trade: solder on gold bead chain. Yes it’s hollow, but if you
lay it it channels, it won’t wear thru. I have repaired some pieces
using this technique. The other option is to make granules and sift
them with a stone sieve, then solder, solder, solder.


#9

Morning Stephen,

There are two articles by Niamh Whitfield in a periodical called
"Jewellery Studies" on beaded wire. They are in Volumes 4 (1990) and
8 (1998). She also published in “Journal of Irish archaeology”.

Eileen


#10

Thank-you Eileen and the several others who have answered my query. I
have learned that Naimh Whitfields’s 1998 article in “Jewellery
Studies” most likely has the I seek and a reprint is being
sent to me. I will pass on what I learn after I have read it. Several
other articles by Naimh Whitfield that I have seen show that she
clearly understands her subject, both technically and content. I was
looking at an article that compared the Tara Brooch and the
Hunterston Brooch, both Celtic circa 7th or 8th centuries. The beaded
wire granulation work on the Tara brooch is much more complex, but I
notice in her enlarged photographs that the quality of the beaded wire
in the Hunterston brooch is better, with the beads showing a more
sherical and distinct crispness. There does not appear to be any sign
of a parting line like you would expect from a stamping die, so i am
betting that the medieval smiths rolled round wire in some kind of
tooling, not like a rolling mill, but like between grooved plates.
That is speculation on my part. However they did it it would seem to
me that the difficulty would be making the tooling rather than using
it to make the beaded wire.

Stephen Walker


#11
    FWIW, the beading tool in Theophilus is on p.89-90 of the
Dover addition. Although it will only form one full bead at a time
it looks like a more forgiving version of the tool in Oppi's book.
Do you have a page number for the beading tool in Maryon?  I
thought there was one in there too but I've looked twice now and
can't find it.  This has always been one of my favourite books on
the old-school ways of doing things ("Metalwork and Enamelling" by
Herbert Maryon, Dover, ISBN 0-486-22702-2). 

You know, I think that I may be remembering another book after all.
I cannot lay my hands on my copy right now (we gave ourselves new
office furniture for christmas, and a lot of my books are in heaps
around the house, awaiting reshelving). I suspect that I was
recalling the chapter on the various wire twists, and mentally
inserted beaded wire into the chapter. There is a footnote in the
Dover edition of Theophilus on page 89 where the author remarks that
the interpretation of the function of the beading tool had been
endorsed by Mr. Maryon, which may be what I was remembering.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR afn03234@afn.org


#12

I too have taken an interest in Anglo-Saxon beaded wire, Last year I
had the opportunity to have close look at several pieces of gold
jewellery from Cirencester Museum in Gloucestershire England. The
wires measured under a microscope were 0.2 ,0.3, and 0.4 mm in
maximum diameter, mostly short lenghts but all consistent for
placement .The beading went all round the wire but was more of a
modified ‘V’ indentation than two arcs.

I was interested because I have plans to do some reproductions. I
also assume that the grooves were rolled in with one or two groovd
plates much as an apothecary would roll a paste to make pills.

If it sounds incredible that 6th and 7th Century European jewellers
would have the technology to make grooved tools on this scale there
is a paper in Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History on a
surmised method for making checkerboard stamps to impress thin gold
foil to go in behind the garnet inlay .

This was well within their capabilities and could easily be modified
to use on short lengths of wire. When I get time I will make up the
tool and have a go.

I will look up the Naimh Whitfield papers ,I would like to know how
they made wire that thin.

The book by the way s still in print and available from Oxbow Books
who I believe have an American distributor.(No connection to me ,just
a customer).

Tim Blades


#13
    I have have the book cited "Silverwork & Jewellery" I don't
recall a section on beaded wire. Looking at the index and Table of
contents is no help. Such a wire cannot be drawn, but perhaps could
be stamped. It would be necessary to make a male and female mold, 

See fig 166 on page 273 for a sketch of just such a mold.

Bill Bedford


#14

I’ve written some stuff on ancient beaded wire manufacture over the
years, including in

Greek Gold: Jewellery of the Classical World, British Museum Press,
London 1994.(With D. Williams)

Jewellery of the Ancient World, Trefoil, London 1982.

And in the article:

‘Late Antique Jewellery: Pierced Work and Hollow Beaded Wire’.
Jewellery Studies 4. 1990, pp. 5 - 12 (With S. Schmidt)

The three main types seen in older jewellery (with some methods of
manufacture) are shown on a one page ‘fact sheet’ I sometimes use as
a handout with lectures - I can email this in pdf format if you want.

Best for 2005
Jack Ogden


#15
... I also assume that the grooves were rolled in with one or two
groovd plates much as an apothecary would roll a paste to make
pills. 

Hello Tim,

Jack Ogden has a diagram of just such a grooved plate in use on p.53
of “Jewellery Of The Ancient World”.

Cheers,
Trevor F.


#16

Mr. Ogden;

I just pulled my copy of your book Ancient Jewellery from my shelf,
thinking, “Gosh, I know I have something about beaded wire in that
cool book.” Looked up at the last message on this subject to see your
name. I’d recommend any of your work about ancient jewellery; I
think this particular little volume is a treasure. Wish it was
longer!

Thank you for your contribution, Mr. Ogden, to the field. I refer to
your works often. Your writing is concise and informative and we are
very fortunate you have chosen to share your knowledge with us.

Thank you again.
Dana Whitehorn-Umphres
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA


#17

Just caught this post. I made a beading swage almost 30 years ago
when I was just starting out—according to Henry Wilson’s
"Silverwork and Jewelry" p. 275 (Pitman). I seem to recall it worked
pretty well. I used the standard not-hard steel in my machine shop
class (I took the course to make my tools…). It was soft enought
to be able to make the row of depressions with a ball drill in a
flex shaft along a line scribed with a t-square. He refers to
Theophilus and his tool is similar, the difference being that he has
a row of hemispherical depressions instead of Theophilus’ single
depression for one bead. Please note that I use 960 wire instead of
sterling, which is liable to make quite a difference (for the
better)!

Silverwork and Jewelry:
A Text-Book for Students and Workers in Metal
By Henry Wilson

Janet in Jerusalem


#18

Hi Janet,

Several questions:

What diameter of wire are you using? (I want to make very small
beaded wire, less than 0.5 mm)

Is there a top and bottom die, or just one?

If there is just one, what do you use to hammer or press it in?

Thanks,
Stephen Walker


#19

Dear Stephen,

It’s top and bottom dies (plates) calibrated with two thick 'pins’
in the bottom one which go through corresponding holes in the upper
one—just like Wilson’s (p 273). There is a row of hemispheres on
both top and bottom (like Wilson). There are several rows of
different sizes for different thicknesses of wire. The diameter of
the drilled hemispheres would of course have to be about the
thickness of your wire, so in your case (.5mm) you would have to
drill a row of pretty small hemispheres i.e., with a ~.5 ball end
drill. I use a hammer on the top plate while continually turning the
wire in place—first hitting lightly and then increasing the
strength of the hit as the beads get more and more formed. I think
this technique, however is better suited to heavier thickness beaded
wire. For .5mm I would try alternative techniques:

  1. If you twist 2 wires VERY tightly together, the effect will be
    like beaded wire. You have to keep annealing and twisting until the
    the lines of the twist go from being slanted to being perpendicular
    to the length of the wire. This illusion works especially well if
    the twisted wire is bordered by straight wire in the work. For .5mm
    twisted wire, twist together two .30mm wires.

  2. Another traditional way of making beaded-like wire is to use a
    millefiori (sp?) tool on smooth wire. These tools come in many sizes
    and are used by stonesetters to give the effect of a row of beads.

  3. The beaded wire standardly sold in Israel is hemispheres rather
    than full spheres. This would be pretty easy to stamp yourself—and
    the tool would require only one plate with a row of hemispheres that
    you could just hammer the wire into.

In ALL cases, I recommend using 960 silver rather than sterling. :slight_smile:

HTH,
Janet in Jerusalem

Stephen,

This is a PS to the post I just sent in respnse to your questions:

I think if I wanted beaded wire, I would just solder or granulate a
row of beads lined up in a channel, probably in charcoal. If it’s a
one-shot deal, this would be a lot quicker than making the
tool…:-)…If you need a lot, you could then have this cast.


#20

Hello Janet and everyone else,

I got the 1998 Jewllery Studies paper by Naimh Whitfield. She
describes the tooling with top and botton dies or swedge blocks as an
"organarium" based on a description by Theophilus. I am not quite
sure when Theophilus wrote, but his text was in Latin. Experiments
show that a set of dies that only make one bead at a time work better
and faster than multple bead dies.

She also describes another method of making beaded wire that works
very well for small sizes. It is a tool translated as a “beading
file” This is a steel tool with a groove or series of parallel
grooves. Short pieces of wire are rolloed between this tool and a flat
surface. The sharp ridges press make the wire narrower where they
press in the wire and also the displaced metal gets a bit thicker
right met to it. Theophilus also describes this method.

You can also make beaded wire with a single ridged tool rolled onto
the wire. I tried this with the blade of a graver and it worked, but
it is difficult to make the beads evenly. According to Whitfield a
single rided tool makes beaded wire faster than a grooved or double
ridged tool, but the double ridged tool makes more consitently sized
and spaced beads. Multiple grooved beading files take longer also
because the pressure is distributed over more area and she concludes
that Theophilus’ description of a single grooved, two ridged tool is
the most efficient for making beaded wire by hand. I havn’t had time
to make one yet and try it, but I will.

Jack Ogden’s work is quoted as a source in the notes.

Stephen Walker