Wire wrapping is a jewellery technique used to create dangling-pendant designs with stones by encasing them in cases of wire. Wire wraps are a great way to preserve the natural appearance of a stone without drilling holes through it, but they can be tricky to master, both in terms of making a wrap secure and in making it pleasing to the eye.
The choice of stones for your wire wraps will probably depend mostly on your personal taste, but there are factors useful to consider when trying to master wire wrapping techniques. Bear in mind that the more irregularly shaped a stone is (such as a rough stone rather than a tumbled one), the easier it will be to wrap securely, since the wire will be more likely to catch on jagged parts or protruding nubs.
Likewise, it's difficult to wrap very small stones (thumb-size or smaller) since it's harder to get the wire to make such tight twists and bends. It's also harder to work with very large or heavy stones since they put more stress on the wire.
The type of wire you choose for your wire wrap depends both on the style of wrap you want to do and the colour scheme you want to create. Craft wire comes in many different metals and colours as well as different thicknesses.
Be sure to get craft wire, beading wire, copper wire or any other type that is highly bendable. Avoid rigid wires such as memory wire, as these are designed to keep their shape and may snap if you try to shape them.
When choosing the thickness of your wire, the general rule is that the more strands of wire you use, the thinner it should be. Thicker wires work best for single-strand wraps that twist around a stone, while very thin wires are best if you want to weave multiple strands together and run them straight up the stone on different sides.
Choose the colour and metal based on what you think will go well with your stone. Sterling silver and gold-plated wires are always beautiful, but they can be a bit more costly. Copper wire is cheaper, but it works better with some stones than others (copper is often associated with turquoise stone). You can also get coloured craft wires, such as Parawire products, though these can be a bit challenging to coordinate with the colours of your stones. When in doubt, use coloured wire with white or clear rocks.
Wire wrapping requires a good set of jewellery wire snips and pliers. You can get a set in the beading section of most craft stores, but make sure they include cutters and several kinds of needle-nosed pliers, including toothless (to avoid scarring the wire), flat (good for straightening wire), and round-tipped (good for making tiny curves and bends in wire).
The best way to learn to wrap stones in wire is to practice, since every stone and wrap will be different and trial and error will teach you how to compensate for the particular shape challenges of each piece. However, a few guidelines and wrapping patterns can help you get started.
One good design pattern to start with is a spiral wrap. Use a thicker wire for this, and create a tight spiral of wire using the very tip of your pliers at one end of the wire. Press this spiral against the tip or corner of a stone you want to wrap, holding this end in place as you wrap the rest of the wire in a loose wrap, curling around and around the stone until you reach the other end. Make another, similar loop at the other end of the stone and trim the wire. Tighten the wrap by pressing the wire closer to the curves of the rock. If they're too loose anyplace, tighten them by adding an extra twist into the wire with your pliers.
Another good beginning design is a two-strand "gift wrap" style. Cross two lengths of wire and wrap them from the bottom of the rock to the top, like wrapping ribbons on a gift box. Tighten the wrap by twisting the four strands together at the top.
If you're having trouble, you can always use a couple tiny dots of jewellery glue or quickset epoxy to help hold the stone in place. Place the glue at points where the wire is directly touching the stone, especially at the top or bottom of the wrap.