June 15, 2024

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Jewelry-Making DIY Basics – What is a Split Ring?

3 min read

Knowing the terminology of basic jewelry findings will help the novice jewelry designer to make quality jewelry pieces faster.  Split rings may look similar to jump rings, but they are not interchangeable.

What is a split ring?

A split ring is a round jewelry finding made of wire that does not have a gap through the ring, so jewelry components do not fall through a cut..  The wire curves over almost two whole circles — 720 degrees.  At the first circle, the wire makes a bend, then the second circle is right next to the first.  If you have ever purchased a plain key ring and “wound” your keys onto the ring, then you have already used a split ring. 

Uses of split rings

The description above gives an obvious use for split rings — as key rings.  The key rings themselves can be decorated with charms or pendants if their holes are big enough to fit directly onto the key rings; if their holes are not big enough to fit directly onto the key ring, then first “wind” them onto a smaller ring, then “wind” the small ring onto the big key ring.  For putting charms on bracelets, choose rings with diameters smaller than the beads on either side if you want the charms fixed in place.  Lobster claw clasps and toggles may be attached to either bead wire projects or chain projects using small split rings.

Some people will use split rings as the target for a lobster claw clasp on bead wire projects — crimping the ring into place at the end of the jewelry piece.  However, the “transition” point from the two wires of the ring to the one wire may damage a stranded bead wire.  The “transition” point does not matter quite as much when using a split ring with metal chain.  The author prefers recommends closed (soldered) jump rings for lobster claw targets on crimped bead wire projects, either heavy gauge open jump rings or link locks to connect clasps and toggles to chain, and heavy gauge open jump rings or a closed jump ring/link lock combination for lobster claw targets on chain projects.  Closed jump rings and link locks have a more “professional” for terminating bracelets, necklaces and anklets.

Split Ring Materials

Split rings will most often be made of the following materials:

  • Platinum
  • Palladium
  • Gold: 18 karat, 14 karat, 12 karat in yellow gold, white gold, green gold, rose gold
  • Gold-Filled: base metal with karat gold mechanically and thermally bonded to visible and wear surfaces
  • Silver: sterling silver (.925 silver) including argentium silver and blackened silver
  • Titanium
  • Surgical Steel
  • Lead-free Brass, usually plated with gold, silver, copper, imitation rhodium, and gunmetal, optionally antiqued or oxidized

The temper of most sterling rings does not allow them to return to shape after having jewelry components “wound” onto them.  Plated and gold-filled split rings do not have as much problem “springing” back into shape.  As long as a jewelry designer discloses using plated rings with sterling silver, many buyers will accept the use if the overall design attracts the eye.  However, the Federal Trade Commission frowns on those who present or imply a piece as sterling silver when it uses lesser metals.

Wire diameter and overall diameter of a split ring will influence the effort needed to use them.  Small rings with thick wire will be difficult to open.  Large rings with small diameter wire may not be strong enough for the application.  Many jewelry-makers will use split ring pliers to aid in opening split rings; these pliers have a “hook” jaw bent toward a flat jaw that makes these pliers more safer and easier to use than teeth or fingernails.

Basic jewelry-making components include split rings which have recommended uses and permissible uses.  Experience making jewelry will help teach how and when a jewelry designer should use split rings for best effect and highest quality.

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