As a popular component of necklaces and jewelry, gemstones require a proper setting in order to be worn.
© Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Instructor Regina Herron demonstrates how to wrap wire around a gemstone during a Saturday class at the Prince Albert Arts Centre.
Enter the fine art of wire wrapping, which -- along with silversmithing -- provides a medium for people to attach gemstones to a necklace or other filament.
On Saturday, the Prince Albert Arts Centre hosted a class that taught interested residents the essentials of wire wrapping, which instructor Regina Herron noted provide a foundation for more advanced techniques.
“Once you learn the very basics of the wiring, then you can … do many different designs,” Herron said.
“You need more wire for the other settings,” she added. “But you can play with it and make a whole bunch of different settings and fancy it up if you want.”
For Saturday’s class, Herron brought along a selection of rocks for students to use, most of which were cut and polished by a member of the local Rock and Gem Club.
With each stone roughly average size, students required approximately two and a half inches of wire to wrap the rocks, though Herron noted that more elaborate wrap designs require more wire.
A longtime member of the Rock and Gem Club herself, Herron’s interest in gemstones and wire wrapping developed under the influence of her geologist husband.
“He was always wanting me to get interested in rocks and I never did, until they had a show here in Prince Albert,” she recalled.
“They had a rock and gem show and then they were trying to get me to come and join the club and I did -- and then I learned how to actually do the rocks, to cut, polish them, so they would look like that.”
Faced with a decision to learn wire wrapping or silversmithing, Herron bought some books and tried to teach herself the proper techniques.
After a period of trial and error, her skills blossomed with the help of a woman she met at a show in Saskatoon who displayed particular aptitude for wire wrapping.
Once you learn the very basics of the wiring, then you can … do many different designs. Regina Herron
“I asked her would she teach me how do that, so she did, and then once I learned that, then I could actually put it together so it looked half-decent,” Herron said.
Students at Saturday’s class used wire that had been coated in silver.
As their instructor explained, the most significant difference between wire wrapping and proper silversmithing is price.
“If I was teaching a class with real silver, it would be a lot more expensive than what (students are) paying right now, so it’s just silver-coated,” Herron said.
“When you’re doing silversmithing, you’re using real silver, and it’s quite pricey. I think it’s like $22 an ounce.”
Herron described silversmithing as more difficult than wire wrapping, but noted that it typically takes between two and three hours to teach a student the latter.
Along with gemstones for students to practise on, she also brought along pictures of to the class in order to give them an idea of the different rocks that are available and how they appear in their natural state.
Though unconnected to the weekend class, the Rock and Gem Club provides another forum for Prince Albert residents to learn about the subject, meeting at the Arts Centre every two months during winter.
“Some (meetings) we’ll give some kind of talk about … polishing rocks or an interesting thing about rocks, or some other things that people might be interested in learning,” Herron said.
Membership in the Rock and Gem Club costs $20 per person per year. Additional information is available by contacting the Arts Centre.