Making leather jewelry is a great way to ensure that you always have fun and fashionable accessories for your wardrobe.
About Leather Jewelry
Leather is made from tanning the hides and skins of animals, particularly cattle, to create a durable and long-lasting material. There are many different types of leather available today, including full-grain leather, corrected-grain leather, suede, patent leather, and buckskin.
Leather can be stamped, carved, or painted to create a number of unique looks. Its versatility has made it a very popular material for jewelry making. In Native American cultures, for example, leather jewelry was thought to bring good luck to the wearer.
Gathering Your Supplies
Some of the items commonly used in making leather jewelry include:
- Leather: Small scraps of various leathers, purchased from a nearby leather shop, are the perfect size for experimenting with various jewelry making techniques. Larger pieces of leather are typically priced and sold by the square foot.
- Cord: Most of the cord used in creating leather jewelry is made in either India or Greece. Many crafters feel Greek leather cord is a higher quality product, but it also tends to be more expensive. Leather cord is sold in 0.5mm, ~1mm, 2mm, and 3mm diameters. Use the largest diameter possible if you are making a single strand jewelry project, but choose thinner cord for projects that involve braiding or weaving.
- Shears: Leather shears are a sharp tool specifically designed to cut tough leather.
- Punches: Leather punches make it easy to add holes to your leather jewelry. You can purchase a steel punch that is struck with a mallet or a handheld rotary punch. In many cases, eyelets are used to reinforce the holes in leather jewelry.
- Swivel knife: A swivel knife is held like a pencil and used to outline patterns on leather. Other popular leather carving tools include the veiner, beveler, cam, pear shader, seeder, and backgrounder.
- Dye: If you want to change the color of your leather, there are a wide variety of dyes available. Fiebing Leather Dye is the most common brand of dye used in jewelry making.
Supplies for creating leather jewelry can be purchased from a number of online retailers. For example:
Making Leather Jewelry: Sample Projects
While many crafters decide to create their jewelry designs from scratch, others prefer to work with a basic pattern. If you're looking for step-by-step jewelry making ideas and instructions, check out the following links:
- Bali-style leather necklace
- Braided leather choker
- Leather cuff bracelet
- Leather flower pin
- Leather necklace with pony beads
- Leather wrap watch
- Beaded leather bracelet
- Braided leather bracelet
The following jewelry making idea books also contain a number of projects that involve working with leather:
- Designer Style Jewelry: Techniques and Projects for Elegant Designs from Classic to Retro by Sherri Haab
- Jewelry Making Techniques Book: Over 50 Techniques for Creating Eyecatching Contemporary and Traditional Designs by Elizabeth Olver
- The Beauty of Navajo Jewelry by Theda Bassman
Caring for Leather Jewelry
Once you've finished your project, you'll want to take a few precautions to help keep your leather jewelry in top condition. Leather jewelry should always be kept away from heat and moisture. Acidic leathers in particular may develop a powdering of the surface known as red rot when exposed to humidity and high temperatures. A leather conditioner, such as mink oil, may also be used to help protect the material and keep it soft and pliable. However, some products are not suited for use on leather that has been dyed. If possible, test your leather conditioner on a piece of scrap material before applying it to your finished project.