Split rings and jump rings are designed for linking components. They can also be linked to one another in pretty complex designs to create chain maille jewellery.
Jump rings are a single circle of metal – they come in various different metals types and can be made from pure metals or metal alloys – with a split at one point in the circle. This means they can be opened and closed to link components. There is a special technique for doing this, which I will cover below.
Split rings are like jump rings in function, but they are made as a double circle of metal, so one end can be opened up, the component slipped on to it and then worked around the circle until it is in the centre, then the end of the ring can be closed. This is usually the kind of ring that you find on a key ring, so you have to slot the key onto one end and then move it around the circle until it comes off the other end and is fixed in the centre of the ring.
In both cases, there is a very important technique for opening the ring in order to be able to close it again after you have inserted your component. Always use round nose pliers to open and close these rings. Never try to pull the two ends apart from one another in a sideways direction. If you do, you will find that the metal circle is distorted out of shape and it is impossible to push the ends back together so as to re-shape the circle and make sure the ends meet properly. Take a look at the photo.
Instead, move the ends in a back and forth direction, so as you hold the ring as if you were looking through it, one end moves forwards towards you and the other end moves backwards away from you (see below). If you look, the two ends have remained in the same alignment as they were when they were sealed. You can slip the ring onto your component and then carefully move the ends back together, again in a forward/backward alignment until they meet. The ring should then look as though it has never been opened and it will hold your component securely.
The same principle works whenever you are opening a ring on a clasp or earring finding – never pull it apart, but slide it back and forth.
Finally, you can also buy ‘closed rings’ these are like split rings, but, as the name indicates, they have no opening, so you cannot use them to link components to one another in the same way. If you are using a clasp, or another component, that has an opening, you can attach this to the closed ring.
I prefer to use split rings when I am making jewellery with heavy beads or attaching clasps because there is no danger of these splitting apart when the jewellery is being used. I find that jump rings are ideal for attaching lightweight charms as they should not be under too much pressure when the jewellery is being worn. If I am making something using bead-weaving techniques and stitching direct onto the ring, then I prefer to use a closed ring. If I use a jump ring, there is a strong possibility that the very fine beading thread will slip through the gap in the metal, resulting in broken jewellery. A split ring will solve this problem, but it may not look quite as elegant as the single closed ring.
Much of this is a matter of preference and experience, so do not be afraid to experiment and try using different findings.
All of these rings are available in a choice of metals and a variety of sizes. If you’re buying online, make sure you check the size before you buy – it’s impossible to tell from the photo, so read the measurements. I usually use rings that are around 5-7mm in size. I have some rings in 10mm and these are useful for attaching to pendants as they are large enough to allow a clasp to pass through so that the pendant can be hung on a chain. If you are buying a ring to use as one half of a clasp (with a lobster or bolt clasp), then try to get a ring that is a similar size to the clasp (these are also available in a range of sizes usually) so that the components look as though they belong together. You may also find that closed rings or jump rings, because they are just a single layer of metal, work better with a clasp. I have sometimes used split rings to act as the eye for a bolt ring clasp and found that it is difficult to guide this thicker ring through the opening on the clasp. If you are unsure, ask in the shop when you make your purchase, or do a few experiments on your own to see what works best.