Daily Wire Tip July 19: Wrapping Antique Game Pieces

By on July 18, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip
July 19, 2010


I have several old Chinese gaming pieces. They are mother of pearl with intricate etchings front and back. I have no idea how to go about using these, since wrapping them would cover up some of the designs. What do you suggest?

-Susan in North Reading, Massachusetts


Without actually seeing or knowing the width of the pieces you are asking about, my advice would be to use a basic pendant frame wrap. The only difference would be to use 24-gauge square wire on both outside edges of the bundle, as these will be the wires that pull onto the front and back (as these are reversible) and do not need to be overly large. You can plan the wrapped areas (where you would make the pulls) according to the design, so certain areas are left “open.”

When working with such lovely antique pieces, as these seem to be, it is important to keep the value of the artifact. This is why wire wrapping is the perfect choice; using no solder or glue there is no damage to the actual item being wrapped, and if necessary for future generations, the wire can easily be removed, keeping the original antique intact.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar


    July 19, 2010 at 10:28 am

    If the pieces are not valuable, just pretty, I would suggest either drilling a small hole for an up-eye or using a glue on fold over bail. If they are valuable, then I would use the previous owners style where the wraps would only be at the tips of the corners.

  2. avatar


    July 19, 2010 at 11:29 am


    In addition to the pull-outs you suggested, the prongs method might be used. If the piece is thick the pull-outs might be difficult. The prongs could be measued to size and not get in the way at all.


    • avatar


      July 19, 2010 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks Delane. I was thinking of making the pieces reversible, and prongs on ‘a’ backside could become caught in clothing – your suggestion is also a good one, with my caution. Also, if a wire frame is made correctly, the width is of no matter.

  3. avatar


    July 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    It’s a shame we can’t see a picture of these. They sound *amazing*!
    Good luck!

  4. avatar


    July 19, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Oh, I have an additional suggestion.

    I would suggest using some molding compound, and Permastone to make a “blank” to practice on before wrapping the final piece.

    You knead the two parts of the molding compound together, then press it around the piece in two parts. Let it dry, and pop out the original. Then mix the Permastone via the manufacturer’s instructions, and fill up the mold to about 1 or 2 mm from the top. place the lid on the top, and let it dry (as the instructions advise).

    Lo, you have a copy of your valuable design that you can experiment on to your heart’s content!

    I do this with my crystals and other unique pieces, so as a beginner I can find the best pattern design to wrap.

    I recommend making several blanks, and trying several different designs with practice wire. I can not only refine the technique, but can try a lot of different ideas.

    It also means that if I really need to start over, I don’t have to cut off all the wire, so my old pattern is preserved. I can see the mistakes I made, too!

    Even if it comes out perfect, I can also test the design’s viability (ie. how sturdy it is, and what kind of wear it can tolerate) without wasting valuable material and possibly damaging my precious unique piece!

  5. avatar


    July 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Most of us are familiar with modern day gaming tokens, like poker chips. The Chinese gaming tokens are works of art in themselves because they were often made from bone, ivory, wood, clay and mother of pearl. Those done in mother of pearl are highly desirable as collector’s items simply due to the artistic carving in them. Mother of pearl is an unforgiveable carving medium to work in as it can chip and flake without warning. Everything is hand etched into the surface and is very time consuming. Miniature works of art that need to be treasured for what they are.
    I’d go with Dale’s recommendation on this and take your time while doing it. Avoid any gluing, drilling, etc. as that will devalue the gaming token.