7 Principles of Design for Jewelry-Making Inspiration: Part 1 - Balance

Design Idea 886E Necklace
by Susanne Kathol, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

What visual message is your jewelry sending? The answer to this can be found in design theory, more specifically the principles of design as applied to jewelry creations. The design principles include balance, proportion, contrast, unity, harmony, movement and emphasis. These principles of design are used to arrange the elements (beads, components, etc.) in jewelry art, guiding the visual message of the piece.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here's an illustrative exploration of seven different principles of jewelry design, including design ideas to help identify and/or integrate these principles into your own work.

7 Principles of Design for Jewelry-Making Inspiration:
  1. Balance - A Balancing Act
  2. Emphasis - Point of Emphasis
  3. Movement - The Magic of Movement
  4. Proportion - Power of Proportion
  5. Contrast - Contrast Consideration
  6. Unity - Understanding Unity
  7. Harmony - Happiness of Harmony

A Balancing Act ...

Balance refers to the distribution of the visual weights of materials, colors, texture and space in jewelry designs. Think in terms of a seesaw or teeter-totter, the idea is that the weights should be similar on both sides to make a design feel stable. For example, if you have several small elements on one side of a necklace they can be balanced by a larger element on the other side. In addition to physical weight, it's important to consider visual weight as well, such as color, lightness or darkness and texture. When objects are equally distributed based on all aspects of weight, the jewelry design is considered balanced.

Balance can be symmetrical (evenly balanced), asymmetrical (un-evenly balanced) or radial balanced (arranged around a central point).

Symmetrical (Formal) Balance

Symmetrical balance, also known as formal balance, is a mirror image balance. If you draw a line down the center of a jewelry design, all the elements on one side of the piece are mirrored on the other side. The following design ideas illustrate a symmetrical balance, as both sides are evenly balanced in materials, colors, texture shape and form.
7 Principles of Design for Jewelry-Making Inspiration: Part 1 - Balance 7 Principles of Design for Jewelry-Making Inspiration: Part 1 - Balance

Asymmetrical (Informal) Balance

Asymmetrical balance, also known as informal balance, results when several smaller elements on one side are balanced by a large item on the other side, or one darker item is balanced by several lighter items. Asymmetrical balance appears more casual and less planned; however it is usually more difficult, as the jewelry artist must create the design very carefully to ensure that it is still balanced. An unbalanced design can be harsh on the eyes and may appear as if things might slide off, just as an unbalanced seesaw will dip to one side. Here are some design ideas that illustrate asymmetrical balance.
7 Principles of Design for Jewelry-Making Inspiration: Part 1 - Balance
This piece incorporates a different size, number and color of materials on either side, but overall each side's visual weight still balances with the other.
7 Principles of Design for Jewelry-Making Inspiration: Part 1 - Balance
This piece is asymmetrically balanced, as both sides are different but have a balanced visual weight.

Radial Balance

Radial balance is where all the elements in a piece radiate out from a center point. A good example in nature is a starfish. It is easy to maintain a focal point in radial balance, since all the elements lead your eye toward the center of the piece. The following design ideas are examples of radial balance.
7 Principles of Design for Jewelry-Making Inspiration: Part 1 - Balance 7 Principles of Design for Jewelry-Making Inspiration: Part 1 - Balance

There is also the intentional ''off-balance'' design which can create visual interest and suggest motion and action.
7 Principles of Design for Jewelry-Making Inspiration: Part 1 - Balance 7 Principles of Design for Jewelry-Making Inspiration: Part 1 - Balance

This is the first part of a seven-part series on the principles of design for jewelry-making inspiration. View additional design principles:

Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article "7 Principles of Design for Jewelry-Making Inspiration: Part 1 - Balance," as featured in an email newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

"Good beginning to a series of articles that can remind us or teach us the value of each part of the whole. When I teach my college class, I find some have a natural talent for finding balance and proportion and all the rest. Most, however, don't. Knowing the basics of design puts a beginner in front of the pack. Great series to showcase."
- Anita M. Russell - The Angel Lady

"I enjoyed reading about design and look forward to more articles. Thank you for sending them to me."
- Nancy

"I enjoyed your article on the 7 principles that I printed both available articles and have put them in my reference binder. Can hardly wait for the rest of the principles to be posted on your website. Your site has so much really good information, techniques, and designs to get the creative juices going! Thank you so much, keep up the good work! Best Regards,"
- Cheryl

"I found this interesting and some examples of what doesn't work would have helped too."
- Kathie

"Thank you for the design series! As a novice self taught just getting started, I found it informative and helpful. Looking forward to the next articles! I'm finding that as my technique improves, I'm wanting to branch away from using "patterns" or projects I've found in books and on-line so anything helps to improve my idea's. I prefer wire-wrap and like the free-form style's so balance is very important. Just because the individual pieces may be of the same color family or style, without the right balance, it comes off awkward. I do find however that the formal style can be more intimidating because it has to be a mirror image. Making earrings is a prime example--they have to be the same on either side and that can be difficult to achieve using wires and pliers! Radial I think is more difficult however in that if the colors around clash, the whole piece is off or if the sizes don't flow. Actually, I find the asymmetrical the least intimidating! Finding the right placement in the off-balance can be quite tricky as you don't want one side to drag more than the other, annoying when you have to keep turning your necklace around ... definitely things to ponder! Thank you again!"
- Amy

"Nice ... enjoyed the jewelry and liked the information ... thanks"
- Diane

"Great information!"
- Sandra

"This is the best article that you have sent me. Good theory and great examples. Thanks,"
- Dawn

"Really liked this article. Very helpful, especially with the pictures/examples. Thanks!"
- Holly

"This was interesting, thanks,"
- Sharron

"Dear Friends at FMG,

I love your 7 principles of design for jewelry, but I would like to comment on the one regarding Balance, in particular about the asymmetrical and off-balanced pieces. These seem to be really nice, however in most cases they will not remain in place around the neck, but turn, because of the difference in weight, which needs to be compensated somehow. I remember a very beautiful Bead Dream piece, with red flowers, this: https://www.firemountaingems.com/galleryofdesigns/jewelry_design_gallery.asp?docid=821D--really gorgeous as possible, but I can't help thinking it is absolutely unwearable ... Thanks for keeping us motivated and informed and happy with your newsletters. I love to read all of them. Best regards,"
- Cath

"I like the article. Thank you."
- Michele

"This was beautifully illustrated. Thanks!"
- Beth

"Love the article about the 7 Principles of Design in jewelry. I've printed it out to keep in my info folder on my jewelry making table. While some is common sense, I found it very informative as I do your entire site. You offer great ideas and how-to instructions as well as great products! Thank you!"
- Jill

"Just wanted to let you know that even though I haven't had time to get back to beading, I just love reading your site with its great pictures, info and articles. You guys do a wonderful job!"
- Hillary

"Very good"
- Jose

"Excellent article. Thank you"
- Diane

"Nice and concise."
- HL

"Like this aid."
- William

"Excellent! I'd like more articles like this one."
- Anne

"I just want to tell you how helpful and informative I found your article on Balance in Jewelry Design. I can't wait for the other installments!! I buy from you to make jewelry and sometimes my "pieces" just don't look right. I think I'm going to find out why :). You not only describe the subject, but illustrate as well, so it's very easy to understand. Thank you so much for a subject that's not often touched on nor as well explained."
- Suzanne

"Sres. de Firemountain: Solo escribo en español, lo lamento. Quiero felicitarlos por este envio de 7 principios del diseño de joyas. Por favor continuen con los otros 5 que faltan... Es IMPRESCINDIBLE conocerlos, para los que nos dedicamos a la joyeria. Mil gracias!!!!!"
- Maria

"Loved reading the article and I learned from it."
- Sandy

"I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and learned from it. I am new at beading and am always grateful to learn new things. I will be looking forward to the rest of the series. Thank You."
- Misti

"These series are very helpful for the beginner, and an excellent refreshed more the more experienced jewelry maker. Thanks."
- S.E.

"Very helpful. I am a "symmetrical type" person: everything must balance. Not that I can't use imbalance as a tool or method. I just personally like things to be balanced. Best wishes to all,"
- Eileen

"Principals l will try to remember for ever, for sure l'm a beginner"
- Thomas

"Wonderful. Thank you!"
- Jdavio

"I appreciate this information and look forward to the rest of the articles. I have no formal design training and for me, that is the hardest part of making jewelry."
- Fay

"Thanks for the tips. I like the pictures and the concise content."
- Ardene

"Thank you for the Principles of Design series. I have read the first two so far. They are good and easily understood. The visual pictures are a great help. I will continue reading the remaining principles.

I really enjoyed seeing the effect of balance and how different yet balanced a piece can be. Please continue this information.

It would be nice to see some videos on techniques on working with silver, reticulation, soldering, etc."
- Elaine

"I love the articles on jewelry design. Very helpful and look forward to reading more of them."
- Bj

"Thank you for the insight of balance, designs in symmetrical etc. I have been beading for 34 yrs. and basically go by bead sizes and color to get "pleasing eye" designs. It is good to see other possibilities with design patterns. I will try some in my next creation. Would love to see a color wheel of beads that are complimentary to each other, it would be nice in an email of your products. Customer since 2005,"
- Vivian

"This newsletter was packed with useful information! Thank you!"
- Donna

"I like it. It helps when thinking of a design."
- Marcia

"Very interesting and helpful."
- Fay

"Thank you on the article of 7 pts-I have always seen balance and focal points I do believe you want to make a statement--I always call it my statement piece-where the eye is drawn to. Like an artist painting-thanks"
- Becky

"I liked the lesson on balance and look forward to more articles on good design. Thank you for all of your excellent products and services."
- Marion

"Offering Feedback on the resource 7 Principles of Design for Jewelry Making articles (2 - 7 to come). Thank you for this information. Article 1 was very clear, nicely illustrated and concise. This is information I need, but didn't know it. Like many, I am self taught and fly by the seat-of-my-pants, as I make one-of-a-kind, want to be original and not copy something we see everywhere. Since I sell my pieces, I would be considered a professional jewelry maker. But I approach each design as though it is the first piece I've ever made. I don't work from a mental list of known elements that would ensure I'd like the first or second pass better. Often, it takes many attempts for me to place elements to where I like them. Maybe this series will help me move through the steps faster. Knowledge and awareness are awesome tools. Looking forward to the remaining articles. I'm always looking to improve, move to the next step of where ever this will take me. Sincerely,"
- Annabel

"This was helpful but more examples would have been great."
- Shaunna, Lyle, Avelin and Mara

"Thank you for including me in these mailings. I look forward to learning more from your resources. Again, thank you!"
- Carol

"The resource was fine, as far as it went. You said there were 7 parts and only showed 2. Where are the other 5? It's disappointing to plan to read all 7 and be cut short."
- Beth

"I am interested in the 7 principles of design for jewelry-making inspiration. So far, I was able to go through Parts 1 and 2. Any way I can obtain Movement, Proportion, Contrast, Unity and Harmony? Thanks"
- Micheline

"Excellent articles! Very helpful!!! I have a lot of artists in my family, and I have some talent--but never had opportunity for formal training. Now that I'm retired I'm trying to learn some things and beading has clicked for me. Your articles and videos are very helpful. Thank you!"
- Lisa K.

"Hi, I really like this series. Where can I find part 3 thru 7? Thank you,"
- Barb