Earrings are an easy place to start making jewelry - they are a small project that tends to be quick - and so have a lot of instant gratification. The main criteria is to keep them light - or, at least, light enough for you to wear! And being small - it's easier to keep the budget under control. (Two minutes of perusing MY designs will reveal just how far out of hand you can get!)
So - let's talk about the bits and pieces you use to make up earrings. (BTW - all these pictures are also links to the actual product if you are looking for them on the website.)
First of all - the parts of the earring (and other jewelry ) that make it "work" are called "findings." So the hook part of the earring that goes through your ear is a "finding." Clasps are findings, bead caps, bails, jumprings, links, mounts, etc, are all findings.
There are hooks that go through the ear that you hang the decorative part of the earring off - these are very simple, sometimes with a small decorative element like a bead or wire coil. They are known as "fishhook" earrings, for their hook shape.
Sometimes, they are also referred to as Shepherd's hooks, for the same reason - they resemble a shepherd's hook for herding sheep.
Sometimes - they have much more elaborate decorations.
One of the downsides of this very simple and inexpensive finding is that sometimes they can be pulled out (pulling a sweater off) or just slip out. Not often, but annoying as heck when it happens. You can wear a pair of earrings thousands of times, but you really remember the time you wore them and they turned into a half-pair.
A plastic stopper can really help with this!
Or you can select a hook style that has a built-in method of closing them. These very simple kidney wires are presumably named for their kidney-ish shape.
More sophisticated earwires have a built-in hinged lever that you open to put the earring on, and close to prevent it falling off. They are knows as Leverbacks (for the lever) or Eurowires.
Studs - or post earrings - go through the ear as a straight piece of wire. You can then glue a bead, or half a bead, or a pearl, or a cabochon, or whatever to them for the decorative part, or some have a loop for hanging stuff from.
Studs can be very plain, or contribute to the overall look of the design.
Studs also need a "clutch" or back to keep them in place - also called a butterfly back. Sometimes they are sold together, sometimes they are sold separately - so always read the description.
These larger disks serve the same function as a butterfly back, and spread out the weight of the earring in a larger area on the back of your ear and are very good for large or heavy studs.
There are hoops - with built in loops for hanging beads.
And clip-ons - for the unpierced.
Or screw-ons, for those that prefer that style.
In addition - there are additional components that you can "decorate" with small beads or crystals or pearls, and attach to the earring finding.
The style of earrings with multiple layers of hanging items are known as chandelier earrings, and so are the findings to make them. Usually - these are sold separately from the actual ear wire, and they are sometimes sold by the each - because they can also function as large, decorative links in necklaces - and sometimes in pairs - so check the description to make sure you get enough.
Threader earrings are a relatively new development, and can take some getting used to when wearing them. They are a very, very, very fine chain, or a very, very, very fine chain and a very slender curved bar. The straight bar on the end is threaded through the hole in the ear, and the chain is slid up to the center. They can certainly be a very elegant earring and a youthful fashion statement.
Basic earring wires like the shepherd's hook can be hand fabricated too - it's just bent wire, after all. (Use a 22 or 24 gauge - 20 is a little too large. Anything smaller is too light.
Or, if you want to make lots of earrings, and want them to be consistent in size - there is the earring making tool - a wire bending jig, in essence.
Or the Bail-making pliers can also give you consistently sized loops too. Use the large ones for the curve of the earring, and the small ones for the wire wrap for attaching the beads.
So now that you have your components, all you need to do is select some decorative elements to put on them. Do remember that they shouldn't be too heavy - unless you are already used to wearing really heavy earrings - or are aspiring to learn!
Here's a post on how to actual do that wiring.
Making a Wrapped Loop
Wiring a Briolette.
Easy Peasy! Pretty soon, you'll be making earrings to go with every outfit and occasion - whipping off a pair to wear to the party while your significant other is in the shower. (Yep - I've done that. Multiple times!)