Many years ago (quite possibly half my lifetime ago, which is a bit weird to think about o.0) I went on an evening course to learn how to make sterling silver jewellery, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
It was actually quite a few years on before I really did much with that knowledge though, and initially I worked with the materials readily available in craft shops. Usually this meant silver plated or enameled copper wire and various beads, and often preformed components.This didn't really involve much of what I had learnt other than some basic things about working with wire, but it was cheaper and easier to start with.
After getting positive feedback from friends and family, and eventually selling things to Complete Strangers (not sure I'll ever stop feeling that sense of utter amazement whenever someone I've never before met in my life chooses to spend actual money on something I made), I eventually found the confidence to move back up to working with sterling silver.
Now, I don't want to be negative about plated jewellery, or costume jewellery, but I will always personally prefer sterling silver both as a medium for working with and in what I myself choose to wear. Partly this is because like many people my skin reacts to most costume jewellery, which tends to have a higher nickel content. This also becomes a problem with plated stuff in time, as the plating can wear thin and expose the copper or other metal core.
The other reason is that sterling silver is vastly more versatile to me; I can hammer it, file it, heat it - melt it even. I can't do that with plated wire, because the plating will flake off or otherwise be obviously damaged, ruining the look of the work.
So! I work with sterling silver wire. For the most part I'm still working using non-heat based methods, mostly due to workshop restrictions. Working from home + blowtorches and mild (really mild, but still) acid baths = high risk of interior decorating mishaps, if you ask me. I am saving up to get myself a proper workshop, but for now there is plenty that can be done without the risk of setting the furniture on fire.
Style wise, my work usually focuses on the shaping and textured finish of the wire, with one or two beads for accents. Oh yeah - I'm a bit of a bead snob. I stay away from plastic beads, am pretty picky about my glass beads, and thus end up mostly using semi precious stone beads.
I guess that'll probably do for the 'Jewellery' post. Looking at the length of the post, I shall leave leather to another day!
Tara for now!