Making Your First Necklace

beads, jewelry supplies, gemstone beads
Getting started with making jewelry is actually a lot easier than most people think. Getting started won't take much in the way of jewelry supplies. It can be as simple as threading some beads on a string and tying a knot. Of course, it gets a lot more complex than that, but getting started is easy, just pure and simple easy.

So to get you going with your first jewelry-making project, you need to decide what kind of beads you want to use, and then pick a style for putting them together. That will determine what jewelry making supplies you need.

Jewelry can be put together by a variety of means, but since you are just getting started with making jewelry, let's assume you are going to make either a necklace or bracelet. Earrings are easy too, but let's assume you choose the bead stringing approach to your first project.

Bead Stringing Method

Threading, knotting, or wire wrapping can combine beads. In the case of threading, you are simply putting the beads on a string, with no extra fuss involved. If you choose knotting, then you will tie that string into an overhand knot after putting each bead on the string. If you choose wire, then you will be making some loops in the wire to attach beads either to each other or to a chain.

Selection of your bead stringing material will be determined by both your selection of stringing method, your beads, and other jewelry supplies. There are lots of products on the market to choose from, so don't get worried. If your first choice does not work out, try a different stinging material or method.

If you choose to simply string your beads you can select from linen or hemp twine, Kevlar, silk, imitation silk, monofilament, Nymo, silamide, coated wire, such as Beadalon or tiger tail, braided multi-filament fishing line, elastic, leather, or rubber tubing. There are no doubt even more options than listed here, but these are the most popular bead stringing materials.

In the case of knotting, you will most likely select from linen or hemp twine, silk, imitation silk, or nylon.

When making jewelry with wire, your choices will be in the type of metal, shape, and gauge. (Wire gauge means the thickness of the wire.) The most popular gauges of wire for jewelry making are 20, 22, and 24. The 24 gauge is smaller than 22, which is smaller than 20. Jewelry wire comes in silver, gold, gold filled, copper, brass, nickel, zinc, and tin. It also comes in round, flat, square, and triangle shapes. But since you're just getting started, lets leave the wirework for later.

So, to keep things easy, we'll also pass on the knotting for this project. Knotting is a simple task, but takes an awl or large needle and can be quite time consuming. For your first project, you should get quick satisfaction, don't you think?

Bead Stringing Material

So, now that you've narrowed down the style for your first project, the beads and other jewelry supplies (such as pendants or clasps) you choose will determine the selection of bead stringing material. Keep in mind; the holes in the various beads will limit your selection significantly. If you choose metal beads or shells, you have quite large holes and therefore a wider selection of stringing material. However, here are some guidelines to help you out:

If your beads are polymer clay, twine is an excellent choice, as it comes in many colors and compliments the clay beads. Their holes are large, so you can use the twine with them. Wooden beads, metal beads, and shells can also be strung on twine. (Twine is an excellent choice for macramé jewelry.)

Seed beads are usually strung on Kevlar, Nymo, silamide, or fishing line. In the case of Nymo, you will need to condition the thread with bees wax or Thread Heaven (a more high tech conditioner) to help prevent knotting and fraying. Some people use both bees wax and Thread Heaven. Silamide is pre-conditioned but can be hard to thread through a needle because it is braided, so the ends fray. Since Kevlar cuts itself when knotted, you probably should choose some other material for your first bead stringing project. Some good brands of fishing line are Power Pro and Fireline. Fishing line should be 6-10 pound test. It is an excellent choice for seed beads because it is strong and does not stretch like Nymo.

Pearls are often strung on silk, imitation silk, or monofilament nylon. When silk is used, people normally knot the silk between the beads. Monofilament nylon is clear and can be used to create the "floating" effect where the beads are separated by a significant length of thread.

Gemstone beads have pretty small holes, so good choices are thin silk, imitation silk, monofilament nylon, thin coated wire, such as Beadalon, or fishing line. Monofilament nylon and coated wire are particularly good for gemstone beads, as they are strong and can thread the beads without a needle.

Crystal beads, and some hematite beads, have sharp edges, so select a bead stringing material that cannot be easily cut by these edges. Coated steel wire works best.

Leather or rubber tubing will work fine with metal beads, some shells, wooden beads, and polymer clay beads. Tubing is too thick for pearls, crystal, or gemstone beads.

Your thread selection will determine whether you use a needle or not to string your beads. Some choices do not require any needle, such as monofilament or coated wire. Nymo, silk, imitation silk, silamide, and fishing line may require a needle. Be sure to pick a needle with a small eye end, as it must pass through the bead holes. A good choice for the beginner is a twisted wire needle where the eye compresses as it is pulled through the first bead. Our best choice twisted wire needles are brass, as they are more easily pulled through a tight hole than steel. Some people make the thread end hard by dipping it into nail polish and letting it dry. This makes the thread itself a needle.

So, go select some beads that you think will look nice strung together, and then pick your bead stringing material and other jewelry supplies you may want to include.

Finishing Off Your Jewelry

You've done that? Great! Now its time to make some jewelry! Oh, yes. One last decision remains. You've got to figure out how to create a closure to your string. Again, this can be very easy or slightly harder. If you choose to simply knot your string together, then your necklace has to be long enough to fit over your head. If you use a nylon or monofilament thread you can seal the knot by melting it in the heat of a match. (Don't put the knot in the flame, just hold it close enough to melt a bit.) However, if you want something a bit shorter, you will need a clasp to make the closure. Clasps come with a wide choice in number of loops to attach your bead string to and an endless selection of designs and styles. For your first project, I suggest you choose a single loop clasp and just do a single string of beads to keep things simple and get fast results.

In many cases, people use crimp beads to attach the bead string to a clasp. Crimp beads work well with coated wire, monofilament, and fishing line. However, you can also tie the string with a knot to the clasp. If you choose this method, thread through the clasp, then back through the end bead before tying the knot. You can knot twice, once after the clasp and once after going back through the end bead. Alternatively, you can skip the knot by the clasp and knot behind the two end beads as you pass the thread back through them. The latter method makes a more professional looking connection with the clasp.

If you choose to use crimp beads, you will also need some crimping pliers. Crimp pliers are essential to apply the crimp beads. You may need a little practice to get the crimping right, but the key is knowing that your first squeeze creates a semi-flat crimp, then the second squeeze folds that in half. The crimp must put enough pressure on the string to prevent it from slipping out of the crimp. So, when you select a crimp bead, get a size whose inside measurement is ever so slightly larger than double your thread diameter, as your thread must go through the crimp twice and have enough room to slide through without being stopped by friction. (The first crimp is in the notch closest to the crimp plier handles.)

The way to use the crimp bead is to thread through the crimp, then the clasp, and back through the crimp in the reverse direction. Most people then either clip the thread after crimping right by the crimp or thread it through the end bead or several downstream beads to hide the thread's end. Some people crimp again after threading through the end bead to make a more secure closure.

clasp, crimp beads, jewelry making

Our diagram shows the placement of two crimps. The lower of the crimps can be eliminated, it's your option. Also, knots can be substituted for the crimp(s) if your stringing material is suitable for knotting.

If you want to cover the string where it goes around the clasp for a more professional look, then you will need some French bullion and some wire clippers to cut it. French bullion is like a tightly wound spring, or a Slinky, that you thread through. When a short length (1/4 to 1/2 inch) is pulled tight against the end bead, it squishes together tightly and makes a nice covering for the thread.

If your clasp did not come with a loop to attach to the other end of your bead string, you can use a tab with holes, a split ring, or a soldered jump ring on the other end. Split rings don't work well with very thin thread, as it can slip into the ring and work its way out, but they are fine if your stringing material is rather thick. Attach a soldered jump ring in the same way as a clasp - either knotted or crimped on.

So, now that you've made your first necklace, you might want to try putting some beads on head pins or eye pins, making a loop on the end of that and stringing the resulting dangle. If you use eye pins, you can loop a head pin onto it's loop and make a double dangle. Give it a try for your next jewelry-making project.