Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A bead tip is a wonderful thing

I've been remiss in posting, I know; and it was looking like a week was gonna pass before I got something up again .. can't have that. Home owner issues, donation jewelry, orders that needed makin', and repairs have all impeded my regular schedule just a bit. So I thought I'd just put something up that I was working on.

This bracelet (called Roma) is comprised of Bali "barrel" beads, granulated "daisy" spacers and faceted garnet rondelles (aka roundelles, rondels or donut shaped beads). A good friend of mine purchased this at a show in November 2005. It fit, but it was a trifle snug. I offered to lengthen it; but she wanted it NOW. You know how it is .. you see something, you buy it, you want it - right then and there. Understandable. I was sorry I didn't persist at the point of purchase though - and was delighted to hear that I was going to have an opportunity to get it back for a little while. I could have predicted what would happen. The strain of the snug fit was finally too much, and the bar end of the toggle clasp came off. The good news is that I always use bead tips on my strung pieces .. these are little cups with a hook. The knot from the bead cord/wire sets snuggly in the cup, and the hook is what attaches to the clasp. When there's a strain on a piece with a bead tip, it's almost always the case that the little hook opens and the clasp falls off. Not a biggie .. easy to remedy.

However, what you often find on the ends of beaded/strung jewelry are crimp beads. I really, really don't like using crimp beads, and don't use them if it can be avoided (and it usually can). A crimp bead is a tiny little cylindrical tube .. you thread through a crimp bead once, then through your clasp, then back through your crimp bead a second time before you begin adding beads to your strand. You hold the crimp bead in place near the clasp by squishing it against the beading wire with a crimp tool. Three things are wrong with this: (1) Your beading wire is exposed to wear, as there is nothing between it and the metal of the clasp, (2) I don't think it presents a professional-looking finish, and (3) the only thing holding that crimp bead and wire together is the pressure you exert when you squish the two against each other. And what happens when there's a sturdy tug on a piece finished with crimp beads is that the wire inevitably breaks free and you have beads everywhere. And women (your's truly included) are extremely hard on bracelets. Bracelets get caught on all kinds of weird things. Bound to happen .. your hands are all over the place.

The only other alternative to bead tips I would use is French wire (also called bullion or gimp), an itsy bitsy little wire spiral you string through, capture your clasp, then string through the last bead, and then knot. It's used primarily with pearls - besides being a very professional way to finish pearls, it also protects the bead cord from wear. I wouldn't suggest it for bracelets though .. I've only ever used it on necklaces. Since you secure it with a knot at least one bead in from the clasp, it doesn't have quite the same breakage issues that crimp beads have; but it's not so strong that it wouldn't break with a really good tug.

So, the bracelet .. remember the bracelet? .. got a little make-over while visiting. I took the whole thing apart and tumbled the barrel and granulated beads for a couple hours; replaced one of the garnets (which had a chip out of it), added a couple of links to the bar side of the clasp and a sterling 5mm flattened "saucer" bead at either end. (At her request I also added one of my The Wild Inside tags). She didn't need much additional length - just enough so it's not so snug. She's gonna love it.

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