Presto! Convert Artist-Made Beads into Jewelry

May 20, 2011, 18:35 pm  Posted by Lark

By now, you’ve undoubtedly read one of Lark Jewelry & Beading’s posts talking up Jeri Warhaftig’s très interesting book, Creating Glass Beads. I asked Jeri to contribute a blog post for us, and she wrote a fact-filled article about how to turn artist-made beads into jewelry in one easy step. Read on.

Photo by Steve Mann

By Jeri Warhaftig

If you like beads as much as I do, there’s been a time when you see a handmade artist bead at a bead show, craft fair, or on the web, and you HAVE to own it! After all, beads are more affordable than gemstones, smaller and lighter than most books, and easier to hide than a new handbag (so you don’t have to explain it to your significant other). Most importantly, buying a bead enables you to own a work of art and carry it around with you! So you buy the bead, thinking “I wonder what I’ll do with this?” or “Maybe I’ll give this to Mom” or “Now I’ll really have to learn how to make jewelry”.

There are many great ways to enjoy that new bead (besides just putting it on your windowsill on a pretty Lucite stand). Using readymade interchangeable findings, you can turn your bead into instant jewelry or accessories. In this blog post, I’ll explore some of the options available on the web. Although the world is caught up in the craze for Pandora/Biagi/Chamilia-brand big-holed beads (many call these European style beads), there are many other creative ways to temporarily string one or more beads so they can be quickly worn or put to good use. Typically, all of the options here require a bead hole of about 3/32 inch (2 mm).

A Lucite stand

A single focal bead looks wonderful displayed on a vertical post. Typically, the post has some sort of loop on the top so it can be strung on ribbon or cable. Bead artist Michael Barley makes and sell his “Quick Switches” in both a pendant and earring style. The pendant posts range in length from 1 to 2 1/2 inches (2.5 to 6.4 cm).  This is an ideal style for a single large focal bead. The bottom of the pendant is fixed, but the bail at the top of the pendant is removable so the bead can be swapped out.

Another style of focal pendant uses a fixed bail at the top, with a screw-on ball at the base. Unscrew the ball and the bead is easily swapped. These too are available in different sizes.  Be very careful that the removable ball is screwed on completely so it doesn’t become undone by the movement of the beads. Here’s one type, available on etsy:

Beadholder pendants

Bead artist Bronwen Heilman has designed a vertical pendant with either a simple bale at the top or a tube. At the bottom of the pendant, the bead is secured by a “clutch” similar to a tie tack:

To purchase this style, go to Bronwen's website, click on "Shopping," and then on "Findings."

Other examples of pendants include those made of chain, or pendants with more elaborate bails:

For a horizontal pendant idea, check out Dawn White’s site:

An interchangeable ring is another great canvas for a beautiful artist bead. One of the earliest styles was made by Burgard Studios and is available at many bead stores, including Bello Modo:

A ring shown with a bead mounted in it.

McDuck Creations has designed an interchangeable bead ring with a zig zag shank. It works on the same premise as the pendant: merely unscrew the ball, add the bead, and then screw the ball back on to the shaft. McDuck specializes in findings for handmade beads and has designed a variety of products that will allow you to swap your beads:
A new interchangeable ring system is about to be imported to the United States by bead artist Renee Wiggins of Jet Age Studio. To use this interchangeable system, the glass top must have been designed with the screw base that attaches the bead to the ring. Look for more shopping options that use this design as this ring system takes hold and becomes more popular around the world. Renee sells the rings, and many alternative tops, on her site.

Another glass artist who makes both stellar beads and interchangeable rings is Canadian artist Jennifer Wood, who is both a lampworker and a silversmith:
Smaller and lighter beads, with big holes, easily lend themselves to earrings. Some of the artists who make interchangeable pendants also make earrings using the idea of the post. These earrings, among many other items for interchangeable bead-wear, are sold by Slow Water Studio and handmade in New Zealand:

Another great approach is to thread the big-hole beads onto hoops or shaped wire earrings. Cecile Stewart shows a variety of hammered wire styles in her etsy shop:

Sometimes you want your beads nearby, but not necessarily made into jewelry. Recently, Editor Ray Hamachandra blogged about a lack of masculine jewelry styles—but everyone carries a key chain!! Your favorite beads can also be added to pens, letter openers and wine bottle stoppers–using the findings on www.beadpens.com and Karen Thomas’ site, you can assemble unique serving pieces, bookmarks and other gifty items, by adding beads.  Perhaps the handmade artist bead you bought will ultimately end up as a gift for mom!


41 Responses

    really interesting post! As someone who is obsessed with beads (I’m guessing I own over 2,000!) it’s nice to have new options to wearing/displaying them. Thanks so much!

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