Love beaded necklaces?
I do and I've found a lot of great deals on vintage bead and crystal necklaces on ebay. I have found Austrian crystal strands for a tenth of the price of new beads alone. Old plastics have surprising colors and textures you won't find in today's jewelry. Some simulated pearls are as beautiful as the real thing. There's just something about the richness and glamour of old beads that makes them stand out from the crowd.
Unfortunately, many old bead necklaces have problems. Stringing materials deteriorate, break or warp. Clasps break or acquire verdigris (that icky greenish crud on metal). Or the strands might be too short. Many of the necklaces from the 1930s and 1940s are only 14" long with the extender, and that's too short for me.
If your bead necklace has problems, don't toss it and don't pull out the sewing thread to jerry-rig it back together. With a few basic tools and easily obtained supplies you can restring your necklace, making it stronger than before.
Step by step restringing
Step One: Clean your beads. Body oils, cosmetics, and time can dull crystals and make the beads look cruddy. There are many good guides on ebay about cleaning vintage jewelry. My rule is, use the gentlest methods to start, such as Connoisseurs Delicate Jewelry Cleaner and a baby's first toothbrush. Glass and crystal will stand up to vigorous cleaning. Be very careful with simulated pearls and plastics. Test first on a single bead to make certain you won't harm the finish.
Special Note: This guide is for necklaces that only need restringing. I will talk about replacing clasps and remaking adjustor chains in another guide.
Step Two: Gather your supplies.
Stringing material. The best are nylon coated cable beading strands. These come in different weights, strengths and colors. Recommended brands are Soft Flex, Acculon or Beadalon. They come on spools and are readily available at bead stores and hobby and craft stores. DO NOT use thread since it will fray or break.
Chainnose pliers and cutters. Many craft suppliers have small kits with inexpensive pliers and cutters that are suitable for occasional jewelry repair. A good tool for jewelry repair is a crimping tool (the black tool in the picture), but that is optional.
Bead tips. These have a clam-shell or a cup to hold a stop bead and a hook to attach it to the clasp.
Crimp beads. Soft metal beads with large holes that are mashed against the stringing material to hold it.
Glass seed beads. If you need to lengthen your necklace, use glass seed beads as spacers. They come in all colors and finishes to match your beads.
A beading board or mat for a work surface. I use a Vellux pad. A flocked beading board with channels is excellent for keeping your beads and supplies organized. Any cloth with a nap will work to keep your beads from rolling off the table.
TIP: Bead stores are springing up all over the place. Many of them offer space and the use of their tools to restring or repair your beaded jewelry. They also have knowledgable staff for expert advice, and of course, it's a bead store so you can buy everything you need in the quantity you need.
Step Three: Take the necklace apart. This is the scary part for many, but if you work slowly and use either a beading board or napped pad, you can keep the beads under control.
- Most strands are finished with bead tips that attach to the clasps and/or extender chains. Use the chainnose pliers to open the loop on the bead tips and unhook them from the clasp ends. Set the clasps and/or chains aside.
- Lay out the strand on the mat or in a beading board channel and clip one end of the string.
- Keeping the beads in order, remove them from the string.
TIP: If you are restringing a multi-strand necklace, work on one strand at a time. Trust me, removing all the strings from all the strands at one time is just asking for trouble!
Step four: String the beads.
- This type of beading material does not require a needle. It is stiff enough to slide through the bead holes.
- Work off the spool and don't put any tension on the string as that might cause warps or kinks.
- If lengthening the necklace, string a seed bead between each of the original beads.
- When all the beads are strung, lay out the strand and double-check to make sure the pattern is correct and all the beads are where you want them.
Step Five: Crimp the ends of the strand and attach the clasp.
- On the working end of the string (which is beaded and still attached to the spool) string on a crimp bead, a bead tip and a seed bead.
- Pass back through the hole in the bead tip, leaving the seed bead to catch inside, and pass back through the crimp. Work gently here to keep from kinking the string.
- Snug the seed bead inside the bead tip and snug the crimp bead up against the bead tip.
- With the pliers gently mash the crimp bead against the stringing material.
- For added hold, put a drop of glue or nail polish inside the bead tip before closing it over the seed bead.
- Slide a bead over the tail of the stringing material, then clip the string close to the bead so the tail is tucked inside. Be careful not to clip your strand string!
- On the other end, clip the string material from the spool, leaving about a two inch tail. Hold the strand up so the beads settle naturally on the string without being so tight they warp or so loose there is exposed stringing material.
- Repeat the finishing steps on this end.
- If you use clam-shell type bead tips, close them over the seed beads.
- Hook the bead tips onto the clasp and use the pliers to close the loops.
Voila'! Your necklace is now strong, graceful and ready to wear. More tips and how-tos can be found in such magazines as Beadwork, Bead & Button, and Step-by-Step Beads.
Thank you for reading my guide. If you find it useful, please give it a Yes vote to help others find it. If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find me at My World or hop on over to the blogs and give a shout to Jaye8698.