Do-It-Yourself Beaded Gemstone Statement Necklaces

Guess what I’ve been up to. As we wait for production of the Alpha Collection (if it feels like we’ve been “waiting” for a long while now, it’s because we have; it’s been a year…), I picked up a new hobby: beading gemstone necklaces. It is so crazy-easy to make your own gemstone statement necklaces that there is basically no reason for you to buy one, unless you’re doing so to support an indie jewelry designer or artist, i.e. I am 300% in favor of people buying jewelry on Etsy.com.

I have one of those addictive personalities where I will just go at something in total OCD fashion and keep at it until I’m completely drained. I beaded 11 necklaces and 3 bracelets in a week’s time, and by the weekend, I had extinguished my supply of beads, which is a good thing because I was mentally done with beading as well. Newfound admiration for Etsy beaded jewelry entrepreneurs. I don’t know how they do it. After making these necklaces, I’m near cross-eyed.

There have been DIY (do-it-yourself) posts on this blog before, like this one on sewing your own evening bag, or this one on sewing your own day clutch. In that spirit, and after I beaded 11 necklaces, I figured I’d get a little more mileage out of the excursion by writing up a DIY.

I bought genuine natural gemstones from beadbuddies.net and abeadstore.com, both sites I highly recommend, and the rest of my supplies, such as the “fashion beads” (glass, synthetic stuff) were purchased from the local Michael’s craft store.

Since I know nothing about beading, I bought three different types of thread to experiment with, and hands down, no contest Beadalon’s Wildfire thermally bonded bead weaving thread won out. I recommend the 0.006 in./0.15 mm thread in black. Allegedly you can hang 10 pounds off this thread and it won’t break. I haven’t tried that, but I did yank really, really hard on it and nothing happened. So it’s good stuff. And inexpensive. One spool of 50 yards is under 3 bucks. If you’re going to try beading your own statement jewelry at home, definitely buy Beadalon Wildfire, 0.15 mm.

For clasps, I selected two types: magnetic drum clasps (pictured above right) and round toggle clasps (pictured above left). Lesson learned: don’t bother with round toggle clasps anymore. If I ever pick up this hobby again in the future, I will only use the magnetic drum clasps. The magnetism of the drums is super-strong and unless you intentionally yank at it with the kind of force that would break the necklace anyway, the necklace will remain secure. I love, love magnetic drum clasps.

The magnetic drum clasps have a larger hole on one end, and a smaller hole on the other. You start a necklace by pulling the thread(s) through the smaller hole. Knot it several times, cut off the excess, and then pull backward until the knotted end is secure inside the larger hole. Adding a few drops of superglue into the larger hole to plug it up makes me feel better. According to many tutorials though, this isn’t necessary.

Now you can start beading. I like the multi-tiered necklaces, so I knot together 3 to 5 strands of thread at a time and secure that to one end of the magnetic drum clasp. Since it’s a magnet, I stick it to something metal to keep it stable, and bead away.

Above photo credit: Polyvore meets Photoshop.

For the above-pictured necklace, I knotted together 3 pieces of thread, beaded them, and then braided the 3 beaded strands together. Every few inches of braiding, I would bring the three pieces together and bead in one larger bead and that would secure the braid.

Finishing off the necklace is the hard part, but not that hard. For the magnetic drum clasps, thread the strands through the smaller hole in the drum, knot it several times (I knot it something like 5 times), cut off the excess, and then with a needle or small sharp object, push the knot backward into the larger hole in the drum. Again, I add a few drops of superglue and I find that this makes the clasp virtually indestructible (as far as necklace clasps go).

For the round toggle clasps, loop the threads through the little hole, knot several times, cut off the excess, and then use clear nail polish to coat the entire knot and the ends of the thread. This acts like a glue, a gloss coating, and keeps the ends from fraying. Supposedly there is a special jeweler’s glue for this purpose, but clear nail polish works equally well.

Also, I took on a fascination for gemstones because I was reading about their purported metaphysical properties. It’s fun to read about, and even more fun to design talisman necklaces based on these purported metaphysical properties. I would be wary of anyone who took it too seriously though.

Most of the necklaces I made were black and white, with a tiny pop of color, like a few stones of aventurine, coral, hematite, new jade, goldstone, or colored Austrian crystals. Black and white beaded necklaces have such a sleek, chic look. Add some pearls and suddenly the piece takes on a corporate conservative flair, great with a work outfit.

Photo credit: Polyvore meets Photoshop.

I had thought about selling them on Etsy.com (not by way of TZ; just as a fun, personal side project thing), but wasn’t confident enough with the quality of my workmanship, so ended up giving the necklaces away as gifts to close friends and family.

If you’re interested in browsing photos and reading more about the gemstone necklaces I made, visit my photo album. Apologies for the fuzzy photography. For all photographs in this post and of the necklaces in the photo album, I used an 8 year old Casio Exilim digicam that I didn’t like very much 8 years ago, and like even less now, but I was too lazy to charge up the battery on the DSLR. So it is what it is.

There’s the resident kitty showing off the necklace he got, a lovely three-tiered statement piece adorned with moonstone and pink Austrian crystals. Yes it’s pink, with sparkly crystals and pearls. Yes he is a male cat. And what!?!

So flag this as an Action Required: make your own statement necklaces and style them into OOTD posts. =)

The cost of materials for all 11 necklaces and 3 bracelets (and note how all of them are made up of multi-tiered beadwork, so lots and lots of gemstones used!) was $81.57. Ignoring the bracelets, that’s less than $8.00 per necklace. For natural, genuine semiprecious gemstones!

Consider the alternatives: a multi-tiered beaded gemstone statement necklace at Ann Taylor is $98.00 to $130.00 each; Nieman Marcus offers turquoise and lapis lazuli pieces with similar design to the ones I made and they run upward $500.00; the Home Shopping Network sells the same at $50.00 to $100.00; and just forget about the designer couture stuff! So bottom line, totally worth your while.

I wouldn’t bother with purchasing patterns or kits. All the necklaces I made are my own “original designs” and you should be able to handle designing your own as well. (I put “original designs” in quotation marks because they weren’t all that original in design; I did try to make some nutty, asymmetrical crazy stuff, but they came out terrible.)

Figure out which gemstones you like the most, brainstorm a general concept, buy the supplies, and go! Check out YouTube for beading tutorials and read a couple of how-tos online if you’re still unsure of yourself.

Beading necklaces is a great stress-reliever and this newfound hobby has been incredibly therapeutic. Considering the pressures I experience in my day job and nothing going as planned for TZ, beading a couple necklaces (or a dozen) has been a welcomed exercise.

Do let me know and drop a line if you decide to try this out. Who knows, you may discover a hidden talent, become an Etsy entrepreneur or launch your own line, and fashionistas or people like me will love your designs so much we all end up your patrons!

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