A.R.T. Precious Collectible Jewelry

LJ Article

Freshwater Pearl Bridal Set

This pretty pearl set — which is elegant enough to wear on your wedding day but simple enough to wear on a variety of occasions — can be completed in about 4 hours.

Materials

Freshwater pearls Necklace findings Earring findings

fancy clasps, separator bars and spacer beads are by Glenn Erso

24 3mm round gold-filled beads
2 24 gauge gold-filled head pins
2 gold-filled French ear wires
1 3-hole 18K vermeil clasp
2 3-hole vermeil separator bars
1 18K vermeil hook-and-eye clasp
4 18K vermeil small spacers
2 18K vermeil large spacers
3-5 strands of fine white freshwater pearls
8 gold-filled bead tips

Toolbox

Tools for this project.
  • Beading awl
  • Small needle-nose pliers
  • Beading needles
  • Fine gauge bead cord (I use C-thru®)
  • 0-gauge beading thread (I prefer Kevlar®, as it has a higher tolerance to moisture than silk)
  • Beeswax
  • Crystal cement

Necklace

Step 1. Sort through the pearls and select the roundest, most perfect pearls for the center of the strands. The ones that are more pear-shaped should be used on the outer sections of the strands. Make sure the points face in the same direction away from the separator bars. On the right side, all points should face to the right. On the left, points should face left.

Sort pearls and allow extra cord for knotting Use awl to place knots tight against pearls

Step 2. A 3-strand necklace has 3 sections: left, center, and right wings. The top center section is the shortest part of the center section, while the bottom center is the longest, but only by 1 or 2 pearls. This creates a slight arc, which will allow the necklace to lie flat on the neck.The center section should be about 7". The wings will be equal lengths -- 11 pearls, or about 4", for each wing.

Lay out the pearls and beads on a flat surface to get the arrangement right, then temporarily string the necklace. Don't knot between the pearls at this stage. Do the middle strand first, working either from your right or your left. Do the bottom strand next, and the top last. It may take a few trials and errors before the necklace will hang just so.

You will have to play around with different pearls to get the proper length. In this piece, I used 22 pearls in the top center strand, and 23 each in the 2 bottom strands. Place 3mm gold-filled round beads between the end pearls and the separators. This gives a finished look to the piece, and keeps the pearls from abrading against the metal.

Step 3. Once you know which pearls will fit where, carefully unstring each strand, one at a time, being sure to lay down each pearl and bead exactly in the order in which they will be strung and knotted in the final phase.

Step 4. When knotting pearls or beads, start with a length of thread or cord 5 times the finished length of the necklace so you will you will have enough length to accomodate the knots.

Run some beeswax down the thread to make it more moisture-resistant and to make the pearls slide on more easily. Securely knot the 2 ends together and slide the first bead tip to the knot, placing the knot up against the underside of the cup of the bead tip.

Use an awl or the point of small needle-nose pliers to guide the knot into place, tightening the cord with your other hand.

Step 5. Next, slide a 3mm gold-filled round bead onto the thread, up over the knot behind the bead tip. It will pop into place. Make another knot directly against the gold bead. Slide a pearl onto the thread right up to the knot. Tie a knot right against the pearl.

Step 6. When you get to the 11th pearl, tie a knot, then slide the 3mm gold-filled bead up onto the knot. Slide on the separator bar, making a knot so that the next 3mm bead will secure the separator against the other metal bead. Knot between each pearl. After tying the last pearl in the center section into place, pop the 3mm gold-filled bead onto the knot, and slide the second separator on, making sure the flower design is facing up on both separators, and that the center hole only on each separator is threaded. Pop another 3mm bead into place, securing the second separator against the other gold bead. Tie the rest of the pearls into place.

Step 7.When all the pearls are knotted onto the middle strand, create the bottom strand. Do the top strand last.

Step 8.Once you've securely knotted all bead tips onto the strand, put a drop of crystal cement on the knots in the bead tips for added security and strength. Crystal cement is better than cyanoacrylate glue or epoxy, as it doesn't get brittle with age. Carefully attach the bead tips to the clasp with needle-nose pliers. Start with middle strand, and make sure the strands are not twisted or crossed.

Always tie a knot between every pearl and bead. Knots serve several purposes. First, a knot will keep pearls or beads from abrading each other and damaging the finish. Second, where the cord is knotted, the overall strength of the cord increases three-fold. Third, knotting makes the piece more fluid. It becomes a part of the person wearing it, and moves with them. Fourth, if breakage occurs, only one pearl has to be picked up off the floor!

Bracelet

Step 1.Use fine-gauge cord for the bracelet. Run some beeswax down the length of the cord. Make a knot at one end and slide a bead tip all the way to the knot. Secure the bead tip with a knot against the bottom of it, as done for the necklace. Slide a 3mm gold-filled bead onto the knot so that it pops into place. Tie a knot against the gold bead. Slide a pearl onto the cord, and knot it against the previous knot.

Step 2. Add another pearl and repeat until the piece is 7" to 7½" long, approx. 21 pearls. Finish with a 3mm gold-filled bead, then knot. Secure bead tip with knot, dab end knots with crystal cement. When cement is dry, attach to hook and eye clasp.

Earrings

Step 1. To create the earrings, use 24-gauge head pins to avoid tedious hours reaming larger holes in the pearls. I use 14/20 gold-filled head pins to keep the project more affordable while still producing a quality item.

Stack as follows: 3mm gold-filled bead, small spacer, pearl, large spacer, pearl, small spacer, 3mm gold-filled bead.

Step 2. Grasp the head pin with needle-nose pliers about ¾" above the top gold-filled bead and make a small loop around one of the prongs of the pliers. Snip excess wire with the cutters and attach a French hook ear wire. Repeat for the second earring.

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