Professional Finishing Techniques for Pearl Knotting

Even though I don't do it too often, I love knotting strands of pearls and gemstone beads.  There's nothing quite as iconic as a single strand of knotted pearls:  I'm thinking of June Cleaver or Jackie O.  Pearls add instance elegance and class to any special outfit.  With wedding and prom season coming up, it's the perfect time to brush up on your knotting skills with some fine finishing techniques.

Using knotting to string pearls, gemstone beads, crystals, or even vintage glass beads is the perfect way to protect these little treasures.  Placing small knots between beads on a strand of silk cord protects the holes of the beads from chips that could eventually damage the beads.  There's also a certain graceful flow to a strand of knotted pearls that you wouldn't get if you just strung them on a piece of jewelry wire – each pearl is sort of free to move around on its own. 

You don't need a fancy pearl knotting tool to make your own knotted pearl or bead necklaces, either.  A simple awl or a pair of fine-pointed tweezers will work perfectly to get you started.

Giving your knotted pearl strands a professional finish requires a little thought before you sit down to start knotting, so take a look at my two favorite ways to finish a knotted pearl necklace and see which one you prefer:

Clamshells.  Bead tips, or clamshells, can be used to make a professional finish on your knotted pearl necklaces.  To use a clamshell, tie a knot in the end of your silk cord without a needle.  Pass the needle through the clamshell from the inside toward the outside so that the knot rests in the center of the clamshell.  It might also be helpful to tie the knot around a tiny seed bead and add a drop of glue to hold it securely.  Close the clamshell with a pair of flat-nose pliers.  Tie another knot on the outside of the clamshell, string a pearl or a bead, and tie another knot. 

When you get to the end of the strand, tie a knot and string on the other clamshell.  Tie another knot, either with or without a seed bead, and use your awl or knotting tool to gently position the knot in the center of the clamshell.  Close the clamshell and add your clasp.

French wire.  This stuff used to be called French Bullion, but whatever it's called, it's a great way to add a professional finish to your knotted pearl necklaces.  This technique is a little more complicated, but looks absolutely lovely.  Make sure that your pearls can accommodate more than one pass with your needle and silk – if not, use a bead reamer to gently open the holes a bit before you begin. 

To use french wire, cut a piece of wire about ¼ inch long.  Tie a knot in your silk without the needle on it and string two pearls.  Slide on the piece of french wire and one half of your clasp and push them down against the pearls, leaving a little bit of space between each pearl.  Pass your needle back through the last pearl you strung, pulling snugly so that the french wire forms a little loop against the pearl.  Tie a knot, using your awl or knotting tool.  Pass your needle through the next pearl or bead and tie a knot. 

You can trim the knot you originally tied to keep the pearls on the silk cord and add some glue to your knots between the first two pearls.  When you get down to the last two pearls, string them on together, leaving a little space between each one.  Add another ¼ inch piece of french wire and your clasp and pass back through the last pearl you strung.  Tie your knots as you did at the beginning of the strand and then trim your silk thread close to the knots.

There you have it!  If you need some more ideas for beautiful wedding jewelry using pearls, crystals, and chain, you'll definitely want to take a look at the Best of Stringing: Weddings for twelve beautiful wedding jewelry projects and more helpful advice on how to design the perfect wedding jewelry for a bride, a bridesmaid, or a special family member. 

Bead Happy,




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Jennifer VanBenschoten

About Jennifer VanBenschoten

Born in New Jersey in 1974, I escaped to the Adirondacks for the first time in 1995, making it my permanent home in 2000.  I have been interested in beads, buttons and making jewelry as long as I can remember.  It's probably my mother's fault - she was a fiber artist and crochet historian, and whenever she ordered supplies from one mail order source, she would order a huge bag of assorted buttons and beads for me and my sister!    

4 thoughts on “Professional Finishing Techniques for Pearl Knotting

  1. I love the look of a knotted Pearl necklace and use the clamshells for my closings…
    I really like the idea of the French Wire and will have to give that a try.
    Thanks for the great info…


  2. My mother had a pearl stringing/knotting business in the 1950’s and taught dozens of women how to knot giving them a means to earn a living. Mom’s employees did all the knotting for all the largest Dept stores in NYC including Macy’s, Gimbels, Lord & Taylor, B. Altmans, Saks, etc, etc. The end of the necklace used something called a “tip.” either in gold color or silver. I actually have the remains of her business with 1000’s of these tips available. They finish the necklace beautifully.