An Easy Way to Measure Cabochons

Oct 27, 2010

Jean Campbell is the senior editor of Beadwork and a
contributing editor to Beading Daily

I find I often struggle along with a way of doing things for years until someone or something points out how utterly laborious my way of doing things actually is. For instance, when I make kits for the classes I teach, I use these tiny little bags to put small amounts of seed beads into. To open one I've always dug my fingernails into the opening to pry it open. But when my friend Anna came over to help me kit the other night she said, "Why are you struggling so? Just squeeze and twist!" And quicker than heck, she snapped that stinker open by sliding the zipped portion horizontally between her thumb and forefinger. My life was instantly changed! Well, okay, maybe not changed, but I sure can kit a lot faster now.

One of those "aha" moments happened again this morning as I was paging through Dale Cougar Armstrong's new book, Wirework, a beautiful offering with sophisticated and fashionable wire designs. The how-to sections are so clearly illustrated I think I could actually do this seemingly complicated-looking stuff. Anyway, Dale uses lots of cabochons in her work, so she outlines in her book how to properly (and easily) measure them. Want to learn how?


No-Fuss Way to Measure a Cabochon

Measuring a cabochon or other large focal piece (like a crystal fancy stone) is something that both wireworkers and beadworkers need to know how to do. Whether you need to gauge how much wire to cut or how many beads to use, it can be a cumbersome chore as you bumble around with measuring tape or drive yourself crazy trying to figure out how many beads to stitch. But fear not! Just try this technique:

1) Cut a piece of masking or duct tape longer than the circumference of the stone. Trim one end so it's absolutely straight and roll the other end under.

2) Set the tape, nonsticky side down, on the work surface. Start rolling the edge of the cabochon on the tape at the straight end. The tape will stick to the edge of the cabochon, so you'll get a clean roll.

3) Continue to roll the cabochon until the tape meets itself.

3) Mark the spot where the tape end meets the body of the tape.

4) Measure the length on the tape.

5) Cut the wire to that length (or, if you're doing beadwork, stitch that many beads).

Isn't that a great tip? There are lots more like these in Dale's book, Wirework, which also includes a bonus DVD that includes a wealth of ideas for working with cabochons. Maybe you have some tips of your own? Please share them on Beading Daily.

Happy beading,


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elliebop wrote
on Oct 27, 2010 6:10 AM

Where can we find a chart which would provide the number (and size) of seed beads required to encase rivolis.....round....square....triangle....oval.....teardrop?

Does such a chart exist?  This would be invaluable to those that do alot of beading around rivolis........thank you....and GOD BLESS appreciate all the "tips".....

AmyW@55 wrote
on Oct 27, 2010 10:26 AM

I teach jewelry design classes and I usually can't locate a tape measure in my tool basket. Instead of asking the student how many inches she wants her necklace to be I say "show me how long you want you necklace to hang".

I then take a roll of beading wire and wrap the wire around their neck, adjusting it to the length they point to on their chest. I mark the length with my finger then lay the wire on the table, measure it with my ruler and determine the finished length.

Then I remind the student to subtract the clasp length from that finished length to know how long to make the necklace.

on Oct 27, 2010 10:58 AM

What about extra wire for the bail or extra wire to enclose the cabochon on top? I believe you forgot to mention this as the measurement of the cabochon does not include the bail wire on the top and this would be essential to not just cut the wire only the length of the cabochon or you have nothing to hold it together. Thanks for the good tips.

nujewels10 wrote
on Oct 27, 2010 11:03 AM

I also find that after you measure with the tape if you lay the tape out on your table you can also mark where you want to place your wraps.  That way it will be easier to make sure that they are evenly spaced. Also if you place a piece of tape from top to bottom of your cab and mark the top and bottom center, when you are ready to put it into the frame you can be sure that it is lying straight, since it is easy to get it off center.

PamSani wrote
on Oct 27, 2010 12:32 PM

Jean, can you show me some photos of your simplified method of opening little zipper-lock bags?  I really struggle with opening them.  I gave your hint a try, but couldn't open one.  Where am I going wrong?

on Oct 27, 2010 1:42 PM

Pam-just hold the zipper bag so your thumb and forefinger run parallel with the zipping mechanism (in line with the top of the bag). Then push your forefinger forward while you pull your thumb back, letting the zipper mechanism slide open horizontally. A little miracle, really.

pearlgirl64 wrote
on Oct 27, 2010 1:46 PM

Jean, tried Anna's ziplock tip and had quite an "aha" moment myself :-D Can't believe I've been fiddling with them for years when it was that simple!

on Oct 27, 2010 6:31 PM

Thanks, Jean, for passing on such a simple and easy method to measure cabochons!

V Milheron wrote
on Oct 28, 2010 8:10 PM

Another easy way to measure a cab is to roll it along a piece of flattened  modelling clay (the kind your kids play with). Roll it on the edge across the clay and just measure the indentation left behind!