Tips for Creating Strung Jewelry with Pearls

Jul 8, 2013

You may have heard me talk about my drawer full of pearls before, and yes, it's true: I'm a sucker for pearl beads. At every bead show, bead shop, or online bead seller that I visit, the first thing I do is to browse their selection of pearls to see if there are any strands that I have to add to my collection.

Part of my stash of freshwater pearls.
Pearls are perfect for adding a little luster to your favorite stringing projects, and they mix well with just about anything: leather, gemstones, glass, and even wood or vintage Lucite beads. But stringing pearls can be tricky, mostly because of their smaller hole size. So, what's a beader to do?

I love these large-hole pearls from A Grain of Sand!
1. Use large hole pearls. I first saw these back at the Tucson shows in early 2012, and since then, they've popped up in a lot of my favorite online sources for beads. The holes on these big beauties are about 3mm, so you can easily fit a piece of 2mm leather through them. Large hole pearls are great for knotting on leather cord and mixing with large holed wood and Lucite beads.

2. Use a pearl reamer. Even with fine bead stringing wire (I usually stick with the 0.15mm size), you still might have a problem getting that wire through a tiny pearl hole, particularly if you're using the lovely little rice pearls of which I'm so fond. In this case, I'll use a pearl reamer to open up the holes a bit.

A pearl reamer is slightly different than an ordinary bead reamer, with a finer point and usually with a corkscrew pattern around the metal tip. Remember to always ream your pearls under water to act as a lubricant so you don't break your pearl.

I just love this Knock-Out Knotted pearl necklace by Katie Hacker!
3. Use pearls as spacers. Because I'm not one who enjoys messing about with pearl reamers, I usually try to use pearl beads as spacers in my jewelry stringing projects. They make lovely little accents on either side of a large gemstone bead, and when used this way, I don't have to worry about getting two thicknesses of beading wire through them when I'm finishing off my beaded necklace or bracelet.

4. Use pearls as wire-wrapped links. Another way to avoid using pearls at the ends of your strung jewelry projects is to make simple wire-wrapped links to include in your piece. This way, you can just wrap your beading wire around the wire and use beads with larger holes on either side of the wire and pearl links. To give your pieces a more professional finish, use colored beading wire, cover bare beading wire with French bullion, and hide your crimps under decorative crimp covers.

Freshwater pearls are, without a doubt, the one beading luxury that I just can't live without. Whether I string them or stitch them, I'm always going to be looking for new and creative ways to use my pearls in my beading projects! Jewelry Stringing magazine is my favorite go-to resource for finding exciting jewelry-making ideas that incorporate freshwater pearls. If you're looking for the latest and greatest in beading tools, techniques, and information about handmade jewelry trends each season, it should be your go-to resource, too. Subscribe to Jewelry Stringing magazine and don't miss out on the

Do you have any tips for working with freshwater pearls in your bead stringing projects? Share them here on the Beading Daily blog!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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Knock-Out Knotted Necklace

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A comtemporary take on your grandma's strand of knotted pearls.

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Comments

LuannUdell wrote
on Jul 8, 2013 7:53 AM

I love freshwater pearls strung on leather cord, too, but there are easier ways to enlarge the holes to accommodate.

Rings 'n' Things has a nifty battery-operated bead reamer (Item # 69-058 for $16) that speeds up the process considerably.  It's very safe to use--you won't lose fingers!--and works quickly to enlarge pearl holes.  I work with a small cup of water, submerging the bead and the drill tip, and use a ream/release/ream/release technique.  

Once you are drilling so much, you can't keep up with the fresh batteries, try a mini-rotary tool kit.  Dremel is the most well-known brand, but you can buy nice ones for $15-$25.  They'll come with a case and dozens of drill bits.  They're the same size as the bead reamer, but come with an electric cord.  BUT....the kits don't have the wonderful bead reamer tip!  Go back to Rings 'n' Things and buy these replacement bead reamer tips (item #69-058-A).  Strip off the plastic tube casing that allows them to fit the battery tool, and they'll fit your mini rotary tool.

You can actually use this tool to drill bigger holes in glass beads.  Stone beads, too, but they take a little longer.

on Jul 14, 2013 9:22 AM

I'm with you, pearls are the one beading luxury that I cannot do with out!  I use them with everything,...cord, silk, wire, leather, ribbon, metal, beading wire,...you name it!  I like pairing my pearls with the unexpected,...such as rustic, rugged looking materials. It lends a sort of 'glow' to the entire design.

Sewicked wrote
on Sep 18, 2013 12:27 PM

This is not a typical use, but small freshwater pearls work great when encapsulated in tatting.