Making simple necklaces is quite easy. But, like many crafts, you can make simple projects truly special by paying attention to craftsmanship. I wanted to make a pearl necklace to wear for my wedding so I bought some pearls and set about to learn how to string a pearl necklace in the best possible way.
When working with pearls, you need silk thread. While there are many, many options for beading threads, wires, and cords, you want to use silk because it is very sturdy but will not wear away at the pearls from the inside. I really enjoyed working with Griffin Silk Bead Cord which comes with a beading needle already attached for easing stringing. Other than using silk, there are two characteristics that set a pearl necklace apart from another necklace – pearl necklaces are often threaded on two strands of cord and a knot is tied between each pearl. Both of these characteristics prevent you from losing more than 1 or 2 pearls if you snag your necklace and break it. Note that you will need significantly more thread than the length of your necklace because of all the knots you will be tying – about 1.5 times as much.
To start, you want to tie a knot in the end of your cord and thread a clamshell onto it. The clamshell is a handy little finding that covers the final knot in your necklace and adds a metal loop to let you attach it to your clasp. You should pick cord that is the smallest size that still allows you to tie a knot that holds a bead in place. For the pearls that I had, it meant that I chose 1 strand of size 0 and 1 strand of size 2 silk cord because when I tied a knot with 2 strands of size 0, the holes in the beads were larger than the knot so they didn’t stay in place on the necklace. It isn’t strictly necessary to use 2 strands of cord, but it will make your necklace sturdier in the long so I recommended it, especially for longer necklaces that are more likely to snag on things.
Thread your first pearl onto the necklace.
Tie an overhand knot loosely in the thread above the pearl. (This step requires a bit more finesse the longer that your necklace grows because there is a longer tail to thread through the knot. Just don’t rush and it won’t tangle.)
Put your finger into the knot and gently slide the knot as close to the bottom pearl as you can get with your finger. It is possible to go straight for the pin (see step below), but I found I had fewer tangles if I used my finger first.
Stick a strong pin in the knot and hold it next to the pearl while you gently tighten the knot all the way.
You should have a tight knot directly next to the bottom-most pearl. Pull the pin out. If you accidentally tighten the knot in the wrong place, don’t remove the pin! You can use a second pin to gently pick the knot open and try again.
If you are using 2 strands, make the knot extra tight by pulling the strands apart.
You can speed up the beading process if you thread several pearls onto the necklace at once but only move them down to the working end one at a time.
Repeat the knot tying process, one pearl at a time, until the necklace is your desired length. Add a clamshell to the second end of the necklace. Add a bit of glue to the inside of the clamshells. I recommend Aileen’s Original Tacky Glue because it doesn’t expand when drying, dries clear, and wipes off with water (before drying) if you get it where you don’t want it (which I always do when working with glue!).
Trim the threads and crimp the clamshell closed. Now wait for the glue to dry. (You can trim before adding glue but do crimp before it dries).
If you want, you can use a dab of clear nail polish to strengthen the knot between the clamshell and the first pearl.
Add your clasp to the loops in the clamshell. And you’re done! With a super sturdy super classy new necklace to wear!