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Jewelry Clasps – A Mere Necessity Or Lovely Focal Points?
What is a clasp's function?:
We all know that without clasps the jewelry would just fall off, and we would not be able to wear it. That was probably the reason why they were invented in the first place. In very ancient times someone found something that took their fancy, like a piece of bone, a shell or a lovely seed, and wanted to wear it.
They could put it in the folds of their clothes or in a pouch, but then nobody would see it, and it would not enhance them very much in a pouch. So they decided to find a way to wear it on display. They most likely made a hole in it and put a thread of some sort through it, and tied it around their neck.
But what if they didn't want to wear it 24-365?. They would have to have some way to be able to put it on and then take it of again, easily, without having to struggle with a tight knot. So they made a knot in one end of the thread, slid on the piece, and then made a loop in the other end. This way the necklace could be taken on and off easily, by slipping the loop over the knot. They could even change the length of the jewelry. And so the first clasp was born.
So, we can all agree on the functionality of this invention, but is that all there is to it?
Today we live in a world of abundance. Close to everything we want, we can get without too much struggle. And that applies to jewelry supplies as to most other things. Clasps today comes in a HUGE variety of shapes, sizes, metals and other enhancements like crystals and gemstones, and of course prizes. They are not merely a knot an a loop anymore. Even a knot and a loop today are made with extreme imagination and skills, simply because we have the raw materials and technology to take it to a higher level.
Despite the development, the number one function of the jewelry closures, is still to make it possible to take jewelry on and off, and to keep the jewelry safe around our neck or wrist (or ankle and waist line for that matter) while we wear it. And for that function there are good ones and...not so good ones, as you will see further down the page. But today it has other functions as well, not mere security and convenience.
When we traveled from basic needs to vanity and abundance, the clasp was right next to us. Today it can be elevated to be the focal point of the jewelry, because of its beautiful appearance, precious metals and imbedded precious stones. Today it can be the jewel in the crown, so to speak. Instead of it being picked for the jewelry, the jewelry is, equally often, designed for a particular beautiful clasp.
Several types to choose from:
There are SO many types to choose from, but they are mainly grouped into 7 types, which you can get in all kinds of variations.
Spring tension types:
The functionality of these closures is a small spring mechanism inside, that prevents it from opening by accident. There are some variations of this closure, and the two most known ones are The spring ring and the lobster clasp.
The spring ring variation, is a ring with a small lever that you can push to open it. In one end, there is a thinner piece that is pulled back into the ring when you push the lever, and springs back into the other end to close it when you release the lever.
The lobster variation functions pretty much like the spring ring, but is shaped like a lobster claw. (You know how the lobster has one big and one smaller part of its claw, that opens and closes by moving the smaller one) It has a small lever, and when you push it, the smallest of the claws opens, and when released it closes again.
Spring tension locks come in a huge variety. You can get them very cheap, but I would not recommend you to buy those, as the spring mechanism is poor and sometimes does not work at all.
The more sturdy ones are very secure and will keep your jewelry in place safely. And since you can get them quite big as well, they are suitable for all kinds of jewelry regardless of weight. A thing to consider when you use them in your jewelry, is that they are difficult to handle with just one hand, like on a tight bracelet, and may be very hard for people with arthritis, and if small, for everybody.
This closure has two pieces. One is a ring, the other is a bar. The bar is inserted through the ring, and when pulled, it closes by lying across the ring.
It is a very popular closure, and comes in buckets of variations. When you decide to use this type, make sure that the bar is long enough. If it is short, it may easily fall through the ring when you move.
I find that it functions best with heavier necklaces. The weight of the necklace will secure the bar against the ring. I would not use it on a bracelet, since a bracelet is more in movement than a necklace, and when slack the bar may slip through the ring, and the bracelet will fall off.
Because of its many variations, the toggle can be used as a striking focal in your necklace. Although it has only one loop to fasten your necklace, you can attach several strings to it by using a cone or a link.
There are many ways you can make your own toggles. You can make them from wire, weave one with beads and make variations with a string with a loop and a bar of let's say bone.
You can see how you can make a toggle with seed beads in this tutorial: Seed Bead Necklace In Lilac And Rose
These closures are made of two parts. One is the box, which is the decorative and visual part of it. The other part is a slide, which is a flat piece of metal that is folded in two that you slide into the box. When you press the slide together it opens, and when you release it springs back and closes it.
The number of loops to fasten strings varies greatly from small one loop ones to larger multiple loop ones. These closures are usually very embellished or laced. Because of their beauty, they are often used as a focal.
They are usually very safe locks suitable for both necklaces and bracelets, but when cheap they may come loose. They can be a challenge for arthritic fingers if too small, and can be difficult to close with one hand, like on a bracelet. When very small, beads close to it may make it difficult to press the slide to open it, as they get in the way.
However these variations often make up form inconvenience with their beauty.
Hook and eye types:
Here again, these closures come in a huge variety of design. It is, hence the name, a hook that you slide into a ring which is the eye. It can be very simple, or very ornate. How secure it is varies a bit, and I find that it works best with necklaces of some weight to pull it secure. With lighter ones or bracelets, it may come loose. However, the safety depends of the shape of the hook, and some are more secure than others.
They are normally intended for one strands, but you can use a cone or several jumprings to fasten several strands. You can even buy variations with a kind of cone as part of it, where you fasten the strings. Some even have attached links which is fastened to the hook and eye and have several loops in the other end.
You can make your own hook and eye clasp. See these tutorials:
Hook and eye clasp. A simple clasp with lots of potentials
How you can make a double hook clasp
Make your own wire clasp in just 5 minutes
Use LInks To Build An Elegant Charm Bracelet And Earrings
Chain Mail Bracelet With Polymer Clay-, Bone- And Freshwater Pearl Charms
These types are made of three parts. One is S-shaped and the two others are rings. One ring is to attach the S to the jewelry, the other is to slide onto the S to close the jewelry.
The Principe is actually quite genius, as the loops in the S-shape prevent the rings from sliding off, when the weight of the jewelry pulls it closed. Even when slack, my experience is that the loops does not come loose from the S.
How secure this closure is, depends on how the ends of the S is shaped. The bigger they are, the safer it is, since they make it difficult for the rings to pass over them. Some S-hooks have softer ends that can be opened and closed when sliding on the ring.
Make your own S-hook clasp
These are types that are primarily made for several strings. They are made of two parts, a slide and a tube, and you slide the tube into the slide lengthwise. A spring mechanism prevents the tube from slipping back out. You can get them very plain and with some ornamentation, but not much. The main variations are how many loops they have.
Again the quality has something to do with how secure they are. I have experienced that the tube slides out of the slide, when I have used less expensive ones. Gravity may also have something to say in the security matter. If you put the jewelry on so that you will have to slide the tube up, to release it, it will be harder for it to slide out on its own.
The slide locks are easy to manage, even with one hand and arthritis, and they give a very nice ending to multiple stranded jewelry.
These closures are made of two parts that are screwed together. Because of the screwing mechanism, they are fairly safe, but can be very difficult to handle with one hand, especially if they are small.
Magnetic types have not been around for so very long. They are made of two pieces, both with a magnet inside. When put together, the magnets pull the parts together and close it.
They are very suitable for both necklaces and bracelets, but the security depends on the strength of the magnets. I have lost some of my jewelry due to weak magnets, and when I buy them now, I go for the strongest ones.
The magnets make it easy to fasten and open it, and can easily be done with one hand. My mother have very arthritic fingers, and had stopped wearing jewelry because she couldn't get them on or of any longer. The magnetic clasps solved the problem for her.
There are other types that can be made or purchased, like knotted types of closure, that simply is a loop in one end and a knot or button in the other. The loop is pulled over the knot or button. The jewelry must not be to heavy though, or the knot or button may be pulled through the loop.
They function about the same way as the toggles, and the variation of the knot, button, or whatever is tied to the other end of the loop, decides how secure it is. The use of an elastic loop, may make it easier to handle, as you can make the loop smaller and it is easier to slip over the knot. This works well with bead wowed bracelets.
Considerations when choosing a clasp:
So which type of closure should you choose for your jewelry. It is not easy to pick one as there are SO many to choose from. There are some things to take into consideration though.
1. The number one concern should be safety.
To choose one that secures your jewelry 100% is crucial, if not you may loose it. What is safe with a necklace may not be equally safe with a bracelet. A bracelet is in much more motion than a necklace, and does not always have the benefit of gravity to pull it shut. So variations that need gravity to stay shut, like a toggle, may not be suitable for your bracelet, no matter how heavy the bracelet is.
2. Can you put it on alone?
This applies mostly to bracelets, but also to some variations on necklaces. Small spring rings and lobster types are more difficult to handle than larger ones. Tighter bracelets are more difficult to get on than wider ones, so tight beaded cuffs, require different closing mechanisms than a loose hanging charms bracelet.
Magnetic and slide locks may be easier to handle with one hand that other types. A magnetic closure can be pulled open by accident, so although it is easy to put on, it may not be secure enough for your jewelry, without a safety chain.
3. The weight of the jewelry.
If you shall choose a type of closure for a heavy gemstone jewelry, the closure must be strong enough to hold the weight. This often require larger types, or locking mechanisms that pull close by weight, like a toggle an S-hook or hook and eye. If the jewelry is light, a toggle may not have enough strain to stay closed, and the bar may slip out of the ring.
4. The quality of the closure.
When you make jewelry, you put a lot of time and effort into it. It is not done in a swift but takes time planning and making.
To finish it off with a cheap clasp, gives it a bad finish that neither it nor you deserve. My advice to you, although you may be beading on a budget, is to match the clasp with the value of your jewelry. This is especially important if you are selling it.
And never, never look down on your own jewelry as something that is not worthy of extravagances. It is a handmade, one in the world design, made by you with pride and hard work and it is indeed worth a proper clasp.
If you can not afford a higher quality clasp, fasten the one you have so that it is easy to remove again without ruining the jewelry. This way you can get a nicer clasp later when your budget allows it.
5. Choose the right metal.
You can get clasps in all kinds of metals and alloys. Real gold and silver can be rather expensive and beading on a budget does not always allow that kind of extravagance. Gold and silver plated or gold filled clasps are a nice substitute at a much nicer price.
There are however a few things to take into consideration when using these types of clasps. The first is that the plating will wear of over time. When that happens, the metal change to a darker and more dull shade, as the base metal starts showing through.
Plated metal often contain nickel, which may cause an allergic reaction for the person wearing the jewelry.
Silver, copper and brass will tarnish over time. You can of course clean them with a tarnish remover solution, and with a clasp that is doable without putting the whole jewelry piece into the solution.
Another option for metal in a clasp is to use pewter. Pewter is the cheaper option, but it has its advantages. It does not contain nickle, it does not tarnish or wear off. It may darken a little, but not much, and can be washed with soap and water when it needs cleaning. They also come in a huge variety of designs.
6. Fasten the clasp securely:
You can use the best, most expensive and safe clasp in the world totally in vain if it is not properly fastened to your jewelry. Always check the clasp by giving it a good pull when you have fastened it, regardless of whether it is crimped or knotted.
Take some time to learn the proper knots to use if you tie the clasp on, or how to fasten crimp beads securely.
If you can, use soldered jumprings. That will prevent the wire or thread to slip through the gap of the ring. If you use open jumprings, file the ends so that it has even ends. That way it will close better and make the gap smaller. You can also use split rings, which are very secure.
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