A lover of handmade jewelry, Donna has been crafting (and wearing) unique pieces of statement jewelry since she can remember.
How to Make a Multi-Layered Bead Necklace
Necklaces composed of many strands of beads may seem complicated, but are actually quite easy to make with materials from your local craft store or big box retailer. The design of multi-strand necklaces allows for many opportunities to personalize your necklace and make it unique!
This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to create your own beautiful multi-strand beaded necklace. Also included are some different ways for creating unique designs for your necklace. You can also follow these steps to make a matching bracelet to complete your jewelry set.
Materials to Make a Multi-Strand Beaded Necklace
The supplies for making beaded necklaces are available at most craft stores that sell jewelry supplies or at most big box retailers that sell craft materials. For a multi-strand necklace, you will need:
- A necklace clasp: These come in many styles—if you want to make a graduated necklace, I would suggest a clasp that has a spot to connect each of your strands, like the gold one pictured below. If you want all your strands to be the same length, a clasp with one connections point should work, like the silver clasp below. There is more information about clasps below in Step 1 of this tutorial.
- Beading wire: There are also many weights and thicknesses of beading wire. I like this 7 strand .024 inch width of wire because it is strong, but also is thin enough to go through most beads with small holes.
- A pair of needle-nose pliers and wire cutters: These tools are available at craft stores, but you can just use the ones you might already have in your tool box, as long as your pliers have a narrow tip.
- Crimp beads: Crimp beads are used to hold and lock your beading wire tight. They come in a few sizes and finishes. You can also buy crimp covers to put over your crimp beads to give them a more finished appearance.
- A lot of beads: A multi-strand necklace will use a LOT of beads. The actual amount will depend on the size of your beads and the length of your necklace. For example, the necklace pictured below used between 80 to 90 beads per strand.
Directions for Making a Multi-Strand Beaded Necklace
1. The first step in making your multi-strand necklace is to decide the length and design for your necklace. To decide the length, I often put on a few of my favorite necklaces and choose which length I want for the necklace I am making. Then I use that measurement for the length of the shortest strand of my necklace.
Then decide how many strands you want your necklace to have. For your first necklace, you may want to start with just two or three strands.
Multi-strand necklaces can either have graduated lengths, with one strand being the shortest and one being the longest, or have all the strands be the same length. If you want your necklace to have strands with graduated lengths (like the all purple necklace above), I would suggest using a clasp with a connection point for each strand.
2. Once you have selected the style and correct clasp for your necklace, make sure your clasp opens and closes with no problem. I've found that when I buy clasps (either lobster clasps or screw clasps) in a package, a few of the clasps do not open and close properly. I've actually put together a complete necklace only to find that the clasp I just attached does not work. Please take my advice and test your clasp before beginning your necklace.
3. Next, use your wire cutters to cut the lengths of your beading wire. Be sure to add about 6 inches to the measurement of each length of wire in order to attach your ends. For instance, if you want your shortest strand to be 17 inches long, add 6 inches and cut your beading wire to be 23 inches long. Then if you are making a graduated necklace, cut each following piece of wire to be two inches longer. For a three strand graduated necklace with the shortest length being 17 inches, your beading wire would be cut to 23 inches, 25 inches, and 27 inches.
These measurements might seem to be long and wasteful, but you will need extra length to connect the ends of your necklace and you don't want to try to work with wire that is too short.
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Attaching the Clasp to Your Necklace
4. Now take your shortest piece of beading wire and slide two crimp beads on (three crimp beads if your decorative beads are large or heavy). Then slide on your clasp on. If your clasp has multiple connection points, put your shortest wire through the connection point that will sit closest to your neck.
5. Next, feed your beading wire back through all of your crimp beads and pull them as close to your clasp as possible. In doing this, try to only use a couple of inches of your beading wire.
6. Take your needle nose pliers and gently squeeze your crimp beads so that they bend and hold in place. Squeeze each of your crimp beads separately, not all together at once. Squeeze them so they are tight and don't move, but not so tight that they crack. Check that each crimp bead stays in place after you squeeze it.
7. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 to connect all your strands of beading wire to your clasp using crimp beads. If you are making a graduated beaded necklace, put your longest strand of wire through the outer loop on your clasp. If your clasp only has one connection loop, run all your strands of wire through this one loop and secure them each with crimp beads.
When you are finished connecting your wire with crimp beads, do not cut the short end of your beading wire yet.
8. Now you can start adding your beads. As you add your first couple of beads to each strand, work both ends of your beading wire through these beads.
I like to start with smaller beads up toward the clasp of my necklace. I like my necklaces to sit close to my neck at the back and I don't want anything too bulky near the clasp that might interfere with the collar or neckline of my clothes.
9. You can add your beads however you choose. I usually use a random selection of beads as I tend to mix in old beads with new beads. But you can also decide to a pattern and continue that design through your necklace. If you are using large beads, I would suggest alternating with small beads so your strands will curve without forming gaps between your beads.
I like to work on one strand for a few inches, then switch to another strand to build my necklace. This way, I can see how the beads on my strands look together as I am working.
10. When your necklace gets to about the halfway point of your length, try curving your necklace to see how it will look and how your beads will sit next to each other. If at any time, you don't like the look or pattern of your beads, you can take them off and start again.
11. When your shortest strand of beads gets to the length that you chose for your necklace, loop your beads around so they look as they will when sitting on your neck (see above). You might want to make sure that your ending beads match the beads to started your necklace with.
Then finish off your other strands so their ends meet up with your shortest strand. If you are making a graduated necklace, your outer strands will each need to be a little longer than each preceding strand.
Adding the Other End of Your Clasp
12. Once you are happy with the pattern and length of your necklace, it is time to add the other end of your clasp. Working with one strand at a time, add the same number of crimp beads to your beading wire that you used at the start. Then slide on your clasp, attaching your shortest strand of beading wire through the connection point that will be closest to your neck.
13. Now, as you did at the beginning, run your beading wire back through your crimp beads and through the next couple of beads on your necklace (if possible). Pull the end of your beading wire tight so there are no gaps between beads or between your beads and the clasp. You can use your pliers to pull your wire tight while working.
14. Once everything is snug, use your needle nose pliers to squeeze your crimp beads so they hold your beading wire in place.
15. Continue to connect each strand of your wire in the same manner. Be sure to connect your beading wires in order so that your longest strand in connected on the outer most spot.
16. (Optional) Before you cut your beading wire, put a small drop of superglue on your crimp beads at each connection point (both at the beginning and end of your necklace). I like to add this additional insurance to the hold of my beads. If you or the person you are giving the necklace to is allergic to any glues, avoid this step.
Be careful not to get any glue on your clasp and that your strands can still move freely at the connection point.
17. Once your glue is dry, trim the ends of your beading wire using your wire cutters. Try to trim your wire as close to your beads as possible, but be careful not to cut through your finished necklace.
Other Design Options for a Multi-Strand Beaded Necklace
There are many ways to design and create your multi-strand beaded necklace. The beaded necklace above has a fun bohemian look. For this necklace, I used:
- Four strands of beads, all roughly the same length
- I used a few different colors and shapes of beads that all coordinated with the larger green beads
- For each strand I used one pattern of beads, then switched the pattern to a different set of beads at roughly the halfway point
- When connecting my clasp at the end of my necklace, I switched the order of my strands so they sit in a bit of a twist on my neck. I changed the order of the first two strands of beads, then the order of the last two strands of beads.
Adding a Pendant or Charms to a Multi-Strand Beaded Necklace
You can also add additional items to a multi-strand beaded necklace.
- You can add a pendant to the middle of your longest strand of beads
- You can add a bunch of charms along the length of your necklace
I added this group of charms to one side of my necklace. You can find a tutorial for making these charms from recycled materials here. This might not be everyone's taste to have the charms just on one side. You could also spread charms throughout the center section of your necklace for a more balanced look.
To add a pendant or charms to your necklace, attach a jump ring through the loop on your hanging piece. Then as you are beading your necklace, slip your item on your beading wire in the place you want it using the jump ring. Make sure you place it on your necklace facing forward. If you are placing items on the side of your necklace, you will need strands of beads on each side to keep your item from turning to the back. The strands on each side should keep your charm facing forward as your necklace moves.
Questions & Answers
Question: You said for a graduated necklace add 2 inches to each strand. Is this a fast rule? I am wanting to make a five strand necklace where the strands lay next to each other, 2 inches seems like it would create a "drop" between each strand.
Answer: Great question! I don't think that two inches is a rule. I think the length difference between strands will depend a lot on the thickness or bulk of your beads. If using smaller beads, you might be able to use a shorter distance. My suggestion would be that as you are stringing your beads on to your strands, you should occasionally move your strands into a loop, like your necklace was hanging around your neck. See how your strands lay next to each other in this position and adjust the lengths accordingly.
Question: How do I make a necklace with two different sides, one side with three strands and the other side with only one strand?
Answer: You should use a jewelry connector. These connectors have rings where you can attach your strands of beads on each side. You should be able to find a connector that has three rings on one side and only one ring on the other. Usually, jewelry connectors have some decorative element in the center, either a gemstone or metal element. I've seen them on Etsy, but you should be able to find a variety of jewelry connectors in craft or bead stores. If you're looking on the internet, search for "3 strand to 1 strand jewelry connector". Hope you find what you are looking for and make a necklace that you really love!
Question: How many strands would you recommend for an attractive multi-strand necklace? What type of wire would you suggest?
Answer: The number of strands for a necklace is a matter of personal taste. Two or three strands will make a nice necklace that is not too large or too heavy. If you are using small beads, like seed beads, you might want to consider four to six strands. Choose a wire width that will slide through the holes in your beads. If you are using small beads, you will need a thinner wire. Choose your beads first, then get the right wire for that size bead.
© 2016 Donna Herron
Donna Herron (author) from USA on June 09, 2018:
So glad you found this tutorial helpful. Thanks for stopping by!
Christina Wells from South Carolina on June 08, 2018:
This was so clear and helpful - thank you!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on December 01, 2017:
If you're going to use precious or semi-precious stones, you may want to consider knotting your string between each stone for safety. This is often done with pearls. I haven't done this, but you can probably find a tutorial online on jewelry making websites or on Youtube. Hope this helps!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on September 17, 2017:
Hi Neha - I think you can construct the necklace either way. However, if you make all you strands the same length and position your pendant on the side, some strands may shift and cover or get twisted with your pendant. It might be best to make your strands graduated. I hope this helps! Thanks for stopping by!
Neha on September 15, 2017:
I want attach a pendant to my multistrand necklace. I want to put it in the side. Do I go for graduated length. How do I figure it out.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on August 27, 2017:
Hi Joan - So glad you found this tutorial helpful. I hope you make a beaded necklace that you love and enjoy wearing. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
Joan on August 26, 2017:
Thanks alot for the instructions. They are more clear, and your necklace is beautiful. Can't wait to make them too, thanks for your guidance.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on May 09, 2016:
Hi RTalloni - You're very welcome! Making these multi-strand necklaces is quite easy and fun. I hope you make some jewelry that you really love. Thanks for your comments!
RTalloni on May 09, 2016:
Thanks for the tips and instructions on this necklace. I hope to do more jewelry making in the future. Your example is really pretty and looks so nice on.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on February 24, 2016:
Thanks, Kailua-KonaGirl! I hope you make some necklaces that you really love. Good luck! Thanks for your comments and pin!
KonaGirl from New York on February 23, 2016:
Thanks for the super clear tutorial! Your instructions are clear, your photos are excellent and your finished product is beautiful. You are an inspiration for me to create beautiful pieces too. Pinning to my DIY Jewelry board.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on February 23, 2016:
Thanks, Sally! It's amazing how many beautiful beads are available and it's so easy to put them together in a necklace yourself. So glad you like this tutorial. Thanks, as always, for your comments and support!
Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on February 22, 2016:
Very pretty, there is there no end to your talent? Very clear instructions. These would make great gifts for young or old. Well done.