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How to Make a Beaded Mask or Eyeglass Holder and Necklace

Margaret Schindel has designed, created and sold one-of-a-kind and custom handcrafted jewelry for decades. She loves sharing her techniques.

This jewelry tutorial will teach you how to create your own beaded necklace that doubles as an eyeglass or mask holder.

This jewelry tutorial will teach you how to create your own beaded necklace that doubles as an eyeglass or mask holder.

Beaded Mask and Glasses Chain DIY

Beaded eyeglass chains and mask holders are practical accessories, but most commercial versions are cheaply made, generic or very expensive. Fortunately, you can design and make your own one-of-a-kind beaded mask holder or eyeglass chain that doubles as a necklace. It's as easy as stringing beads on jewelry wire and finishing both ends of the strand with spring ring, trigger or lobster claw clasps, and attaching both clasps to a closed jump ring when you want to wear the beads as a necklace.

This step-by-step tutorial will teach you how to design and make these stylish strands for yourself or as special, one-of-a-kind, handmade gifts. I've included detailed directions, close-up photos and tips to help you complete this project successfully, even if you've never made beaded jewelry before.

These versatile beaded necklaces that convert easily to eyeglasses holders are also the perfect accessories to take on vacation, whether or not you wear prescription eyeglasses. Attach them to your sunglasses during the day, then wear them as necklaces to accessorize your outfits in the evening. I usually pack two or three in different colors to coordinate with the clothes I'm bringing on my trip.

These necklaces are also a stylish way to keep your face mask within easy reach throughout the day, so you can put it on and take it off quickly and easily, as needed.

Have fun designing and making your own three-in-one beaded eyeglass chain, mask holder, and necklace!

Learn to make a fashionable beaded eyeglasses leash that converts to a necklace in seconds.

Learn to make a fashionable beaded eyeglasses leash that converts to a necklace in seconds.

Step-by-Step Beaded Jewelry Tutorial: How to Make a Convertible Beaded Necklace, Eyeglass Chain, and Mask Holder

Time required: Design time varies. Assembly takes approximately 15–30 minutes, depending on experience level.

Difficulty: Medium

Cost: Variable

Materials

  • 49-strand nylon coated flexible bead stringing wire (such as Soft Flex, Soft Touch, Beadalon or Accu-Flex), medium diameter (.018" or .019"), regular or colored
  • Two clamshell bead tips, preferably sterling silver, 14K gold-filled or 14K gold
  • Four thick-walled 2 mm crimp tubes, preferably sterling silver or 14K gold-filled
  • Your choice of glass, crystal, and metal beads and pearls, in a mix of sizes, shapes, finishes and colors
    • At least four of these beads must have holes large enough for the beading wire to pass through twice
    • At least four small seed beads (preferably size 11/0)
  • Two lobster claw, trigger, or spring ring clasps
  • Sturdy open jump rings, preferably sterling silver or 14K gold-filled
  • A matching closed jump ring (i.e., one with a soldered closed seam)
  • Two eyeglass holder ends (AKA eyeglass chain findings)

Tools

  • Flocked bead board with one or more curved channels for designing necklaces
  • Measuring tape
  • Wire pearl reamer (if using pearls)
  • Flush cutter, side cutter or wire nipper designed to be used with nylon-coated 49-strand stainless steel beading wire
    • (Tip: a straight or slanted toenail clipper makes a great, cheap wire cutter)
  • Crimping pliers (designed to work with 2 mm crimp tubes)
  • Round-nose pliers
  • Two pairs of chain-nose pliers, two pairs of flat-nose pliers or one pair of each type

If you don't already own most of these jewelry making tools I highly recommend the 9-piece Beadsmith deluxe jewelry pliers tool kit with case, which includes four of the tools you need for this project as well as five other essential beading tools for much less than it would cost you to purchase them individually. Most of them also have ergonomic handles that make them more comfortable to use and cause less strain on your hands.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Follow the detailed, step-by-step instructions below to complete this project and create your very own DIY convertible beaded necklace, glasses chain, and mask holder.

Step 1: Cut the Beading Wire to Length

Decide how long you want the finished strand to be. Add 4 inches to the desired finished length and cut a piece of beading wire to that measurement using a suitable wire cutter or toenail clipper to cut the wire at a 45-degree angle. (For example, for a 17-inch long finished beaded strand you should cut a 21-inch long piece of wire.) Angling the wire end makes it easier to thread on small-holed beads. Important: Do not use a cutter designed to be used with soft wire; the beading wire will damage the jaws of the cutter! Set the trimmed wire aside.

Lay the edge of the measuring tape into the curved channel in the flocked bead board to see which marks on the left and right of the board correspond to the desired finished length.

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Tip: Although it is possible to design your convertible beaded strand on a bead board with a long, straight channel, it is much easier to visualize how it will look as a necklace if you design it in a curved channel.

Measuring the beading wire

Measuring the beading wire

Step 2: Design Your Convertible Eyeglass Chain and Mask Holder Necklace

This is the most fun—and challenging—part of this jewelry project.

Set out the beads you have chosen on a flocked beadboard. Place the jewelry findings (bead tips, crimp tubes, jump rings, and eyeglass holder ends) either on the beadboard or next to it, within easy reach.

Choose one bead that is slightly larger than the others to be at the center of the strand. It will serve as the focal bead when the beaded strand is worn as a necklace. It can also can add visual interest at the back when the strand is worn as an eyeglass chain or mask holder if you have short hair or wear your hair up.

Place this larger focal bead at the center position of the curved channel on your flocked beading board, as shown in the photo. As you can see, I picked out three possible focal beads for this strand before deciding on the subtly patterned, twisted, vintage glass bead.

Selected beads on a flocked bead design board

Selected beads on a flocked bead design board

I usually create my design by starting with a framework of bead stations, clusters of three to five beads in a symmetrical pattern that are spaced out around the lowest curved channel of the bead board, as shown in the photo.

Planning out the main design elements for the beaded eyeglass holder / necklace

Planning out the main design elements for the beaded eyeglass holder / necklace

Then, I fill in the spaces between the stations or clusters with smaller or more slender beads. Sometimes, I will use short or long bugle beads or stacks of 5–12 seed beads in between the larger bead stations. This creates a pleasing visual rhythm. It also helps keep the necklace from becoming too heavy and uncomfortable, especially when used as an eyeglass holder.

Test fit each bead to make sure the hole is wide enough to slide onto the beading wire without friction. If you are using pearls, which often have small holes, use fine and very fine twisted wire pearl reamers to slowly and gently enlarge the hole in each pearl from both sides.

You will also need to select and reserve six beads for finishing the ends of the strand:

  • Two small seed beads (any color), which will be hidden inside the clamshell bead tips.
  • Four beads with holes large enough to fit over two strands of beading wire (since the wire will need to pass through them from both direction). Ideally, choose beads that are part of the overall strand design.
Filling in with spacer beads between the bead clusters

Filling in with spacer beads between the bead clusters

Step 3: Add a Clamshell Bead Tip Onto One End of the Beading Wire

When you are pleased with your bead design layout and it is a little shorter than you want the finished convertible eyeglass chain necklace to be, it's time to finish one end of the strand.

Start by threading a clamshell bead tip onto one end of the wire, with the opening of the clamshell facing the end of the wire. Slide the clamshell down about 1.5 inches from the end.

Thread one of the two reserved seed beads (I used size 11/0 Miyuki Delica beads) onto the wire, taking care not to let the seed bead slide down into the open "mouth" of the clamshell bead tip yet. Then, bend the end of the wire back on itself and thread it back through the opening at the base of the clamshell tip, as shown.

Feeding the wire and a stopper bead through the first clamshell bead tip

Feeding the wire and a stopper bead through the first clamshell bead tip

Hold the clamshell bead tip and the short wire tail with the fingers of one hand. Use your other hand to pull the remainder of the wire, snugging the seed bead down into the bottom of the open clamshell as shown and shortening the wire tail to about 1 inch long.

Gradually pinch the clamshell tip closed around the seed bead, making sure both halves stay perfectly aligned until the edges meet.

Snugging the clamshell bead tip before gently pinching the halves closed

Snugging the clamshell bead tip before gently pinching the halves closed

Step 4: Add the First Crimp Tube

Thread one of the crimp tubes onto the long end of the wire. Slide it down to the other end of the strand, making sure that both the long main wire and the short wire go through the crimp, and snug it against the closed clamshell tip. With your non-dominant hand, separate the wires and hold them wide apart, as shown.

Threading on the first crimp tube

Threading on the first crimp tube

Pick up the crimping pliers in your dominant hand. The jaws have two notches known as crimping stations. I will call the round notch closest to the tip of the jaws the "rounding notch" and the notch closest to the handles the "crimping notch." Note that the crimping notch has a center "tooth" that will create the channels in the crimp tube.

How crimping pliers work - the notch with the "tooth" separates the two strands of beading wire; the other notch folds over and rounds the bead crimp.

How crimping pliers work - the notch with the "tooth" separates the two strands of beading wire; the other notch folds over and rounds the bead crimp.

Open the crimping pliers and center the crimp tube inside the crimping notch. The tooth should be centered between the two wires. Squeeze the pliers gently to crimp the tube.

Important: Use just enough pressure to create the two channels for the wires and to hold the crimp tube in place so it can't slide. If you squeeze too hard you will deform the thin metal and weaken the crimp.

Squeezing the crimp tube around the two wires

Squeezing the crimp tube around the two wires

This creates a crease in the center of one side of the crimp tube, dividing the tube into two channels with one wire inside each channel.

The photo shows what the crimp tube should look like after it has been crimped. The wires are well separated, each in its own channel of the crimped tube.

The crimped tube

The crimped tube

Remove and carefully reposition the crimped tube in the rounding notch of the crimping pliers (the one without the tooth).

It is very important to keep the crease of the crimped tube centered between the jaws of the crimping pliers and facing outward, as shown in the photo.

Squeeze the crimping pliers gently to fold and round the crimped tube.

Rounding the crimped tube

Rounding the crimped tube

Step 5: Add a Large-Holed Spacer Bead and Another Crimp

Thread one of the four reserved large-hole beads onto the wire, then thread on another crimp tube. Slide them both down until they are next to the previously crimped tube, making sure they go over both the short and long ends of the wire near the finished crimp.

Crimp the second tube, holding the wires far apart in your non-dominant hand as before. Then round the crimped tube.

Note: Although it is not essential to add a second crimp, I highly recommend it. The second crimp serves as a backup, helping to ensure that the beads will not fall off the wire (and possibly be lost) if the first crimp ever loosens.

Threading the first bead and the second crimp

Threading the first bead and the second crimp

Step 6: Trim the Beading Wire

Thread on a second large-holed bead and snug it up next to the second crimp. Use the flush cutters or wire nippers to trim the wire tail as close as possible to the new bead.

Trimming the wire tail

Trimming the wire tail

Step 7: String the Remaining Beads, Crimp Tubes, and Clamshell Bead Tip

Thread on the rest of the beads onto the wire in the order you laid them out on the flocked bead board.

Threading the rest of the beads on the wire

Threading the rest of the beads on the wire

After all the beads, other than the two remaining reserved large-hole beads, thread the following beads and findings onto the wire in the order listed:

  • The third large-hole bead
  • The third crimp tube
  • The last large-hole bead
  • The last crimp tube
  • The other clamshell bead tip
  • A seed bead
Threading the crimp tubes, beads and clamshell bead tip on the other end of the wire

Threading the crimp tubes, beads and clamshell bead tip on the other end of the wire

Step 8: Close the Clamshell and Trim the Wire

Thread the end of the beading wire back through the clamshell bead tip, the two crimp tubes and the two large-hole beads as shown.

Threading the wire back through the crimp tubes and beads

Threading the wire back through the crimp tubes and beads

Slide the beads down snugly and pull the wire tail a bit. Re-snug the beads and pull the tail a bit more. Repeat until the seed bead is snugged against the fold inside the clamshell tip, leaving just a bit of slack on either side of the crimp tubes.

Note: A small amount of slack in the finished strand is necessary to allow it to drape nicely. Too much slack will leave obvious gaps between the crimps and the rest of the beads, which will look unprofessional.

Snugging the wire against the clamshell tip

Snugging the wire against the clamshell tip

Gently pinch the clamshell bead tip closed. Then crimp both tubes.

Note: It is more difficult to keep the wires separated inside the crimp tubes on this end of the strand because there is only a small amount of slack beneath each tube. Just do your best. It gets easier with practice.

The closed clamshell tip and crimped (but not yet rounded) crimp tubes

The closed clamshell tip and crimped (but not yet rounded) crimp tubes

Round both crimps in the rounding notch of the crimping pliers.

Rounding the last bead crimp tubes in the crimping pliers

Rounding the last bead crimp tubes in the crimping pliers

Trim the wire tail as close as possible to the third large-hole bead (the one that is not next to the clamshell bead tip).

Trimming the wire tail closely

Trimming the wire tail closely

Step 9: Attach the Clasps to the Bead Tips

There is a short, flat area at the very end of the hook at the top of each clamshell bead tip. Grasp just this small, flat end with the very tips of the round-nose pliers and curve it under slightly. This will make it easier to attach the clasp.

Curving the end of the hook on the clamshell bead tip

Curving the end of the hook on the clamshell bead tip

Slip a lobster claw, trigger or spring ring clasp over this curved hook. Use the round-nose pliers to gradually continue curving the hook around and underneath the loop.

Attach the other clasp to the other bead tip.

Tip: If the attachment loop on the clasp is too small to allow the clasp to move freely, you can use a jump ring to connect the loop to the clamshell bead tip.

Attaching the lobster claw clasps

Attaching the lobster claw clasps

Step 10: Make the Eyeglass Holder Adapters

Open two jump rings. Slide the loop or an eyeglass holder end finding onto each jump ring.

Close the jump rings, making sure the two sides are aligned and there is no gap at the seam where they meet.

Eyeglass holder ends attached to jump rings. The jump ring on the right has been attached to the chain with one of the lobster claw clasps.

Eyeglass holder ends attached to jump rings. The jump ring on the right has been attached to the chain with one of the lobster claw clasps.

How to Wear the Strand as an Eyeglasses Chain

To wear the beaded necklace as an eyeglasses leash, hook each clasp onto the jump ring on one of the eyeglass holder adapters.

The beaded necklace clasped to the eyeglass holder ends (adapters)

The beaded necklace clasped to the eyeglass holder ends (adapters)

Eyeglasses attached to the finished beaded chain

Eyeglasses attached to the finished beaded chain

The finished beaded eyeglass chain displayed with glasses on a mannequin

The finished beaded eyeglass chain displayed with glasses on a mannequin

How to Wear the Beaded Strand as a Necklace

If the necklace is attached to the eyeglass holder adapters, open both clasps and remove the eyeglass holders.

Hook both clasps to opposite sides of the closed jump ring.

Attach the clasps to the closed jump ring to wear the strand as a beaded necklace

Attach the clasps to the closed jump ring to wear the strand as a beaded necklace

Make the Necklace Length Adjustable With an Optional Extender

I suggest making your beaded strand 18–20 inches long, including the removable connecting jump ring and both clasps. You can make a simple extender chain that allows the wearer to adjust the length for even more versatility.

To Make a Necklace Extender Chain:

  1. Choose a chain with open links that one of the clasps can hook into easily.
  2. Cut the chain to the desired length. I usually make my extenders 1.5 to 2 inches long. Be sure to use a cutter that is suitable for the chain's gauge and type of metal.
  3. Add a decorative beaded dangle to one end of the chain.
    If you don't know how to make a beaded drop, you'll find clear instructions in my Romantic "Queen of Hearts" Beaded Earrings tutorial.
  4. Add a jump ring to the other end of the chain.

To make the beaded strand into a longer necklace, attach the jump ring end of the extender to one of the clasps. Then hook the other clasp into any opening in the chain to adjust the length as desired.

Beaded eyeglass chain worn as a necklace

Beaded eyeglass chain worn as a necklace

How to Wear the Beaded Necklace as a Mask Holder

Remove the jump ring from one of the clasps, or remove the eyeglass holder ends from both clasps, if necessary.

Then, simply attach each clasp to one of the mask's ear loops.

Questions & Answers

Question: Could I use a lobster claw clasp on one end and a spring ring clasp on the other, so I wouldn't need the jump ring when converting the eyeglass chain to a necklace? My thought is that, depending on the relative size and thickness of the two clasps, I could connect the lobster claw clasp and spring ring clasp together directly. I know it wouldn't be symmetrical when worn as an eyeglass chain, but I doubt many people would actually notice.

Answer: When I started making these convertible beaded chains, I originally just used two matching lobster claw clasps or spring ring clasps and hooked them to each other directly. But I didn’t like having the clasps at right angles, which felt uncomfortable against the back of my neck. It also prevented the beaded strand from sitting properly against the curve of the neck. And when I wore my hair up, having the clasps facing in different orientations looked a bit amateurish to me.

Using a jump ring in between the two clasps allows them to sit symmetrically, which I think looks neater and more professional, and helps the beaded strand conform better to the curve of the neck.

That being said, it’s perfectly fine to connect the clasps whichever way you prefer. It’s your design! However, I would recommend using two identical clasps, either lobster claw or spring ring, whichever you prefer. (I prefer the look of the lobster claw clasps when wearing the strand as an eyeglass chain, but I find the spring ring clasps easier to open.) I don’t see any advantage to using one of each kind, and as you pointed out, the asymmetry wouldn’t be optimal.

Question: I love this project and am going to try making a convertible beaded necklace/eyeglasses leash like this. One question: how do you keep from losing the jump ring when you are wearing the beaded strand as a necklace? It looks like the jump ring is not attached to anything.

Answer: I’m delighted you like this project so much that you’re planning to make a convertible beaded necklace/eyeglass leash yourself. When the strand is worn as a necklace, the two clasps attach to either side of the jump ring. So, I assume your question is how to avoid losing the jump ring when you want to convert the beaded strand from an eyeglasses leash to a necklace.

One option is to place the jump ring (preferably in a very small zip-top plastic bag, roughly 1.5”) in your jewelry box or jewelry drawer until you’re ready to convert the eyeglass chain back into a necklace. Another option (the one I usually use) is to detach only one of the clasps from the jump ring, so it remains attached to the other clasp when you’re attaching the eyeglass holder end to that end of the strand. Since the holder end findings attach to the glasses’ “arms” just in front of where they start to curve down around the ears, I find that the small, hanging jump ring isn’t very noticeable.