Margaret Schindel has designed, created and sold one-of-a-kind and custom handcrafted jewelry for decades. She loves sharing her techniques.
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!
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.
- 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)
- 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 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.
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.
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 bead board. Place the jewelry findings (bead tips, crimp tubes, jump rings, and eyeglass holder ends) either on the bead board 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, and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Round both crimps in the rounding notch of 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Choose a chain with open links that one of the clasps can hook into easily.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Question: How much is the cost of all the necessary tools to make eyeglass chains that be converted to a necklace?
Answer: The cost of tools and materials can vary significantly based on quality, retail source and geographic location. I suggest you make a list of any items you do not own already and research the prices in local shops and/or online.
© 2014 Margaret Schindel
Do You Think You Might Try This 3-in-1 Jewelry Project?
Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on June 11, 2020:
Thanks for the lovely feedback, Suzanna. Much appreciated!
Suzanna Grove on June 11, 2020:
your tutorial is just excellent, and I have been looking for the best
technique, I found it. Thank you very much Margaret Schindel.
Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on May 26, 2015:
Margaret, that really is lovely. I'm not a jewelry maker myself and no longer have the eyesight or steady hands to attempt it, but I will pass this along to my FB and Twitter friends. I know a few who might love to make this chain.
petapiper2 on April 05, 2015:
Full marks for the best laid out, most informative, fully descriptive tutorial ever.
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on April 05, 2015:
What a beautiful piece of jewelry, a wonderful idea, and a fabulous tutorial!
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on April 05, 2015:
I often pick up bags of old beaded necklaces at garage sales and thrift stores but I would never have thought to re-purpose it into an eyeglass holder. What a very helpful idea. Love it girl. You truly are the queen of the crafting bead.
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on March 27, 2015:
What a beautiful eyeglasses leash! The idea that it will convert to a necklace is truly awesome! I need to make one of these for my mom. She would love it and she has to have reading glasses. She is constantly searching for where she last had them too. This piece would be a great solution!
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on October 13, 2014:
What a marvelous tutorial. Very well illustrated.
savateuse on October 12, 2014:
I really like the idea of an eyeglass chain that converts to a necklace!
Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on October 12, 2014:
Looks great here Margaret, I've never used these leash necklaces, but wow they sure are pretty aren't they!
Nelly van der Werff from The Netherlands on July 03, 2014:
Thank you, very instructive and such a good idea. I have glasses and such a beaded chain is way nicer than the store bought ones!
norma-holt on June 12, 2014:
What a great idea. I am sure I would love one of these. Well done.
tcaldy on June 07, 2014:
Love this! I need to make one for my own glasses.
clouda9 lm on March 29, 2014:
I have a paracord lanyard on my glasses right now... this beaded chain is definitely a lot prettier. Thanks for the detailed instructions.
Tanya Jones from Texas USA on March 15, 2014:
Since I think I'll be switching from trifocals to a pair of different script lenses, this seemed like a fun idea. Very easy to follow instructions, too!
happynutritionist on March 15, 2014:
Isn't this fun! My mother and sister switch back and forth between reading and distance glasses so need these.
Eugene Samuel Monaco from Lakewood New York on March 14, 2014:
You do such creative work and your instructions are great step-by-step, Thanks for sharing you knowledge :)
Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on March 12, 2014:
@gtkamo: Hi again! Please see my reply to your previous question. :)
Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on March 12, 2014:
@gtkamo: Hi! Your convertible eyeglass chain / necklace design will be different than mine (among other reasons because I used some rare vintage beads in mine). But to give you a rough idea of scale, the green oval pearls were about 6x9 mm, the small round gold-filled beads were 3 mm, the tiny cylindrical seed beads were size 11/0 Delica beads, and the matte iridescent long tube beads were about 15 mm long. Don't worry too much about the specific size of the beads; I've made some gorgeous convertible eyeglass leashes / necklaces with beads on a much larger scale. If you can, go to a bead store where you can pick out different beads and try playing around with different combinations to find ones that will look good together. Be sure to include some larger ones for the focal bead and as the centers of your "bead stations", and then fill in with smaller beads in between. I hope that helps! :)
vinita11233 on March 11, 2014:
nice idea. I never thought of doing this. Thanks for this lens :)
gtkamo on March 06, 2014:
Bead-confusion...So lost as to what size beads to use. Would you mind sharing what sizes you used in this sample
gtkamo on March 06, 2014:
Thank you so much for showing detailed information. You have given me the courage that I think I may even be able to make this. I'm so overwhelmed by bead sizing; what size beads did you use?
maandgmendoza on February 28, 2014:
at last i found this site..i could start making eyeglasses chains for our grand alumni homecoming..thank you so much.
Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on February 27, 2014:
I'm always impressed by your creativity. What a great way to dress up everyday items.
Fay Favored from USA on February 25, 2014:
I could use this with as many times as I put down my glasses. So pretty, and it can match a number of outfits. Way to go making the front page as well.
Radgrl on February 25, 2014:
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on February 25, 2014:
Pretty, pretty, practical project! :)
anonymous on February 23, 2014:
A very detailed step by step lens! You have done well to explain everything in such great detail.
Heidi Vincent from GRENADA on February 22, 2014:
Lovely tutorial, MSchindel, and a very stylish outcome with 2 very good uses!
acreativethinker on February 22, 2014:
These are so beautiful and a great idea for keeping track of your glasses. Thanks for sharing and have a great day! Take care. :)
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on February 22, 2014:
Fantabulous! Love your perspective that everyday utilitarian things don't need to be plain or ugly. Why, those are the things we see and use the most. They should be the loveliest things in our world. Beautiful eyeglass jewelry. Excellent presentation and tutorial. Love your creative designs.
Marie on February 22, 2014:
I wear my glasses on a cord around my neck - I used to prop them on my head but I'd take them off and forget where I put them! I do love this idea and a beaded design would look so much nicer than a plain black cord. Never even thought to do this and it is a great tutorial thank you.
Marika from Cyprus on February 22, 2014:
Saw this lens on the front page and was not surprised to see your name written below it :) A wonderful and easy tutorial that can actually get people into beading. Love it!
Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on February 21, 2014:
What a beautiful piece. Your tutorial is outstanding!
Ruthi on February 21, 2014:
I love the fact that the eyeglass leash is easily convertible into a necklace! Yes, functional and fantabulous!
Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on February 21, 2014:
You are incredibly talented and for anyone who wanted to tackle this on their own, you've provided clear, concise, and very easy to follow instructions - and the chain is gorgeous!
Cheryl Fay Mikesell from Mondovi, WI on February 21, 2014:
I love this. I wear glasses so these eyeglass leash are nice. Great tutorial!
Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on February 21, 2014:
Your jewelry work is incredible, and so is this lens. Wonderful job on the step-by-step photos. I've not seen anybody who does it better!
Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on February 21, 2014:
This is a great gift idea.
David Stone from New York City on February 21, 2014:
Wow. Margaret, you've done it again - a detailed, beautifully written peace that will make it easy for a lot of us to make something beautiful.
Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on February 21, 2014:
Great how to! It looks so pretty and is so practical!