How to Make a Beaded Convertible Eyeglass Holder and Necklace
Eyeglass chains 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 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.
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 convertible beaded necklace/eyeglass holders are also the perfect accessories to take on vacation, even if you don't wear prescription eyeglasses. Attach them to your sunglasses during the day, then wear them around your neck to accessorize your outfit in the evening. I usually pack two or three in different colors to coordinate with the clothes I'm bringing on my trip.
Have fun designing and making your own two-in-one beaded eyeglass chain necklace!
Step-by-Step Beaded Jewelry Tutorial: How to Make a Convertible Beaded Necklace and Eyeglass Chain
Time required: Design time varies. Assembly takes approximately 15–30 minutes, depending on experience level.
- (such as Soft Flex, Soft Touch, Beadalon or Accu-Flex), medium diameter (.018" or .019"), regular or colored 49-strand nylon coated flexible bead stringing wire
- 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
- Seed beads (I used gold-plated Miyuki size 11/0 Delica beads in color 507, Pink Gold Iris)
- 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
- Two clasps—lobster claw, trigger or spring ring type
- 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 , 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. 9-piece Beadsmith deluxe jewelry pliers tool kit with case
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: While it is possible to design your convertible necklace/eyeglasses chain 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/Necklace
This is the most fun—and challenging—part of this project. Set out the beads you have chosen on a flocked bead board along with the jewelry findings (i.e., the bead tips, crimp tubes, jump rings and eyeglass holder ends). Choose a bead slightly larger than the rest to serve as the focal bead when the beaded strand is worn as a necklace. This bead also will add visual interest at the back when the strand is worn as an eyeglass chain or worn backwards as a necklace according to the current "reverse necklace" fashion trend (sometimes called backward necklace or back necklace).
Place your focal bead in the center position on your flocked beading board, as shown in the photo below. As you'll see, I picked out three possible focal beads for my strand and eventually chose the subtly patterned, twisted glass vintage bead as my focal.
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 (see the photo below).
Then fill in the spaces between the stations (clusters) with small and/or slender beads. I often use short or long bugle beads or stacks of 5 to 12 seed beads in between the larger bead stations. This creates a pleasing visual "rhythm" and helps keep the eyeglass chain from becoming too heavy and uncomfortable.
Test fit each bead to make sure the hole is wide enough to slide onto the beading wire. If you are using pearls, which often have small holes, use a twisted wire pearl reamer to slowly and gently enlarge each hole from both sides.
Select and reserve four beads with holes large enough to fit over two beading wires.
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. Make sure the opening of the clamshell faces outward and leave a short tail about 1.5 inches long. Thread a small seed bead (I used a size 11/0 Miyuki Delica bead) onto the wire. Take care not to let it slide all the way down into the open "mouth" of the clamshell bead tip. 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 below.
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 and push it down to the other end of the strand, sliding it over both the long main wire and the short wire so it is snug against the closed clamshell tip. Separate the wires and hold them wide apart with your non-dominant hand as shown in the photo below.
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 below shows what the crimp tube should look like after it has been crimped. You can see 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 below.
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 large-hole beads you reserved onto the wire, followed by another crimp tube. Slide them both down until they are next to the tube you just crimped, making sure they go over both the short and long ends of the wire near the finished crimp.
Crimp the 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 so 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 have been strung, other than the two remaining large-hole beads you reserved, thread the following 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 below.
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.
Have You Ever Designed a Piece of Beaded Jewelry Before?
Questions & Answers
How much is the cost of all the necessary tools to make eyeglass chains that be converted to a necklace?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
© 2014 Margaret Schindel