Let’s face it, half the fun of making jewelry is picking out pretty beads to use. I like to jokingly refer to this as the “magpie effect” where we jewelry artists tend to be drawn to shiny objects in much the same way that magpies are. As much fun as it is to pick out beautiful beads to use in our designs, though, some of the most useful beads are actually the least glamorous ones that we often overlook. That brings us to the crimp bead.
Admittedly, crimp beads aren’t much to look at. However, they are actually some of the most useful items that you can have in your arsenal of tools. Just like the name implies these beads are crimped closed using pliers and function to hold your finished jewelry pieces together. Their main purpose is to keep the beads from sliding off the wire. Crimp beads can be placed next to other beads, clasps, jump rings or any other findings. Most commonly they are used at the end of a necklace or bracelet to attach a clasp. To accomplish this the end of the beading wire is drawn through the crimp bead to form a small loop where the clasp can be attached.
Crimp beads come in two different styles — round and tube. The round crimp beads are usually made from base metals such as nickel or brass while the tube shaped crimp beads are usually either sterling silver or gold filled. It really comes down to a matter of personal preference as far as which style you should use. Many people, myself included, find the tube shaped beads easier to work with. They seem to be easier to grasp allowing for a cleaner crimp and a nicer looking finished piece.
For crimping the beads closed you can use a standard set of chain-nose or flat-nose pliers. However you may want to make the investment and buy a pair of actual crimping pliers. Crimping pliers are specifically designed for closing crimp beads and will give you a much cleaner, more professional finish than if you try to use ordinary pliers. The crimping pliers are made with two small holes in the nose of the pliers. One of the holes is round on one side and has a dip on the other. The other hole is a perfect oval. To close the crimp bead you will use both of the holes in the pliers.
Once you have gathered together your beading wire, crimp beads, and crimping pliers you’re ready to crimp your first bead. Start by cutting a piece of beading wire to the length that you need for whatever project you’re working on. String one end of the wire up through the crimp bead and then back down through again forming a small loop on one side of the bead. At this point you should have a loop on one side of the bead and two ends of wire poking out the other side.
Once your bead is where you want it it’s time to crimp it closed. Place the bead in the hole in the pliers that is closest to the handle (it should be the hole with the dip or divot in it – not the perfectly oval hole). Using firm, even pressure squeezed until the bead has been crimped closed. This will create a divot in one side of the bead so when you look at it from the end it is almost bent into a rainbow shape. Next, turn the bead the other way and move it into the first hole in the pliers(this is the perfectly oval hole). Again, gently but firmly squeeze the pliers to bend the crimp bead into a rounded shape.
Once your crimp bead has been closed you’ll need to trim away one of the pieces of wire that is sticking out so you are left with a single strand to string your beads on. When you trim your bead wire leave a very small tail that you can thread into the first couple of beads on your necklace or bracelet so that it doesn’t scratch the neck or wrist of the wearer.