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Pearl stringing tips


#1

I am planning to string pearls for the first time and was hoping for
some guidance

What are the most popular pearl sizes for necklaces ie 7mm or is a
graduated set such as 3 mm to 7mm, more popular. Same question for
earrings ie what is the most popular size Are white pearls the best
sellers ( I will be buying fresh water pearls) Suggestions for a
good source for pearls. My initial order will be small, probably
about 5 strings and half drilled for 5 sets of earrings

What is the best type of cord and diameter of cord to use. I was
planning on using 0.015" silk. Rio sells something called Pearlsilk,
has anyone used this and what do your think of it. What are the most
popular types of clasps For earrings, what is the best glue to use.

Can anyone suggest a good article on pearl stringing that I can find
on line?

Thanks in advance
Milt
Calgary Canada


#2

Hello Milt,

I’m jumping in here after having been off line during vacation.
Apologies if this is a repeat of other postings! (I have no guidance
about the “most popular pearl size” other than bigger is better!)

First off, pearls are traditionally knotted on silk cord - the
exception would be seed pearls, which are just strung. The size of
the cord is related to the diameter of the pearl and size of the hole
through it. Generally, use a cord that will be nearly the same size
as the hole (I use size 6 most often). I’m a purist and prefer silk
to the synthetic cords - it simply drapes beautifully. Get the silk
cord on a card with an attached needle - keeps things simple.

White or ivory pearls are classic, and a good choice for a beginner.
So far as suppliers, I have had good service from Stachura. They are
online at http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/stachura They monitor Orchid
and may well respond to your questions. You already know about Rio
Grande; other suppliers are Stuller and Fire Mountain.

Re: clasps - there are so many options. However, IMHO I think the
classic pearl clasp is a good way to start. Clasps should be attached
with either french coil or a new finding called a wire guard. This
protects the cord from fraying due to rubbing against the metal jump
ring of the clasp. I’m not a fan of the “clam shell” connector, but
it is easier to use and serves the same purpose.

A two-part epoxy is best for gluing the half-drilled pearl onto a
post. Do use a post that fits snugly in the hole and abrade the post
to provide a better “grip” for the epoxy.

I just searched online for pearl knotting instructions and there
seem to be several videos on UTube. Check those out. It’s hard to
give written instructions - you need to see a demonstration. I’ve
tried the Tri Cord knotter with limited success, but others love it.
(Probably depends upon which method one first learned to knot.)

Hope this helps and remember I have no association with any of the
companies mentioned, other than being a satisfied customer.

Judy in Kansas


#3

Hi Judy

Thanks for responding. Actually yours was the only response that I
got on this topic.

You referred to the “classic pearl clasp”, can you please help me
understand what that is. Can you possibly point me to one in the Rio
Catalogue?

Per your advice, I searched for videos which describe pearl
stringing with the TriCord Knotter. Does anyone on Orchid have any
experience using one? Is it a good tool to use, or is pearl
stringing with silk better done with the traditional method with
tweezers?

Thanks
Milt
Calgary, Canada


#4

Milt, Yes, I have experience with the TriCord Knotter. Many years ago
I restrung a fair amount of pearls. My advice is learn to knot with a
fine needle or a fine pointed tweezer. They do just as well and give
you a better feel for the knot so you do not over tighten or leave
too loose. I found TriCord no faster or better than doing it by hand.

Cheers from Don in SOFL.


#5

Just saw this thread - I love pearls, so thought I’d chime in.

I’ve tried the tri-cord knotter, tweezers, long T-pins, and even my
fingers, and the best results I seem to get are from the T-pin.
However, you may find another tool works best. What matters most is
how much control you have over making sure the knot is properly set
against the pearls. The easiest way I’ve found is to experiment with
different tools to see what works best.

The most common clasp I’m aware of as a traditional “pearl clasp” is
the fish hook clasp because it’s very secure. Rio Grande has lots of
nice ones. (As usual with mentioned companies, just a satisfied
customer…)

Caren Johannes
The Amethyst Rose


#6

I don’t know much about pearl clasps, but I have been using the
TriCord Kotter for years and find it a valuable tool.


#7

Milt, Actually it is a matter of preference, based a lot on practice
and how much pearl stringing you do. There is an excellent
instructional video that is available with the knotter. Remember no
matter which method you use keep the area in which you are working
and your hands clean. Wash hands frequently to avoid soiling the silk
cord.

Jan Lalor


#8

I used to go to downtown L.A. a lot for findings, there was a place
that sold findings and did pearl restringing. They would put all the
pearls on the thread, and then make a knot and bring the whole strand
of pearls through the knot, tighten the knot against the first pearl,
make another knot, bring the whole strand and repeat till all the
pearls were separated by knots. It took them about 3 minutes to do an
18 inch strand. My wife was the pearl re-stringer and tried to do it
that way but was unsuccessful.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#9

I have used a Tricord knotter for over a decade now (same tool) and
have to say I’m very happy with it. The ability to place the knot
right up against the bead is greatly enhanced with the tool. I’m
sure, with practice, one could do as well by hand, but as a beginner
it will increase your success rate a lot. I give it a 5 star
recommendation.

Susan
suncountrygems.com


#10

I bought the tri-cord knotter and never could get a feel for it. I
use tweezers - a smooth, clean pair just for the silk. Sanded the
edges so there would be no snagging.

The tri-cord knotter was another un-necessary tool in my large
collection of seldom, if ever, used tools!


#11

Richard, The technique you describe where they put all the pearls on
a string and then begin knotting is the Japanese technique.

You can find two tutorials, one by Lapidary World and one by Fire
Mountain Gems, if you google “Japanese bead knotting.”

Vera Meyer
galleryvera.com


#12

Thanks to all who responded to my questions about pearl stringing.
Popular vote on the TriCord Knotter seems to be about 50% for and
50% who prefer the old fashion way of knotting.

Recommendation was overwhelmingly 100% for natural silk thread vs
synthetic

I have a couple more questions that I hope some will answer: Pearls
appear to be sold wholesale on 16" temporary strands. Once these are
knotted and a clasp added, how long is the necklace, I am guessing
about 17"? Is 17" the most popular length and is that why strands
are sold as 16", or is there some other popular length, meaning that
it takes more than one strand to make a pearl necklace?

Is there a most popular pearl size? I was thinking of starting off
with 7 - 7.5 mm necklaces. What earring size goes with 7.5mm
necklace pearls, also 7.5mm?

What is the preferred glue for gluing to posts. One person suggested
to me that epoxy is a good choice

Thanks in advance for your advice.

Regards
Milt
Calgary Canada, where we reached 30C (86F) only once this entire summer.


#13

Re gluing the knots.

It’s important to use the least amount possible. Why? You don’t want
to glue the silk to the pearl for several reasons. Re-stringing is
made more difficult; chemicals can damage pearls and a very stiff
knot changes the physical character of the silk. Where it was once
completely flexible, it is now unyielding and so more prone to wear.
It becomes the weakest link. Also, too much or the wrong type of glue
can darken some silk, and make that knot a permanently darker color.

Also, think about what the glue is for. It is to prevent the knot
from slipping/letting go. In order to accomplish that, you only need
to secure one part of one loop to adhere to one small part of another
loop. That’s all you need. I use a glue that I think is called "hypo"
something-or-other. I use it because it has a hypodermic like nozzle
to put a tiny drop just where I want it on the knot and between
beads. You can also use a toothpick, needle or any other skinny thing
on the bench to pick up a little glue to place on a knot.

The length added by knotting differs depending on the hand or style
of the knotter. Some are tight. Some are looser. Also the size of the
thread itself: thicker thread=larger knots=longer strand. I use "D"
silk for most pearl stringing.

Marianne Hunter
hunter-studios.com


#14
Richard, The technique you describe where they put all the pearls
on a string and then begin knotting is the Japanese technique. 

For fine pearls with small consistant drill holes, I especially like
a method I saw being used by Japanese pearl stringers many years ago
at a trade show, where they were representing the Mikimoto company
display. Their method was one I’ve not seen well described elsewhere
since.

One selects a thread size that will fit properly through the holes
when doubled. You thread all the pearls on a single long length of
thread, using a fine bead needle (works better for this than the
twist wire ones, if the fit of the thread in the hole is snug). Then
tie the first half of the clasp on, and begin running the needle back
up the strand in the opposite direction, one pearl at a time. You
pull the thread through the bead, and tie a half hitch around the
original strand with the working (needle end) strand, and then
through the next bead. This is not a full overhand knot that would
stay tightly knotted without the beads. The half hitch works simply
because it’s trapped in place by the beads themselves. Even if the
thread breaks, the pearls stay in place, except perhaps for the two
right at the break. But the half hitch knot is smaller and neater
than the common full overhand knot, especially since you’re tying one
strand around the other, so the knot itself is only in one strand
rather than two. The beauty of this method is in two parts. First,
it’s really fast. Get good at looping that half hitch, and you’re
essentially working at the speed of sewing the pearls onto the first
strand, one after the other. Mere seconds per knot, at least for
those ladies. A whole strand in a few minutes. I never was that fast.
But still, I get about two of these knots tied in the time it takes
me to do one, or less, with the tri cord knotter and it’s method, or
a similar overhand knot with tweezers or an awl. The second thing I
like is that the knots are in only one strand, while the original
length of thread is an unbroken straight line. That is much
stronger, since a knot in a thread significantly lessens it’s
strength. With this method, the strand lays flat and straight every
time, with none of the slight kinking you can get if knots the other
way are even slightly too snug, or the thread larger in size. I
already mentioned the smaller neater looking knots. And since one
thread is not knotted but goes straight through the whole strand of
pearls, there’s much less stretch over time. And in the event you do
break the strand, usually only that single unknotted strand breaks,
while the strand with the half hitches, being very slightly longer
and looser (accounting for slight give in the knots if pulled, which
doesn’t happen unless the first strand breaks), then acts as a slight
shock absorber, and doesn’t actually break, making restringing
easier since you don’t then have to find all the loose pearls and
resort them in order, etc.

This method doesn’t do as well with larger or heavier beads on
heavier thread sizes, but on the typical smaller sized strands of
pearls such as typical salt water cultured pearls (such as sold at
that Mikimoto sales table where I saw this method), I recommend it to
you.

Peter


#15

My past experience with pearls strung on silk is that silk stretches
and beadalon does not. What do you do to the silk so it does not
stretch.

The glue Marianne Hunter is talking about is a glue that stays
flexible. Superglue used on bead thread can crack and break the
thread. You can use it on the inside of a bead tip, just a tiny dab
to seal the knot. Use a toothpick or a broken saw blade to apply.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#16

There is a very good class that is inexpensive, given by a young
woman named Max Goodwin, at a website called Craftsy
[ http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/159 ]
She is very knowledgeable, complete, will answer any questions you
might have on pearl stringing and knotting. I think it’s around
$39.00, and the class includes several skills other than pearl
knotting such as photo etching. You might want to take a look.


#17
For fine pearls with small consistant drill holes, I especially
like a method I saw being used by Japanese pearl stringers many
years ago at a trade show, where they were representing the
Mikimoto company display. Their method was one I've not seen well
described elsewhere since. 

This is the methd I taught myself when starting out except that I
use a double overhand knot and sometimes a treble when the hole
requires it.

Roger


#18

Hello Peter,

For fine pearls with small consistant drill holes, I especially
like a method I saw being used by Japanese pearl stringers many
years ago at a trade show, where they were representing the
Mikimoto company display. Their method was one I've not seen well
described elsewhere since. 

Very cool. One question, it seems from your description that there
would be only one cord securing the clasp ends. I’m sure the Mikimoto
ladies used french coil, but with the smaller cord, it tends to
"dent." How were the clasps attached?

Judy in Kansas, where it’s lovely and cool this am… a nice cool
front came through and dropped the humidity too!


#19
Very cool. One question, it seems from your description that there
would be only one cord securing the clasp ends. I'm sure the
Mikimoto ladies used french coil, but with the smaller cord, it
tends to "dent." How were the clasps attached? 

To be honest, Judy, I don’t recall how they did it. I saw that demo
over 25 years ago now. I’m not actually as sure as you whether they
even used it. Given the overall speed, and that this was stringing to
produce relatively modest quality strands to sell at the show, it’s
quite possible they didn’t. Myself, I’m not always a great fan of the
stuff either, unless it’s actually silver or gold. Usually, it’s base
metal with silver or gold plate, and I don’t so much like the fact
that this ends up with green corrosion products showing and staining
the ends quite a bit before the silk itself needs to be restrung. So
I tend to use it mostly for the larger sized pearls where the weight
of the strand would put more strain on the strand. One alternative
solution I like is simply to use jump rings to the clasp made of
thicker wire. That reduces the strain they place on the thread.
Another way is to run the thread through the french coil twice. The
result is that the french coil is formed into more of a round shaped
loop, rather than the pear shaped one formed the usual way. Or find
smaller diameter french coil. It’s not easy to find, but it’s out
there. I’m not sure where, but I know it is, since years ago I bought
some, and still have a bit. The hole in that coil is only large
enough to let a standard beading needle and thread through with a
little effort, and with a medium sized silk, it’s a decent fit for
one thread without any fuss.

cheers
Peter


#20
My past experience with pearls strung on silk is that silk
stretches and beadalon does not. What do you do to the silk so it
does not stretch. 

The usual comparison re stretching is that silk does not strech
while nylon, the other common “traditional” thread, does. But of
course it’s relative. Anything will stretch over time, given the
required forces. Silk stretches only a little initially, and a bit
more as it ages, but by the time it’s noticable, it’s also usually
about time to restring, as it will be starting to degrade by then.
Nylon, by contrast, stretches a lot, especially when newly strung.

And beadalon, now is that a fair comparison? It’s steel cable, after
all…You’re not exactly producing a traditional knotted strand of
pearls with that stuff.

But if you want the LOOK of a traditional knotted strand, using
beadalon, you can fake it. Use a slightly smaller size beadalon wire,
and “sew” in another strand of silk or nylon or whatever you have.
The beadalon forms the strong unknotted strand holding the beads or
pearls, while the silk is used to tie a knot around the beadalon
between each bead. If done neatly and tightly, you see normal looking
silk or nylon knots between the beads, and the beadalon itself
remains mostly hidden except at the clasp ends, and even there you
can mostly hide it, such as with french coil, if you wish. The method
is somewhat similar to what I described in my precious post, though
to fully hide the beadalon, you usually need a true knot, rather than
just a half hitch.

Peter