Unprecedented pearl strand dilemma

Hi everybody,

I’ve got a pearl restringing/knotting problem I’ve never encountered
before and am thinking I may have to try something totally unorthodox
to solve it… but thought I’d run it by others more experienced than
I before proceeding.

The strand is graduated… from predominantly 4mm pearls to an 8mm
center pearl. My initial impression when they were sent to me for
restringing was that they were real. However, upon cleaning and then
cutting them apart, I discovered otherwise. Still… a nice surface
treatment. Probably about 50 - 60 years old, and they came to me in
their original box (anyone recognize the name Crosby?? the box says
"Styled by Crosby" on the inside, but I can find nothing on the

The problem is the three to five center pearls (the center three are
the worst) have holes too large to accept the silk thread size
appropriate for the smaller beads. My second attempt at knotting the
strand was with size E Gudebrod silk (and D looked better with the
4mm pearls)… and even double knotting (shudder) between these five
center pearls was not enough to keep the knots from slipping into
the holes with even a minor attempt at tightening them.

When I encounter this problem with stone or glass beads, I just plug
the holes with seed beads, liquid silver or those little plastic
spacers that come on some stone bead strands. Unfortunately, the
holes are just small enough not to accommodate any of these.

At this point, I’m thinking of something a whole lot less
conventional, like plugging the larger holes with a substance rather
than a smaller bead. The substance that might work best is a
two-part mold compound. The advantage to this stuff is that it dries
quickly, yet doesn’t harden like a rock, but rather like a soft
eraser… and between poking some into a bead hole and its drying, a
needle could be inserted into its center to allow for the silk thread
to pass through once it dries. And once it’s dried, it’s not water
soluble … so if the customer were to swish her strand around in
some pearl cleaner down the road, the stuff inside the pearls
wouldn’t “melt”. I think this trick would also allow the silk to be
removed for restringing again when required in the future. Two
issues: (1) All I have on hand at the moment is a two-part mold
substance that’s purple, so I’d have to purchase one whose end result
was white… is there one like that?? (2) Would I be able to pull a
needle out of the stuff later if I left it in the compound while it
dried… or would it be better to just pass a needle through and pull
it out - and would the hole not collapse on itself when the needle is

I have some “pearly” polymer clay I had initially thought to try,
but I couldn’t possibly bake it to cure it for fear of damaging what
is most likely plastic under the surface treatment, and I’m
unfamiliar enough with this substance to know how it would react
without the heated curing process.

The downside to this idea is that I’d be on unfamiliar ground… with
someone else’s pearl strand. I wouldn’t even consider this coarse if
I could come up with something better (even the double knotting was
a bit disturbing to me)… and I certainly wouldn’t do it without
explaining the issues to the customer and getting permission first.

Any other creative solutions - or helpful suggestions for following
through with my unorthodox idea - will be appreciated.

Losing some much needed sleep in northern NY,

Hi Karan.

If you have a friend in the medical field, they may be able to give
you a piece of IV tubing from tiny scalp vein or “butterfly”
infusion set. It is 2mm or less OD with an ID that should work for
your silk and knots.

Hope this helps.
Pam Chott

Hi Karen,

Could you possibly fit a small metal tube inside the “pearl”? I think
if it were my job I would let the client know what is going on but
tell them that I could restring it and the best way would be to
insert a tube inside the wholes that are a bit larger then the rest.
I wouldn’t use a glue but just try to make it a friction fit expand
the edges a bit. I have used this technique in the past on pearls
before I knew how to properly string them.

Seems to have worked fine, just a bit more time spent than needed.


Hello Karan,

I would suggest Jett Sett (trademarked thermoplastic). It is a white
polymer that you heat to form any shape; it hardens as it cools. It
can be formed by hand when warm into a ‘snake’ or rod then pushed in
either warm or cold. You could easily drill it out if necessary.
Another brand name for this plastic shellac is Plastiform.

If you would like to email me offline with your address, I can send
you a small scoop from my jar for you to try.

Jean Marie DeSpiegler
Executive Director, Florida Society of Goldsmiths

Hi, Karan!

I have a couple of options for you, neither of which include filling
these larger than normal holes in the larger beads.

Try triple knotting. It’s only for a small number of beads and it’s
easily done.

The second idea is a bit trickier. Take a second needle with silk
doubled. Pass the needle through the bead before the first 8mm (or
so) bead and “bury” the tail in the slightly smaller bead so that
you’ll have 4 strands of silk to make a larger knot on either side
of the 8mm beads. A dab of glue (like the hypo tube cement, which
dries flexible) in the first large knot will keep the tail buried.
Or, dab of bit of glue onto the tail so that it adheres to the inside
of the bead. Reverse the process to get rid of the extra 2 strands of

Call me if I can talk you through anything that I haven’t made clear
enough. And let me know how you make out.

Kind regards,

Mary Stachura

Hi Karan

a… I agree with you about the polymer clay…that the pearls (?)
would not survive the baking process.

b… make tiny beads with the pearlized clay and put in holes before
you bake it…OR drill holes after either way…glue it
in…don’t know how it would hold up to the wear of the thread.

c… use a bit of Jett (water soluble) and keep it in place with some
crazy glue…same flaw as above with wearing out

d… triple knot (or whatever it takes) these spots and use a lovely
tiny accent Gold or SS bead to cover the thread just in these
spots…turning the flaw into a feature

That’s my 1.5 cents
Good luck

Could you start out stringing the small beads with a single strand of
chord, then add a second one when you get to the larger beads, and
cut off one of the cords when you get back to the smaller beads on
the other side? How were they strung originally? If they had this
problem in the first place, I am sure the owner would understand
your dellima.

Theresa Bright
Bright’s Fantasy

Karan, before you do ANYTHING, you need to make sure that your
customer understands that their treasured pearls ARE NOT REAL, and
ask them how they want you to proceed. If they are under the belief
that the strand was real, there is an excellent chance that they
won’t want them restrung once they know the truth. If you don’t tell
them, I guarantee the next person they show them to WILL tell them,
and guess who gets blamed for 'switching" them?

That said, how were they strung originally, that they didn’t have
the knotting problem that you have encountered?

Lee Cornelius
Vegas Jewelers

Hi Karan,

I have some "pearly" polymer clay I had initially thought to try,
but I couldn't possibly bake it to cure it for fear of damaging
what is most likely plastic under the surface treatment, and I'm
unfamiliar enough with this substance to know how it would react
without the heated curing process. 

Couldn’t you use the holes in the pearls to shape the polymer clay
and then bake the clay separately? Then perhaps either glue the baked
clay into the pearls or else it may hold in there by the silk knots


Karan -

Do you have a flexshaft and round or flame burs? If so, then use it
at very slow speed (to avoid melting the plastic ‘pearls’) and
create an enlarged space for a seed bead that will help keep the
knots in places.

Good luck to you!

Hi Karan,

My recommendation is to begin stringing/knotting in the center of the
necklace and use multiple strands of silk for the center pearls,
enough to keep the knots from disappearing into those pearls. As you
move away from the center, to the pearls with holes too small for
the multiple strands, just cut off the extra strands on the far side
of the knots, leaving fewer (or only one) strand, as needed. Be sure
to dot the knots with Hypo Tube Cement before cutting anything.


Why not use a tiny bit of epoxy colored with a white pigment-- even
some model paint. There are a lot of resin users who dye their
resins. We’re talking about such a small area on a synthetic

All you really want to do is choke the hole down. Resin/epoxy will
cure cold and not affect the pearl. The knot will hide most of the

Just a thought.

Thank you, thank you, thank you all for the fabulous responses to my
"keeping me awake at night" pearl quandary! I’m embarrassed not to
have thought of some of the much simpler and less invasive ideas
suggested to me. As one respondent put it, “I think you’re
overthinking it”. Guilty.

The suggestion I think will work best (and which came through from
five or six different individuals) involves passing additional silk
thread through the beads with larger holes, securing it in place
with the knots between the beads, then cutting off any excess once
the smaller hole beads are reached. I’ve never heard of or tried
this, so it may take a little work with some practice beads before I
restring the graduated strand for a third time! This fix is
especially appealing because I don’t have to purchase - or await the
arrival of - something new, nor do I have to change the beads in any

This is what my husband would call lateral thinking… one of those
"why didn’t I think of that?!?" kinds of things. A skill at which
Ganoksin followers excel. Thanks again, folks… I’m off to give it a

So ready for a good night’s sleep…

I have had it happen before. My solution was to string the smaller
holes on the silk proper for their size and then take a second (and
in one case third) strung needle through the pearls, throwing single
knots (I use a tri-corder) and then dropping them as the holes
decrease again. I treated the knots with a small dot of G-S glue
same as I do when returning and knotting the cord to end off a
strand. Looking closely you could see that the knots increased in
size, but with the pearls increasing in diameter it wasn’t so
noticeable. The extra needle does not have to be strung with the same
size silk as the main cord, and a little extra care is needed to
prevent tangling.


Hello folks!

After some experimentation with the extra silk thread idea posed by
many, I was finally able to complete and send off to their owner on
Tuesday the pearls that were causing me so much frustration… if
anyone’s interested in seeing the finished product, I posted a
couple of photos on the blog at http://www.thewildinside.com

Thanks again to everyone who responded… I shudder to think what
silly thing I might have done otherwise!