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Monday, January 31, 2011

So you want to make Jewelry? What about clasps?

Clasps. So many different kinds of clasps - does it make a difference what kind you use?

Yes, you betcha! Although there are many possibilities, each style has it's own strengths and weaknesses that make one a better choice than another, depending on how you are using it.

Clasps fall into the general category of "Findings." Finding is that big category of general "stuff" that you need to make jewelry that is not the actual jewelry part itself - so ear wires and clasps and headpins and earring backs and ... stuff. So I've heard - they are called "findings" because traditional goldsmiths made them up out of the left over bits and pieces after making the main piece of jewelry - so from the stuff they "found" on their bench. Not sure if that is true - but it makes a good story.

Clasps can be broadly divided themselves into four or five main categories, with some specialty clasps in some minor categories.

I say there are four traditional types of clasps, and then there are magnetic clasps - which have become somewhat more complicated over the years, as their styles expand. But still - a magnet is a magnet.

The four are: Hook-type (Hook and Eye), Box type, Toggles - and Spring-type. Let's look at some examples.

23401008 Findings - Clasps - Hook and Eye -  Star and Moon - Pewter (1)23401017 Findings - Clasps - Hook and Eye -  Decorative Cat - Antiqued Silver (1)A hook and eye clasp is blindingly simple. It is, in some variation or another, a loop and a hook. These vary from th23435112 Findings - Clasps - Hook and Eye -  Plain and Simple - Silvertone (10)e utilitarian to the whimsical, from plain to elaborate. s27229 Findings - Clasp - Hook and Eye - 4 Strand Dragonfly Flight - Sterling (1)Some are even so cleverly designed that it is hard to tell that it is a clasp at all!

You can even make them yourself using wire and wrapping it.
Where to use: A hook and eye is an excellent choice for a necklace. It is secure enough for a necklace, and is easy to do up and undo behind you without being able to see what you are doing.

It is, generally, a poor choice for a bracelet - as the hook and eye clasp tends to be long, and will take up a lot of the relatively short design of a bracelet. My experience with them is that they tend to come undone spontaneously in bracelets too.

Hook clasps come in an endless variety of sizes, shapes and metals and to suit every budget.

s13232 Sterling - Box Clasp w Stone -  Square with Bumps - Simulated Emerald (1)s12326 Sterling - Box Clasp w Stone -  Tugboat - Garnet (1)Box-type clasps. I love the box-type clasp. It is called this because it is essentially, a small, constructed, shallow box, four sides, and a top and bottom, with a slot that a springy lever slides into. They seem very traditional to me, and tend to be somewhat more expensive than other clasps, mostly because of their more elaborate construction. Often - they have some interesting design on them, or a stone or pearl mounted on the top.

Because they are more complex, they have tended to be made of the more expensive metals, Sterling Silver, Gold-filled, Vermeil - but we have seen a few made in brass or other inexpensive metals in the past few years.

s18711 Sterling - Box Clasp -  Hissing Cat - Sterling (1)I particularly love matching the clasp to either the colour or the theme of the piece I am making, and sometimes use this style of clasp as the inspiration for the piece, or hunt specifically for the one that will match the item perfectly. Sometimes, this little indulgence can add significantly to the cost of the finished piece, but hey - I'm worth it. This hissing cat clasp is one of those "inspiring" clasps.

In fact - there is an awesome emerald-green stone clasp that is currently "in processing" that I can hardly wait to build a "something" around. Necklace, bracelet - not sure yet - but there is gonna be green!

s27230 Sterling - Box Clasp w Vintage Swarovski - 3 Strand Round Rivoli - White Opal AB (1)It is also frequently easier to find multi-strand clasps in a box clasp.

Where to use: They are overall, comfortable to wear, and work well for bracelets and necklaces. They can be fiddly to do up as a bracelet, especially if the lever mechanism is a tight fit, but once you hear the "click" - they are secure.

To open them, squeeze the tab and pull the v-shaped lever out of it's little hole. Sometimes, over- enthusiastic squeezing will deform the v-shape into one that s12324 Sterling - Box Clasp w Stone -  Round Cabochon w Rope and Safety - Lapis Lazuli (1)does not have enough spring to secure it. This is an easy fix. Gently wedge open the v-shape again - I usually just slip something narrow like a nail file into the gap and widen it slightly. Don't over do it - you can break the metal.

Sometimes, they have a little safety bar - like these with the Lapis cabochon - that swings out and over a little post - just to add an extra level of security. A "belt and suspenders" approach to security.

Next week - we'll carry on - with toggles and magnetic and other odd and speciality clasps.

By the way - all the images above are clickable links to the items shown.

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