You Don’t Choose Clasps… You Choose Clasp Assemblies!

Left: Clasp Assembly with no support. Right: Clasp Assembly with support.


From a design perspective, when we speak of “choosing a clasp,” we are referring to something almost always broader, longer and with more volume than the clasp itself. We are referring to what is called the “Clasp Assembly”.

The “Clasp Assembly” is everything that has to come together in order to attach your beadwork to the clasp. The “CLASP ASSEMBLY” usually consists of several parts. Besides the Clasp itself, there are probably jump rings and connectors, crimp beads, clamps or other jewelry findings. If we had an S-clasp, the clasp assembly would also include 2 soldered rings (one on each side) plus, if using a cable wire, the loop created with the cable wire and crimp bead which attach and secure the wire around the soldered rings.

The “Clasp Assembly” is a more specific term for the more general jewelry-design terminology called a Support System. The Clasp Assembly is the most important support system in any piece of jewelry.

In any one piece, there are usually 1 or more support systems. In a bracelet, you might only have the one support system — the clasp assembly. In a necklace you might have three or five.

Support Systems are built into jewelry for many reasons. You want your clasp assembly to be able to adjust to your wearer’s movements somewhat independently of how your beadwork adjusts to this movement. Often, you want the clasp to stay in one place, while the beadwork moves to and fro, out and in, up and down, with the wearer’s movements. This only works if you build support systems into your piece. When you see someone whose necklace has turned around on her neck, this is an example of poor Design. This is not natural to necklaces. Usually the poor design has to do with insufficient support systems built into the necklace.

The most obvious support systems or joints are interconnected “rings” and “loops” and “knots.” Other support systems include “hinges” and “rivets” among other concepts. The support systems through a necklace or bracelet play several roles, and are similar to the joints in your body. They aid in movement. They prevent any one piece from being adversely affected by the forces this movement brings to the piece. They make the piece look and feel better, when worn. They keep segments within the piece from getting too stiff or too tight or too rigid. They help absorb excess force placed on your components because of movement, keeping them from cracking, splitting apart or breaking.

With needle and thread bead stringing, one of the more important support systems is the knot you tie to secure your beadwork to the clasp. The knot absorbs excess force. It allows the bracelet or necklace to move easily on and with your body. Because of this support function that knots play, it usually is NOT a good idea to apply glue to the knots. This would cause the knots to stiffen up, create lots of tension on the thread, and cause it to break from force and movement. They would lose their support function.

The best clasp is one that has no moving parts. These include toggles, buttons, slides, S-clasps, and hook & eye clasps.

One clasp element that we jewelry designers call a “moving part” is a tongue. If a metal piece is bent into a “V” or “Arch” shape, and is forced to move back and forth as it gets pushed in and pulled out of the basic clasp, we consider this a moving part. When you bend metal back and forth, it breaks. When metal is bent into a V or Arch, and is pushed/pulled, it will break. In any clasp, where you have a metal part that is bent back and forth in use, we call this a moving part.

The clasp should be proportional to the beads used in the piece. The full Clasp Assembly should be proportional to the piece as a whole. If half your bracelet is taken up by the Clasp Assembly, then there’s a problem here.

Don’t forget that you can also use clasps in a way where they can be worn on the front, not just behind the neck. They can be used to sit on the side or on the bottom. Clasps which are very decorative are used in this way.

All clasps work well in necklaces. In bracelets, however, care and consideration should be paid to how difficult or easy it is to secure and undo the clasp — especially if the wearer has to accomplish these steps by her or himself.

In better pieces, the clasp seems as if it is an organic and integral part of the rest of the piece. It does not feel as it were an add-on.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Design Philosophy: Not Craft, Not Art, But Design

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

Creativity: How Do You Get It? How Do You Enhance It?

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

Point, Line, Plane, Shape, Form, Theme: Creating Something Out Of Nothing

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

Contemporary Jewelry Is Not A “Look” — It’s A Way Of Thinking

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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Beading and jewelry making have been wonderful adventures, from custom work, production work, and teaching. *Design is about the ability to make smart choices.

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Warren Feld

Warren Feld

Beading and jewelry making have been wonderful adventures, from custom work, production work, and teaching. *Design is about the ability to make smart choices.

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