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Clasp-o-phobia: Getting over my fears ~ a review of Bali Silver Clasps.

For December, Artbeads offered through their Blogging for Beaders program the opportunity for us to try products from their Bali Bead line. Upon reviewing my choices, I decided to try & review the clasps.

You see, I am self-diagnosed with clasp-o-phobia: the fear & doubt of the functionality of most clasps on the market. I have tried different clasps in the past, including barrel clasps, toggle clasps, “S”-clasps, hook & eye clasps, etc…but none really impressed me or gave me a sense of security. I am one who hates the frustration of doing up clasps on bracelets, and also the feeling of a clasp that may become undone during regular use.

So because of this, I have stuck to using two tried and true clasps: the lobster clasp and the magnetic clasp. Although the lobster clasp can be tricky to get latched at times, the security you get from knowing that it is not going to come undone makes it a winner in my books. It’s a clasp we are all familiar with, and can be used in adjustable bracelets and necklaces.

The magnetic clasp is a dream for us who hate to fiddle with clasping bracelets. The worst thing that has happened is it accidentally pinching my skin if it was too close to my wrist when the magnets come together. I also like to include a safety chain with magnetic clasps in case they become attracted to another metal object and possibly come undone.

So when Artbeads offered the opportunity to review items in their Bali line, I thought this was a good chance for me to overcome my clasp-o-phobia. Many of the Bali clasps are very ornate and add beauty to the piece. I also know from past experience with Bali products that they are sturdy & well made.

I asked Artbeads to send me a variety of “S”-clasps, toggle clasps as well as hook & eye clasps for me to try – 7 in total – and they were happy to do so free of charge.

As you can see I am a bit late with December blogging due to the holiday rush, but here are the finished pieces inspired by the Bali clasps…

The first clasps I wanted to try were the toggle clasps. I immediately noticed how ornate & well crafted they were: very sturdy – great for big stones that I love to work with! They also had chain already attached which I appreciated. In the past, the sterling silver toggles I have tried did not contain a chain, and for me to add one was trial and error – sometimes too long, sometimes too short. These totally took the guess work out of it!

Above: toggle clasp with wire loops paired with 16mm faceted quartz & 12mm reconstituted smoky quartz beads.

Above: square beaded toggle clasp paired with large aquamarine nugget beads.

The verdict: I *LOVE* these clasps…who knew the functional part of a bracelet could also be a focal point! Very easy to put on and pair well with large stones. You will probably find when buying a bracelet with a toggle clasp you will appreciate going up a size so to have room to maneuver the bar piece through the clasp. For example I usually make my bracelets 7.5 inches – the common ladies wrist size, but these are approx. 8 inches. I don’t think I could comfortably get them on if I made them the standard 7.5.

Next I tackled designs around the “S”-clasps. At first, I found these clasps very frustrating. Again very sturdily designed, and very beautiful…but since they are made out of such a strong gauge of wire I found them very hard to get clasped & undone. Some slight manipulation with the pliers to loosen the “S”  part slightly, and success! A beautiful clasp that was fairly easy to use. A good shake and it was clear that these were very well designed: I was not worried of it coming undone accidentally.

Above: “S’ Clasp with double wrapped and snaked wire paired with square faceted onyx beads and pewter bead caps.

Above: “S” Hook Clasp with granulation & wire work with faceted onyx coins & pewter bead caps.

Finally, I tried the hook & eye clasps. I want to comment separately on these since all three were so very different.

I was really excited with this Simple Hook & Eye Clasp. This large clasp works perfectly with larger stones, as seen above with 16mm red banded agate beads. Because of the size it is quite simple to use.

The Hook and Eye Clasp Set is the polar opposite of the previous clasp. Very petite and great when you want a clasp that is inconspicuous. It works beautifully with the bracelet above showcasing 6mm South Sea Shell Beads in Sterling Silver. I was happy to find this clasp very easy to use – definitely a good alternative to the lobster clasp and I will be keeping this one in mind for future adjustable pieces as well.

I decided to use the Triangular Hook & Eye Clasp last. I had a hard time deciding what to make with it, considering its design. I found it rather awkward to use. Although it was my favourite clasp esthetically, it was my least favourite in terms of usability. When I finally decided to make a three-strand sterling silver & onyx bracelet with it, I really had to bend the hook part out with my pliers in order to get the clasp undone & easily done up. Because of this I added a safety chain. But to be honest although it takes some practice to learn how to use this clasp, it wasn’t so bad in the end. And it looks fabulous!

These are just some of the clasps available in the Bali Bead Silver line on Artbeads.com. Thanks, Artbeads for allowing me to try out the clasps free of charge & allowing us beady bloggers a chance to independently review your products.

(In case you are wondering, Artbeads does not pay me to do this. They simply provide materials, & then I give my honest opinion. :))

Jewelry Inspired: Fun With Swarovski Filligree Flowers

The good people at Artbeads allowed me to pick out some Swarovski components to try out free of charge. I decided that one of the items I wanted to try were these Swarovski Filligree Flowers as I had not seen this type of component up close & personal before. When it arrived, it certainly lived up to the standards I have come to expect from Swarovski: solid design and the crystals sparkle beautifully.

At first I didn’t know what to do with it. The flower itself has a very vintage feel, so it is unlike my usual modern funky design. It has such an elegant yet bold factor on its own: paring it with stones and beads just made it feel very busy and over done. I realized that this component on it’s own would make a very nice piece: like a nice brooch or earrings…then it hit me. I immediately had to purchase more from Artbeads, because these would make the perfect hairpins!

I usually shy away from making this type of jewelry because there doesn’t seem to be any challenge design wise. Glue the component onto a hair pin. Okaaay…now what? Seems very uninspired for someone who wants to inspire & be inspired.

But when the order arrived from Artbeads with my extra Swarovski flowers I knew I made the right decision. I can totally see these as hair adornment: perfect for a bridal party, the prom or any formal event – or even just to jazz up your hair any day of the week.

And remember when I said this would be not very challenging? I was left scratching my head when trying to decide what glue to use. I have just about every kind of glue you could imagine for jewelry making or crafting. I decided the best glue for this would be Zap-A-Gap: it’s like Super Glue, but also waterproof & will adhere to any surface, even oily ones, and dries clear. Seemed pretty fool proof.

Only it was slightly tricky. I had to find just the right pressure to hold the component onto the hair pin and keep it really straight so that it would adhere evenly. I did not want to use a clamp or tool for this in case it damaged the Swarovski component. So it was a little tense & frustrating to start out trying to decide how much pressure and for how long to hold…and not glue my fingers to it! 😉

But once experimenting with one the other three worked up quite quickly.

I was excited with the results. The glue cured for 24 hours and this is one solid unit.

I decided an elegant pair of earrings to go with these were in order. I simply paired them with 8mm freshwater pearls, antique gold culinary grade lead free pewter bead caps and gold filled ear hooks….

Remember that original component Artbeads sent me that inspired this whole project? Well, I made a ring out of it, glued onto an adjustable filigree ring base:

I am really impressed with how this project turned out (and am now totally hooked on Swarovski flowers!!) and will definitely be offering this on a by request basis on my website. Stay tuned!

Jewelry Inspired: Tribute Charms ~ In Memory of My Mother ~ Blue Zircon Dragon Flies

As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20”. Something that may not make sense at the time will become crystal clear in the future. You have that, “Ah-ha”  moment, as Oprah would say.

So a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing Artbeads.com, looking for an item to try & review. I had no idea what to get, only that I wanted something new to me that I had not seen before in person. So I decided to start browsing their jewelry making kits. Mind you, I am not a fan of anything that comes with directions. I would rather just figure things out for myself, like putting together a puzzle. Ikea is a nightmare for me. 😉

I started browsing the different Swarovski crystal charm kits, and kept getting stuck on these dragon fly pendants. At the time I wasn’t 100 percent sure why, just that they felt “right”. So I went ahead and ordered them.

So fast forward to last Friday, when the kit came in the mail. I remember thinking, “wow, this took awhile to get here”. I was anxious to get working on it but was delayed until tonight.

Today holds a very big significance for me. One year ago today, at this very hour, I was on my way home to Nova Scotia; feeling emotionally numb…sitting next to my then 13 month old daughter in the van, 4 months pregnant again, which at the time was not yet common knowledge. My mother had passed away suddenly earlier that day. She was only 54.

It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by already. I’d like to say today was hard, but really it was okay. It’s hard to be sad with my beliefs on the afterlife, and particularly when you have two little gems to keep you occupied. My eldest daughter is now 2 and my youngest daughter is 7 months.

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So when I sat down tonight to put this kit together, it immediately had a meditative quality for me. The first thing I realized, is that one charm was made with smaller beads than the other: 4mm bicone crystals versus 3mm bicone crystals. That reminded me so much of my daughters, as one is slightly older than the other.

I was also reminded of my mother’s casket. When we went to pick one out, my eyes immediately went to this particular casket. I knew that was the one. Just something about it. There was an embroidered insert in the display, and it reminded me of my mother. I can’t remember exactly all the detail, but that there was a dragonfly. My Dad did not purchase the insert, but I thought how interesting that I would remember this detail, while I sit and put together these dragon flies.

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To me, this final detail is validation to me, that it is no coincidence that I chose this kit. As I went to look up the details on this product for this blog post, I realized that I chose the blue zircon dragon flies. Blue Zircon was my mother’s birthstone.

Call it the power of our subconscious or something deeply spiritual ~ it really put a smile on my face tonight. Regardless of the reason, it was nice to do something this evening that turned into a tribute to my mother.

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In light of this, I have decided to put these charms aside and give them to my girls when they are older. Someday I will tell them all about their Lola and give them these charms in remembrance.

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Now here’s the technical stuff:

The kits are done by Creations by You, LLC and are copyrighted

They come with all the Swarovski Crystal & seed beads needed, stringing material (monofilament) and components to make these cell phone charms, if you so choose.

(Unfortunately – both charms were missing the amount of seed beads required to make the loops: one was missing one, and the other two. This is no big deal, you can easily modify to make a smaller loop).

If you have a basic knowledge of bead stringing, this project will not be challenging at all. They also work up very fast, great if you want that instant gratification feeling. I recommend a pair of tweezers, to help pull the stringing material through the tighter spots. The directions and photos are basic, I admit that sometimes I was a bit confused, but with my knowledge of beading I got the jist of what was being explained.

True to me putting my own creative flair on everything, I modified the patterns/beads slightly. I used Beadalon beading wire rather than monofilament. It’s tougher and I prefer to work with it. I also decided to skip the last step, as I thought it was unnecessary & a pain to get the beads to “lay down” properly. This resulted in extra beads that I then used to modify the pattern of the smaller charm.

The charms are very pretty, feel solid in my hands (probably because of the Beadalon) and sparkle wonderfully as Swarovski crystals do. The photos do not do them justice.

However, at $26.97 per kit I think an investment in loose crystals that can be used to develop one’s own creativity would be a better investment. But that’s just my humble opinion. 🙂

Artbeads carries a variety of jewelry making kits, perfect for the hobbyist or beginner beader.