Boo-tiful Jewelry for Halloween!

Blue Door Beads owner Sara (wearing bee earrings!) and her baby bee, Ainsley.

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays here at Blue Door Beads. Sure, it doesn’t feature a food-coma-inducing meal like other holidays (I’m lookin’ at you, Turkey Day!), but we like the fact that Halloween inspires folks to get creative in so many ways. People pull out all the stops when it comes to carving pumpkins, hosting haunted houses, and — of course — dressing up in fabulous costumes!

Blue Door Beads manager Lydia (right) and her best friend, Erin, on Halloween, 1993.

We believe that, as adults, it is just as important to enjoy the whimsy of the holiday now as it was when we were kids. We here at Blue Door Beads have been busy getting festive, and we wanted to show you some terrific Halloween jewelry to get you inspired to make your own ghoulish pieces! Whether you are heading to a Halloween party, dressing up for a costume contest at work, or just handing out candy to the kiddos at your front door, wearing some spooky accessories will definitely get you in the Halloween spirit.

Click any of the photos below to be taken to the artist’s inspiring Etsy store.

Happy Halloween!

Little Pumpkins by AFineDistraction on Etsy.

Skull necklace by Lydia Chapman for Blue Door Beads.

Spider Necklace by MegaloDesigns on Etsy.

Black Cat Necklace by iceblues on Etsy.

Halloween Bracelet by LaidBackHippie on Etsy.

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TierraCast Components: There’s Something For Everyone!

As we explored in our previous post, The Versatility of Vintaj, there are lots of great alternatives to sterling silver and gold-filled components within the beading world. We love singing the praises of companies that create high-quality, beautiful products, and another of our favorite companies that falls into this category is TierraCast.

TierraCast manufactures high-quality plated beads, clasps, bead caps, pendants & more in Santa Rosa, CA — just a hop, skip and a jump from us here in Oakland! TierraCast uses a lead-free tin alloy in their plating process that exceeds the stringent California standards for lead content and complies with the standards for pewter in contact with food and the Consumer Product Safety Commission policy for children’s jewelry. All castings are electroplated using precious metals: fine silver, 22 karat gold, rhodium or copper.

TierraCast’s range of designs is incredible, and we plan to add new styles to our inventory all the time! We already carry a lovely range of their charms, clasps, and bead caps. Come to the shop to check out these pieces in person!

The Versatility of Vintaj

We know there’s no way to control the silver and gold market, but dang! Those metals sure are expensive these days. Of course, we still love using sterling silver and gold-filled beads and components, but we are finding that we’re needing to use these accents a bit more sparingly. Otherwise, we would have no money left for other beads!

Components we have grown to love as affordable (and hypo-allergenic) alternatives come from the Vintaj Natural Brass Company.  Vintaj components & chain are solid brass made up of 85% copper and 15% zinc and are not antique plated. All Vintaj materials are nickel-free and lead-free compliant, making them great for folks with sensitive skin. Plus, the folks at Vintaj have really done their research when it comes to replicating ornate, intricate, and gorgeous Art Nouveau-style jewelry components. Another nifty factoid: all of Vintaj’s brass components can be polished up, transforming the pieces from antique chocolate brown to gleaming gold. Vintaj pieces can be stamped, riveted, bent, curled, strung, wrapped, and used in other crafts, such as scrapbooking and sculpture.  Pictured below are just a few projects you can create using Vintaj components. The possibilities are limitless!

1.) Stamp phrases onto metal blanks using letter punches.
Our Metal Stamping class here at Blue Door Beads covers all of the tricks and techniques you need to know when it comes to making clear impressions on metal. Vintaj Altered Blanks are just a few of the components you can use while stamping, but they are definitely some of our favorites. They come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, including leaves, birds, and more, as well as the standard circles and squares. Create personalized pendants to give as gifts, or to keep for yourself!


2.) Add color using Vintaj Patinas.

Vintaj Patinas are specially designed acrylic paints that adhere to metal. These bright, vibrant paints are terrific for when you want to add that perfect pop of color to your jewelry. Vintaj Patinas can be mixed together, painted on, sponged on, or dabbed on in a variety of ways. We have a rainbow of colors available here at Blue Door Beads, so come check ’em out!


3.) Encase beads, cabochons and other items in Vintaj filigree wraps.
These cool components are beautiful on their own, but they are also wonderful components for wrapping around large pendants or beads, especially ones that possess a flaw or crack that you would like to hide. Use round nose or bail-making pliers to bend the entire filigree, or just a portion. Attach chain, charms, or whatever else you’d like.



4.) Rivet bead caps, charms, and other items to Altered Blank Canvases.
These large-scale altered blanks are great for creating wall-hangings, ornaments, journal covers, and other fun & funky non-jewelry items. Punch holes in a canvas using metal hole-punching pliers, then grab a hammer, a bench block or anvil, some Vintaj rivets, and start riveting your little heart out!

For more on how to work with the Vintaj line, including patinas, rivets, filigree wraps, etc., visit Vintaj’s blog. Their videos and written how-to’s are so helpful and inspiring, we’re sure you’ll want to start working with Vintaj ASAP. When you’re ready, come to the shop, and we’ll get you started. 🙂 Bead boldly!

Photo of stamped pendants courtesy of Lydia Chapman for Blue Door Beads.
Photos of “Weathered in Nature” necklace, “Festive Mulberry” necklace, and “Family Journal” courtesy of http://www.vintaj.com.

Hooks, Toggles, Magnets, Oh My!

If you have ever worn a necklace or bracelet, you have probably had that sickening feeling when you realize (at the grocery store checkout line, at the ATM, or after you return home) — *gasp* — your jewelry is gone! Hopefully that lovely necklace or bracelet just slid under the seat of your car, or is in the front hallway where it landed before you left the house. However, your lovely piece may very well be gone forever. We’ve been there, and we know how heart-wrenching that can be. Our recommendation is that you ensure that none of your other treasured pieces disappear ever again.

How does one do that, you ask? By selecting the most secure clasp for your jewelry pieces. We’ve collected important info to help you decide which clasps are best for your necklaces or bracelets; some nuggets are common knowledge, but we hope you learn a few more helpful tips, as well.

Lobster Claw
We know what you’re thinking: “Ugh! Those are a pain in the butt!” They can be, true, but there is a reason they are a jewelry industry staple. In addition to coming in a wide variety of metals and sizes to coordinate perfectly with your jewelry, they very rarely open on their own. The lobster claw’s little trigger has to be pulled back completely to open the mouth of the claw, and that means a deliberate application of pressure. They are terrific for necklaces (when you have two hands available), but they are also one of the most secure clasps you can use for a bracelet. There’s no super-easy way to put on a bracelet that features a lobster claw, but a few of our recommendations include:

1.) Using lobster claws on bracelets that are on the looser side. That way, you’ll have more drape to work with, and will have an easier time hooking the mouth of the claw to the ring or chain segment on the other side.
2.) Holding your wrist against your stomach or rib cage so your bracelet doesn’t move around as much while you hook the clasp with your other hand.
3.) Asking a nimble-fingered loved one to help you put the bracelet on (hopefully a loved one without long fingernails — they make things trickier).
4.) Buying a Bracelet Buddy, if you wear bracelets a lot and don’t have a loved one handy.

Spring Ring
If you thought lobster claws were pains in the butt, you obviously haven’t met spring rings! We say that jokingly, but these little guys can be tricky to operate. These, too, are a jewelry industry staple, both for their security and diminutive size. Like the lobster claw, the spring ring’s TINY trigger has to be pulled back completely to open its mouth, but even then, the opening is very small. Although spring rings are nice for delicate necklaces (when you can use both hands easily), we do not recommend that you use them for bracelets, simply because they can be so frustrating.

Toggle

The simple definition of a toggle clasp is a clasp set that includes a loop and a bar. However, the loops can come in many sizes and shapes, including squares, leaves, and even animals, like the peacock toggle from Green Girl Studios (pictured above.) In addition to fastening your jewelry, these more decorative toggles make gorgeous focal pieces, ideally in a necklace. You can use toggles for bracelets, too, but if the bar of the toggle is on the large side, it can easily get caught on shirt sleeves & purse straps; all it takes for a toggle to fall off is for the bar to slide through the loop. When you use a toggle for a necklace, however, the clasp lays flat at the back of your neck, or — if you use the clasp as a focal point — it will lay flat against your collar bone, where it is less likely to get caught on your clothing.

Magnetic
Magnetic clasps are terrific for those with limited mobility in their fingers, or for folks who just want an amazingly simple clasp. A couple of pros of magnetic clasps are that they come in small, discreet styles and they are incredibly easy to put on and take off. Unfortunately, their ease of removal can also be a con. Although it’s not as common with lightweight jewelry pieces, necklaces and bracelets made of large metal beads or heavy gemstones are not ideal candidates for magnetic clasps. Their weight alone can pull on the clasp, causing it to open. Random openings can sometimes happen to lightweight jewelry pieces, too, especially if you work in an office: you will find that your clasp will unintentionally pick up staples, paperclips, and even get stuck to filing cabinets! Because of this, we recommend attaching a safety chain to pieces of jewelry with magnetic clasps. The chain won’t prevent the clasp from opening, but it will give you a few extra inches of warning time; if your clasp opens, the chain will prevent your bracelet from falling off of your wrist or your necklace from falling off of your neck. You should be able to feel your jewelry become loose before you lose it completely.

Box Clasp
This finding’s name can be deceiving: not all box clasps are shaped like boxes! They are often rectangular, oval or round. What is neat about box clasps is that they often have stones embedded in them, or have designs on the top, making them great accent pieces. Like magnetic clasps, they are fairly easy to put on and take off, but also like magnetic clasps, we recommend attaching a safety chain when you use them. A box clasp consists of a small wedge piece that the wearer pinches and slides into a small slot in the side of the “box.” Once inside, the wedge springs open, securing the clasp. If the wedge has not been slid in completely, it can slide out, resulting in you losing your bracelet or necklace. When in doubt, add a safety chain!

Tube Clasps
These handy findings are primarily found only in multi-strand versions. They are designed to add the least amount of length to a jewelry project, and they are quite secure, considering you have to pull an inner tube completely out of an outer tuber to open it up. We have never had a tube clasp open up on its own, either on a necklace or a bracelet! However, if you don’t push the inner tube (which contains a small spring) completely into the outer tube, it could slide out. To know you have secured your tube clasp properly, you should her a satisfying little click when the inner tube slides into place.

Other types of clasps that are available in multi-strand versions include toggles, box clasps, hook & eyes and (occasionally) magnetic.

Hook & Eye
One of the most basic types of clasps sets, hook & eye clasps are some of the few you can make yourself with just a little bit of wire! You can buy or create hook & eye clasps in all sorts of sizes, and most hooks can be pinched slightly so that they fit snugly into the matching eyes. Hook & eye clasps can be used for bracelets, and are especially handy for hooking onto extender chains. However, whether you use them for necklaces or bracelets, you do want to make sure the hook is a snug fit in its matching eye. Too much wiggle room means the hook can easily slide out of the eye.

Congratulations! You have just graduated from Clasps 101. We hope you found this blog educational, and we hope it inspires you to check out some of your favorite jewelry pieces to see if they feature appropriate clasps. We want to make sure you are able to wear and treasure your favorite jewelry for years to come!

Byzantine chain photo courtesy of Lydia Chapman for Blue Door Beads.
Lobster claw, spring ring, magnetic clasp, box clasp & tube clasp photos courtesy of Foreign Source Ltd.
Pewter peacock toggle photo courtesy of Green Girl Studios.
Gold-plated toggle clasp photo courtesy of Tierra Cast.
Hook & eye clasp photo courtesy of beadsgalore.com