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Vintage Treasures from Elastic Bracelets

Vintage Hearts

Over the years, I have managed to acquire a couple of really ugly expansion bracelets as a part of some vintage jewelry grab-bags I purchased. They were not signed pieces, and the elastic was worn out. Honestly, I wouldn't have worn them (and probably couldn't have sold them) even if I were to restring them on new elastic. Because, as I said...they were UGLY! So they sat and they sat, collecting dust for a long time, since I just never got around to putting them away.

But one day, as I was playing around with some multicolored baroque-style glass pearls, I noticed that the cut glass hearts of one bracelet seemed to pick up some of the colors of the pearls when they were mixed together. That was it! I decided to make a collar-style necklace out of them. As you can see from the pictures above, I did not stop at just one. While I wouldn't necessarily suggest taking apart a bracelet that is signed or otherwise valuable, this is a great way to recycle some of those old 70's and 80's elastic two-holed clunkers.

Here are the basic steps that I took to create the VintageHearts necklace shown above. With a few modifications, the instructions can easily be adapted to any set of large two-holed beads you have.

Elastic expansion bracelet with large two-holed beads (or any odd number of such beads)
Variety of 4-6mm beads in chosen palette, enough to make double strand necklace of desired length
2mm and 3mm round metal beads, silver or gold-filled
Toggle set, silver or gold-filled
4 crimps, silver or gold-filled
Beading wire

White towel, small bead dishes, etc
Tape measure
Alligator clips
Wire cutters
Chain nose pliers
Crimping pliers, if desired
Small metal file

Choosing Your Palette
Choosing colors is a very individual matter, and every artist has a favorite method or two. My work usually involves either a monochromatic or analogous color scheme. For this particular piece, I stumbled upon the combination, because my eye seems to most naturally be drawn to subtle harmonies rather than contrast. I laid out all the beads that I was considering, and removed any that seemed to stick out too much. The resulting palette included 6mm baroque glass pearls in bronze, olive, gold, and off-white; 2mm and 3mm round sterling silver beads; and the clear cut-glass hearts in their silver-toned metal prong-cup backings. I chose a silver toggle and crimps to match the palette.

Stringing the Inner Strand—Part I
You'll need to start with the inner strand in order to make sure it will be comfortable around your neck when completed. Using an odd number of the two holed beads, lay them out on your towel, spaced the way you think you will want them. My heart bracelet had eleven beads, but one was damaged, so I ended up just using nine. While I will give you the measurements for my necklace, yours will probably vary. I wanted my heart beads to be approximately an inch apart, so that they wouldn't reach all the way to the back of my neck. I also wanted the inner strand to be approximately 18 inches long.

Cut a piece of Beadalon or Softflex 6-8 inches longer than the inner strand length you desire. Use an alligator clip to keep the beads from rolling off the other end, and begin stringing from the middle of your piece. First string the middle two-holed bead, your spacer beads, and another two-holed bead, repeating this sequence until you have used one-half plus one of your two-holed beads. If you double this measurement, from the center bead to the last two-holed bead you added, will it come to where you want it to on your neck? I wanted to have approximately 3 inches of smaller beads at each end of the necklace, so I really didn't want this measurement to be more than about 6 inches. It may take a few tries to get the measurement to work out right, but that's why I like to start from the center and work outwards--less to have to restring until I get it right! My heart beads are 7/8 inch apart, and are separated by three 6mm baroque glass pearls alternating with 2mm round sterling beads. When you get the spacing the way you want it, alligator clip that side and string the other half. Finally, add enough beads evenly to each end to bring the strand to the finished length you desire. Don't forget to take the crimps and toggle into account when planning this measurement.

You should have several inches of Beadalon or Softflex left at each end of your first strand. String each end through a crimp bead, through half of the toggle, and then back through the crimp and several more beads. Pull firmly, and squash the crimp bead with either your chain nose or crimping pliers. With sterling silver crimps, I prefer to just flatten them with chain nose pliers and round the corners gently with a small metal file. Clip off the extra stringing wire and poke the little end into the next bead.

Stringing the Outer Strand—Part II
Your outer strand will be longer than the inner one, not just because it's farther out, but also because it scallops a little to make the necklace curve gently. I added one extra glass pearl to each section between heart beads and at each end, and used 3mm round silver beads instead of 2mm. Each spacer section is 1 1/4 inches long on the outer strand as opposed to the 7/8 inch length on the inner strand. This is enough of a difference to make the necklace curve nicely around your neck, but not enough to make it start twisting up on itself. It takes a little trial and error to get this part right, so again, I suggest that you start from the middle.

Cut your second piece of string wire 12 inches longer than the first. Using an alligator clip and starting from the middle, string your spacer beads up one half of the necklace. Check the tension--does it curve nicely or start to twist? Will it drape nicely around your neck? Take your time and try various combinations of beads until you are satisfied with it. Then bead up the other half, and check the tension again. Add beads to each end of the strand and crimp it to the toggle as you did for the first strand. You'll probably have lots of wire left over at each end, but better too much than not quite enough. Believe me on this one!

This post contains affiliate links: Beadaholique

Copyright 2008 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.