Jewelry made with beach glass can be simple, sophisticated, playful or charming; it all depends on what kind of glass you use and how you design your pieces.
There are two types of material referred to as beach glass by jewelry makers. The first is literally glass found on the beach: it varies in color and sizes and can be rather expensive to buy in shops because it is somewhat rare. (Of course, if you have your own beach to comb for glass, it can be cheap.) The other variety is usually made from recycled glass.
It can be found in any color and many shapes and sizes, from large doughnuts and other pendants to faceted beads, tubes, and decorated pieces. These are less expensive but often made by hand to give a more authentic look (and they are great to reuse old glass bottles).
If you want to make a necklace out of a piece of real beach glass you have found or purchased, you will need to attach a ring to the glass so that it can be strung on a necklace. You can find these rings (often called jump rings or hoops) at your local craft store. Attach one to the back of the piece of glass with hot glue (leaving enough of the ring peeking up above the glass so that a necklace can be strung through it).
Then you can add another jump ring to the necklace and link the two together or just string the newly made pendant directly on a coordinating purchased necklace (gold if you used a gold ring, silver with silver, etc.) or use a heavy-gauge wire in a corresponding color (memory wire would be good for this project because it holds its shape and looks striking with a simple jewel attached.
An alternative method is using heavy-gauge wire and wrapping it around the piece of glass, both to add a decorative touch and to hold the piece in place. To do this, get a piece of wire about twelve inches long (longer if you have a large piece of glass) and start by making a loop in the middle and twisting the wire several times to make the loop secure.
Then place the loop where you would like the top of your pendant to be and wrap the rest of the wire around the piece in a random, decorative manner, making sure to wrap securely and make sure at least three sides of the piece are held in place by the wire. You might also want to use some hot glue on the back of the pendant at the ends of the wire to make sure the wire will not work loose. Then you can again string it on a piece of wire or necklace of your choice.
If you use wire rather than a pre-made necklace to showcase your pendant, you will have to add some kind of closure. This can be as simple as twisting a loop into one end and a hook into the other end of a piece of heavy wire, or you can get really creative with store-bought closures.
These are the simplest types of necklaces, those that feature only a pendant. Of course, you could sting other beads on the necklace to highlight your special bead, but if you do they should be muted, understated, and few in number. These types of pendants look best when there’s little to compete with them.
If you live in a landlocked area and can’t get your hands on any real beach glass, you likely will be able to find the manmade substitute at your local craft store. These pieces are often smaller and more understated than the real thing, so you can feature a pendant and still string many other beads on the strand. The other advantage of using recycled glass “beach glass” is that these pre-made beads already have holes, so they are much easier to string.
The easiest sort of necklace to make with these types of beads (short of a simple pendant as described above) is a pendant accentuated by other glass beads in the same or complementary colors. Decide how long you want your necklace to be (16 to 18 inches is a good length) and add a few inches for finishing, then cut a piece of heavy-gauge wire to that length.
The key point on the wire is to have a wire that is strong enough to hold the weight of all those glass beads but is not so thick that the holes on the beads are too small to pass through. Most types of wire will tell you how much weight they can hold on the package, as well as the thickness.
These sorts of necklaces are all about simplicity and creativity. You can follow these basic steps to make a necklace as simple or as elaborate as you want. If you are starting with a pendant, determine the center point of your wire and place your pendant on the wire. You may need a jump ring to allow it to sit correctly on your chest. You can also use the wire to tie a knot around the bead (with the wire folded in half, string the bead on, leaving a loop at the end, then string the ends of the wire through the loop and pull tight).
It is easier to string this kind of necklace if you do one side and secure the closure before starting work on the other side. This will keep you from making too much of a mess if you should drop the necklace as you’re working.
You can either plan what beads you are going to string in advance or do something random. A random look is nice with these sorts of beads because it looks more natural and organic. While you are thinking about design, consider using seed beads, spacers, and other beads in addition to the glass beads. Think about how heavy a necklace made all of the glass beads would be–it would put quite a strain on your neck.
Seed beads in complementary colors add space between the beads without drawing attention away from the more glamorous glass beads. If you are new to beading, you may want to experiment by laying out several different designs on a table or design board and picking the one you like best.
When you come within a few inches of the end of the wire (you would do this at the beginning if you are not featuring a pendant) you can attach whatever type of closure you are using. Lobster clasps are good for necklaces because they are easy to open but look nice and streamlined with any necklace design. The clasp has a loop and a claw-like closure, which also has a small loop on one side.
Whichever side of the closure you are securing, wrap the wire around the loop several times, as tightly as you can, then feed the wire back through the beads (if you have a very long piece of wire left over, pull it through three or four beads and trim it with wire cutters, making sure to hide the end under the beads).
You might also want to consider using crimp beads for a cleaner look. These are small, metallic colored beads that can be crimped with pliers to hold onto the wire. They offer additional security if you are worried your necklace may come apart at the seams. If you want to use crimp beads, just string one on before securing the closure as in the above step.
The crimp bead should be flush against your other beads. When you thread the excess wire through the beads and trim away any excess, you can then use a pair of crimping pliers to press the bead firmly around the wires. The bead will change shape and it’s not very attractive, but it will be hard to see when you are wearing it.
Repeat the same processes for the other side of the necklace, stringing beads either in a mirror image of the other side or randomly, as you like. (If you are going random, it is still sometimes nice to have a mirror image immediately beside the pendant.) Be careful to ensure that your two sides are the same length. Then attach the closure in the same way, securing with a crimp bead if you like. You now have a lovely finished necklace perfect for a day at the beach or a night on the town.Repeat the same processes