Make Handmade Neck Cords on a Dime
by Judy Ellis
The other day, I had just made a bucketload of pendants and I was getting ready to photograph them, then either list them online or save them for a show. I wanted them all to have the same style of neck cord, but I didn't want to go to the craft store and pick up a few dozen premade neck cords.
First, it wasn't a very economical option, and second, I do like having a bit of handmade-ness in my jewelry, even in the neck cords. I also didn't want to go with a premade metal chain, although I've used them before. So I made a list of my options:

  • Steel cable memory wire
  • Silk or organza Ribbon
  • Satin cord
  • Leather or suede lace or cord
  • Wire wrapped collars

    I will tell you what I went with and then I'll tell you why I made that decision.
  • I went with some leather lace. I like that the leather is thick and will stand up to my 40x30mm pendants. I picked up a large hank of leather lace in Tucson this year, a great deal - although I do have to shave the rough side down with a razor blade to get a smooth finish. Just like Dale outlines in her Finished Ribbon directions, I measured how long I wanted the cord to be, folded each end over, and wrapped it snug with wire (half round and round do very well). In my necklaces, I always use a very big S hook, because I abhor lobster claw & spring ring clasps (they hurt my fingernails!) and either side can be the clasp side (not a right or left handed design). This design is also very smooth and light on the neck.

    Here's the S clasp and wire wrapped leather neck cord I made for my pendants. I used 18-gauge half hard wire, toughened with a rawhide mallet, for the S clasp.
    Judy Ellis's Make Handmade Neck Cords on a Dime - , Wire Jewelry Design, Design, Selling, Leather cord necklace
    So why didn't I choose other options?

    Steel cable memory wire

    This was a popular find in Tucson; although we don't carry it on, you can find it elsewhere online. It's a piece of neck memory wire, usually 16 or 18″, with a plastic coating, that attaches with a magnetic clasp. I loved the one I got in Tucson for lightweight pendants, but for big 40x30mm cabochons, the clasp started digging into my neck. That's a big clasp, about 1″ long, so I took it off! The memory wire neck wire would work well for small pendants, but not mine.
    Silk or Organza Ribbon

    Ribbons can display jewelry beautifully, and one advantage is you can make ribbon neck cords yourself in a rainbow of colors. When you add hand-dyed silks to that, you've got a sea of potential color, perfect for a special occasion. However, for everyday use, this may not be practical. After hours and hours of square wire rubbing down the edge of organza ribbon, especially if weighted down by a hefty cab, the organza may start to fray. Using a good-quality ribbon with a light pendant should be safe.
    Satin Cord

    Spools of satin or satin-like cord, such as for kumihimo and knotting, can be used just like a ribbon: folded, wire wrapped, and fitted with a clasp. These. The reason I didn't use satin cord for my pendants is because mine is a polyester imitation that has kinks in it, and even after soaking and laying flat to dry overnight, it still has folds in it. I imagine real satin wouldn't do that - does anyone know how I can flatten mine?
    Wire Wrapped collars

    I would sell every pendant of mine on a wire wrapped collar in a heartbeat if I could: but these collars take time and materials that I don't expect someone to pay for with a $20 pendant. I will say: I was at a gem show this past weekend here in town, and there was a wire wrapping artist. She wasn't the only one there, but she was the only one with handmade wire collars - and boy, the crowd around her table was thick! She had several perfectly-shaped collars, fitted for the collarbone and everything, in delicate sterling silver wire, $60 each. Worth every penny.
    After looking at my options, I think you can see why I picked my handmade leather cord options. It doesn't cost me much to make them with copper or silver-filled wire and 20″ of leather cord: maybe more than a dime, but less than 50 cents in materials. Plus, I can add an extender chain to the cord so it's adjustable. But what's best for me isn't the only option.

    What low-cost, touch-of-handmade cords do you like to offer your customers with the purchase of a pendant?


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    • Category: Design
    • Technique(s): Design, Selling