|How to Choose a Bead Necklace
A Practical Guide
Necklace Clasps and Fastenings
The clasps and fastenings which secure the necklace around the wearer's neck have developed in time and often provide useful clues in dating the necklace, its origin and its value.
The most basic way of closing a bead necklace consists of knotting both ends of the beading material on which the decorative elements are strung, as done during dawn of humanity up till our days.
The next step was making a "button and loop" style fastening with pulling a little wooden stick, small stone, bead or real button fitted at one end, through a loop made of the other end of the beading material. This method with buttons we see till now with, among other, necklaces from Bedouin, South- Africa and Nagaland, a small state in the northeast of India, high up in the foothills of the Himalaya. By the way, this is a perfect solution for people with an allergy to certain types of metal, like nickel allergy which is very common. Today the loop and stick are often made of metal and are called a toggle clasp.
During the Hellenistic period, from 323 till 63 B.C., threading and subsequently knotting a cord or ribbon through rings fitted at each terminal of a necklace became the main form of fastening. This type of fastening remained fashionable even until the end of the 18th century.
Another system for fastening necklaces was also developed during Hellenistic times when some necklaces were fitted with a ring at one end and a hook, often S-shaped, at the other. This type of fastening became the most popular way of securing necklaces during the Roman and Byzantine period and is still popular until today.
The "push-in" box-clasp is the oldest form of clasp on necklace or bracelet and was introduced at the end of the 18th century. It consists of a wedge -V- shaped metal spring-part which fits into a metal box. The V part can easily loose its springy character or break into two halves, which makes the clasp useless. So handle this clasp with care.
Since 1900 we know the "spring-ring" clasp which is in the shape of a small circle with a push-pin on a very tiny spring coil which opens and springs shut for closure around another small ring when you push on a tiny lever. This is the most common type of clasp.
The modern lobster claw clasp is a variation of the spring ring. Indeed, the lobster claw clasp resembles a lobster claw. It has also a spring inside and is fastened around a ring, like the spring-ring clasp and to open and close it you have to push a tiny lever too.
Screw fasteners are mostly made of metal, but we encounter them often made of plastic, wood, amber, ivory or bone, the same material as the beads of the necklace. This adds to the value of the necklace. They consist of a screw like part and a nut part. The easiest way to close them is keeping both parts in front of you and putting the screw into the nut (and not the nut around the screw, no scientific explanation for it). To make it easy to remember: "The male is active, the female is passive". Then turn the necklace with the clasp to your neck.
The so called "fish-hook" clasp is a modern variant of the box-clasp. The push-in part is shaped more like a fish-hook than a V form. This explains its name. Not only the hook will lock into its place, but often has to be turned around a part of the box as well. The latter provides double protection against loosing the necklace. Because of this it is often used for more expensive bead necklaces like pearls, and made of gold or silver. Of non precious metal made we see them often on necklaces from India.
If the necklace is made of light weight - and not too expensive materials you even can ask for a magnetic clasp, see the chapter about the old ladies.