I’m actually going to answer that question with another question: what is the purpose of your clasp? The answer may sound obvious: to fasten a necklace or bracelet. Of course this is why you’re trying to decide on a clasp, but if you’ve had a look at the range of clasps in any beading shop, you know there are so many to choose from. I found this very confusing when I was first starting to make my own jewellery. I think my first clasp purchase was a packet of lobster clasps because I recognised these from pieces of jewellery that I already owned, so they seemed like a safe option!
The more I got into designing my own jewellery, the more I realised that the clasp is actually a bit more than just a mechanism for fastening bracelets and necklaces. It is also an integral part of the design. Now, for me, designing jewellery is all about practicality as well as visual impact. What’s the point in making a stunning necklace if it’s uncomfortable to wear? The same applies to the clasp: if you choose something that is really difficult to fasten, then it frustrates the person wearing the jewellery and ultimately can make that necklace or bracelet un-wearable. I know this first-hand – I confess to several bad choices made through inexperience or ignorance, where I have used a tricky clasp. I’m almost always grabbing my jewellery and putting it on in a rush, so whenever I grab one of those necklaces or bracelets, I almost always end up putting it back in the jewellery box because I just don’t have time to fiddle with the clasp, so my lovely jewellery doesn’t get worn as often as it should. Naturally, each time I do this, I make a mental note to change the clasp, but of course I never make the time to actually make the alterations!
I soon realised that choosing the right clasp in the first place is by far the better option. So for me, the ‘right’ clasp is getting the balance between something that I can fasten and unfasten easily, but which is also reliably secure – I don’t want my jewellery to fall off while I’m wearing it. For example, for a bracelet I will almost always use either a magnetic clasp (but I only use the Mag-Lok brand because they are super-strong) or a toggle. I find both these types of clasp pretty easy to do one-handed, although not everyone will agree with that when it comes to the toggle! I would never use a hook and eye because this will come unfastened too easily.
For a necklace, I think there is a little more scope because I will be fastening the clasp with two hands, not just one. However, I still find that some bolt clasps are fiddly (especially when they’re small), even with two hands. I tend to avoid these. This is a very personal preference though – my Mum will always choose a bolt clasp if I ask for her preference as she finds them both secure and easy enough to manage. I prefer a toggle clasp as I can fasten that easily enough and it is also very secure, but I will happily use a hook and eye on a necklace because I have found the weight of the necklace will keep the clasp fastened in a way that a bracelet doesn’t.
If you can, try a clasp before you buy it. Check that it isn’t too fiddly to manage, don’t be tempted to just go for the cheapest as it may well break easily and don’t be afraid to ask around for recommendations, or try something new.
Now you’ve dealt with the functionality, it’s time to think about the look. As I said, the clasp is an integral part of the design. Do you want it to blend in so that it’s really unnoticeable? Perhaps you want to disguise it completely, or perhaps you want to make it a real focal point. If you are just stringing a length of beads, it’s going to be pretty hard to hide the clasp. The fact is, the clasp is a piece of metal and that will stand out against beads. So maybe this is a chance to choose a really stunning handmade clasp and place it at the front of your necklace so that it becomes the focal element, the one that attracts all the attention?
If you are creating a design that uses chain or links groups of beads using jump rings, it is easier to disguise the clasp. If you use a bolt clasp in a similar size to the jump rings or links in your chain, then at a glance the clasp will blend in. On the other hand, if you choose a toggle, this may appear so different in shape from the rest of the elements in the design that it stands out.
If you really want to create a seamless clasp design, then why not forget about buying a metal clasp and make your own beaded clasp? You can create any size, shape, colour that you want and you can let it blend in to the design or make it the focus. If you want a few ideas, then my book, ‘Beaded Clasps’ is full of them!
I hope this has given you something to think about and that you realise that the clasp is really a component that is worth considering carefully. For more information about different types of clasp, go to the clasps section on the materials page.