Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Yesterday felt like a day to make a bracelet, so I did. Then I made earrings to match, and then more.

In the past, finding a way to incorporate shank buttons in jewelry has kind of stymied and frustrated me, because there are so many really beautiful buttons just crying to be used. I begin to think I've found the answer.

So, if you want to try this, you might start here:

A Small Shank Button Tutorial

because that's actually where I started. The bracelet simply enlarges on it. So, pictures first, and then a bit of explanation on the difference between using the buttons for a bracelet and using them for earrings.

This is the finished bracelet:

And this is what I used:

  • 5 vintage shank buttons, about 5/8" (1.59cm)
  • 5 charcoal mother-of-pearl flat circle beads, about 1" (2.54cm) in diameter
  • 12 oblong vintage black plastic "jet" beads, about 1/2" (1.27cm) long
  • 12 head pins, 2 1/2" (6.35cm) to 3" (7.62cm) long
  • 36 black seed beads
  • 2 round vintage plastic "jet" beads
  • 4 small silver bead caps
  • 1 clasp
  • Non-tarnishing silver wire, 20 gauge
Here's a photo of the back of the bracelet:

As you can see, I didn't fill the gap between the shank of the button and the ring bead, which added one more possibility for movement to the piece. It also wasn't necessary to bring the wire to the back of the bead to prevent the beads' spinning to show the wrong, or back, side--your wrist will do that.

So the process would be to make a wrapped loop on one end of a piece of wire about 2 1/2" (6.35 cm) long, string on one side only of the circle bead, then the shank button, and then run the wire through the other hole in the bead, ending in another wrapped loop. After the first bead group, of course, you'll want to join the wire-wrapped loops as you go, to create a chain of wire, buttons, and beads.

When you've joined the five buttons, measure the bracelet to your wrist, to see if you need another button-bead link. My wrist measures about 6 3/4" (17.1 cm), so five was about right. More length will be added by the clasp assembly, in this case a silver capped bead wire-wrapped to each part of the clasp and the bracelet ends.

After you've created the basic bracelet, string the head pins:
  • 4 head pins strung with one oblong bead and three seed beads
  • 4 head pins strung with one oblong bead and two seed beads
  • 4 head pins strung with one oblong bead and one seed bead
Attach one of each group to the loops joining the bracelet links, using a wire-wrap or simple loop. (I prefer to wire-wrap, as it's sturdier, and looks nice, myself.)

Note: While my seed beads were all technically the same size, I did pick through and put a slightly smaller bead on the top of each stack.

To make the matching earrings, I followed the process given in the A Small Shank Button Tutorial.

With these earrings, I did fill the space between the button shank and the inside edge of the circle beads, as I wanted the button to be centered on the ring. The beads you'll need for that will depend on the dimension of the button shank.

As you can see from the photo, I also brought the wire used for the stringing and upper loop to the back, to provide that spin-stopping function.

Finish the earrings with a dangle made from one oblong bead and a seed bead, and add the earring wires.

Just for fun, here are three more pairs, made using the same basic technique:

Notice that in the last pair, I brought the spin-stopping wire to the front, for some extra design oomph.

Well. That was fun for me. Hope it gives you some fun, too!



Shadows of the goddess designs said...

you have so inspired me to start using some of my button collection for jewelry...

Marion said...

Apparently a button is much much more than a button. I love the earrings. Absolutely divine.

Mokihana said...

What a fabulous idea! I'm gonna go sort through my grandma's button box!

Cami said...

Wow! Super-sophisticated!

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