How To String a Pearl Necklace

finished pearl necklace

Making simple necklaces is quite easy. But, like many crafts, you can make simple projects truly special by paying attention to  craftsmanship. I wanted to make a pearl necklace to wear for my wedding so I bought some pearls and set about to learn how to string a pearl necklace in the best possible way.

silk bead cord

When working with pearls,  you need silk thread. While there are many, many options for beading threads, wires, and cords, you want to use silk because it is very sturdy but will not wear away at the pearls from the inside. I really enjoyed working with Griffin Silk Bead Cord which comes with a beading needle already attached for easing stringing. Other than using silk, there are two characteristics that set a pearl necklace apart from another necklace – pearl necklaces are often threaded on two strands of cord and a knot is tied between each pearl. Both of these characteristics prevent you from losing more than 1 or 2 pearls if you snag your necklace and break it. Note that you will need significantly more thread than the length of your necklace because of all the knots you will be tying – about 1.5 times as much.

thread clamshell onto thread

To start, you want to tie a knot in the end of your cord and thread a clamshell onto it. The clamshell is a handy little finding that covers the final knot in your necklace and adds a metal loop to let you attach it to your clasp. You should pick cord that is the smallest size that still allows you to tie a knot that holds a bead in place. For the pearls that I had, it meant that I chose 1 strand of size 0 and 1 strand of size 2 silk cord because when I tied a knot with 2 strands of size 0, the holes in the beads were larger than the knot so they didn’t stay in place on the necklace. It isn’t strictly necessary to use 2 strands of cord, but it will make your necklace sturdier in the long so I recommended it, especially for longer necklaces that are more likely to snag on things.

pearl on bead cord

Thread your first pearl onto the necklace.

tie overhand knot

Tie an overhand knot loosely in the thread above the pearl. (This step requires a bit more finesse the longer that your necklace grows because there is a longer tail to thread through the knot. Just don’t rush and it won’t tangle.)

slide knot with finger

Put your finger into the knot and gently slide the knot as close to the bottom pearl as you can get with your finger. It is possible to go straight for the pin (see step below), but I found I had fewer tangles if I used my finger first.

insert pin into overhand knot

Stick a strong pin in the knot and hold it next to the pearl while you gently tighten the knot all the way.

tighten knot next to pearl

You should have a tight knot directly next to the bottom-most pearl. Pull the pin out. If you accidentally tighten the knot in the wrong place, don’t remove the pin! You can use a second pin to gently pick the knot open and try again.

tighten knot

If you are using 2 strands, make the knot extra tight by pulling the strands apart.

thread pearls onto cord

You can speed up the beading process if you thread several pearls onto the necklace at once but only move them down to the working end one at a time.

put glue in clamshell

Repeat the knot tying process, one pearl at a time, until the necklace is your desired length. Add a clamshell to the second end of the necklace. Add a bit of glue to the inside of the clamshells. I recommend Aileen’s Original Tacky Glue because it doesn’t expand when drying, dries clear, and wipes off with water (before drying) if you get it where you don’t want it (which I always do when working with glue!).

crimp clamshell and trim threads

Trim the threads and crimp the clamshell closed. Now wait for the glue to dry. (You can trim before adding glue but do crimp before it dries).

clear nail polish on knot

If you want, you can use a dab of clear nail polish to strengthen the knot between the clamshell and the first pearl.

add clasp to clamshell

Add your clasp to the loops in the clamshell. And you’re done! With a super sturdy super classy new necklace to wear!

how to string pearl necklace

Comments 14

  1. The trick of using a pin to help tie the knot close the pearls is going to be so useful for tying knots that have to be close to something else. I am definitely going to try that soon!

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  2. That is just beautiful. Thanks for the tutorial! I’ve been starting to string some simple bracelets and necklaces, and would love to make something like this someday.

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      If you have a local bead store, they will certainly carry pearls and help you decide between types and sizes. And it’s always nice to be able to hold something in your hand before buying. However, you will find much better prices if you go online. There are many, many sellers (both U.S. based and international) on Etsy and I recommend looking there. Buying internationally you may get better prices but also may need to order in bulk, face communication issues, and worry about getting exactly what you think you’re getting. I bought mine from Etsy seller backgard and was very happy with the beads and service I received.

  3. This is great. My Aunt wants me to fix her old pearl necklace and now I can. Very helpful, thank you

  4. Hi Erin, I like knotting pearls& I’m able to knott tightly so that the finished piece appears “kinked” until the silk relaxes. My Q is; how do I set multiple overlapping overhand knott’s to tightly attach the second “basket”-style knott cover? Is it a matter of using a basket cover with the same sized hole as the drill holes in the pearls I’m knotting?

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      I’m not sure what you mean by a basket cover. If you use a clamshell like I did, you don’t need the knots to be large enough to hold the clamshell in place on its own because it’s the act of crimping it over the knot that keeps it in place.

  5. You are awesome! Thank you for posting this tutorial. I have a question I hope you don’t mind answering. I want to make a mala of 108 beads, each 8 mm, with spacers. Do I just start out with an enormous amount of thread/bead cord or do I tie in another thread when the first one is done? I’m worried the bead cord you recommended won’t be long enough to account for ~114 knots, and concerned about my ability to wrangle a huge amount of cord from the get go. Thank you! xo

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      So glad you found the tutorial helpful! I’m afraid I only dabble in beading, so I don’t necessarily have the most experienced answer for you. But going based on what I know from doing a lot of hand sewing and embroidery, you never want your cord to be too long. It makes it too easy to fray and tangle. I suggest using several shorter pieces of cord and tying them together as you go.

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      Are you asking how you could take an already-made necklace and make it longer? You can tie an additional length of cord to an existing necklace though you will probably want to use a spacer bead whose hole is larger than the knot so that it covers the knot.

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