Monday, October 19, 2009

Day of the Dead necklace

I finally quit tinkering with my skull necklace and here it is:
(I lightened the picture up some so you could see it better. There's also a bigger version on Flickr.)

I wanted to write up a nice tutorial with very specific instructions, and I found that I just can't do it - or at least, not very specifically - because of the way I made it: I collected skull beads for over a year and then I just sort of winged it. But I can tell you what I did and how it's put together, anyway, and hopefully you can use some of these ideas to create your own version!

  • Skull beads in various sizes and materials (size range is about 6-20mm) (more on this below)
  • Jet crystal coin beads, 6mm
  • Antique brass chain – mine came from Michael’s and was unsoldered
  • Antique brass wire, if you can find it - if not, antique brass headpins will do the job just fine
  • Antique brass jump rings in sizes to complement your chain
  • Bar and toggle clasp – I used a bright copper bar and an oxidized copper toggle, from two similar sets (but note that if you do this you need to make sure they fit one another!)
  • Optional: charms - I used antique brass spider webs, and a brass lightning bolt

I made this necklace in a very informal way – since the chain was unsoldered, I just unlinked it at random(ish) intervals and started adding beads. I looked through my beads and charms for anything that looked suitable for Halloween or Day of the Dead, and anything black or goth. I really intended to use round Czech beads as well as the little coin beads, but I happened to try the coin beads first and they looked so cute I just kept using them. I think they give a bit of unity to the assortment of beads. I decided to put the clasp in the front – and the decision to use two different colors of clasp was mostly driven by the fact that the bar that matched the oxidized toggle had bent and wasn't really usable. I also intended to put far more than one charm on this necklace – I had a whole collection of charms by the time I got done – but when I added the rusty skull and the lightning bolt below that, it just looked finished, and I decided to stop.

As far as how it’s assembled, I just linked everything together with headpins and jump-rings and whatever I had on hand. I used both bought jump-rings and ones I had made myself. Mostly I just used simple loops - I wrapped a few, but since I only had headpins to work with and no wire that really matched, I didn't have enough wire to wrap with a lot of the time!

A lot of my sources were the places listed in my sidebar. Manto Fev is an especially good source for skulls. Or just try searching for "skull beads" on your favorite bead-seller's website, or on Etsy.
A few specifics:
Lightning bolt charms (The spiderwebs also came from the same seller, but she seems to be sold out, last I looked.)
Here’s a different rusted skull charm from the same seller I got mine from.
Copper skulls:
I think some of the other skull beads came from Elise Mathiesen’s Beads of the Month program (aka botmo) on Livejournal. I think the black AB glass skulls (which look like they might be pressed Czech glass) may have come from her.

About metals: my intention was to mix up my metals even more than I actually did. I decided that the antique brass chain was more in keeping with the mood of my necklace than the brightly-polished copper I started out with, but antique-finish copper or silver would probably look good too. I did use polished copper in the beads, and also heavily oxidized copper, and polished brass, as well as the antique brass; but no silver, in the end. This was more because of what I had on hand than any real design decision, though.

Note: I added a couple of detail pictures here.


Margot Potter said...



Candace said...

So beautiful! And elegant!

My Big Mouth said...

It's somewhat gothic-y,I really like this piece alot.
Thanks for sharing!

Brenda Pinnick said...


Melissa J. Lee said...

The sheer variety of skulls really makes this piece - I love it!

Mel said...

Thank you guys so much for the nice comments!! - Mel