Repairing a vintage pearl necklace

Finished necklace

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me if I could do anything with a pearl necklace that had belonged to her grandma. It was a short string of freshwater pearls that were pretty with mainly sentimental value and the silk had snapped between the last couple of pearls and the clasp. The clasp and all the beads were still there and she wanted to wear them to a 1940s themed party in mid-July.

Not up to knotting

I said I could certainly do something, but knotting pearls with silk cord is not one of the jewellery making skills that I’ve managed to learn yet.

Instead, I offered to restring them onto strong but flexible beading wire, separating each pearl with a tiny white pearl seed bead. I laid out my tools and got started.

Jewellery making tools for mending a vintage pearl necklace
Getting the tools and bits together

First I cut each pearl off the strand, discarding the old and weakened silk, then cleaned each pearl with a very slightly damp cloth and polished it dry. The clasp was in good condition; it didn’t have a hallmark but it certainly looked like gold.

Stripping back the original vintage pearl necklace
Stripping back the original vintage pearl necklace

I wanted to give the effect of knots between the pearls so I experimented with different seed beads. Ones with a little bit of silver lining looked too bold but some almost transparent ones with a bit of iridescence and a delicate pearl tone did the trick nicely.

Taking the Beadalon 49 strand wire, I put a pearl and a tiny seed bead on the wire so that each pearl was separated with a seed bead. I then fastened the ends of the wire through the rings of the clasp, passing them through a gold wire guardian and then through a gold screw crimp.

I won these in a competition in the Making Jewellery magazine and was waiting for a good opportunity to use them. As you can see in the picture below, it gives a very neat finish and complements the gold of the clasp perfectly.

It should also be very secure and strong. The weak point is at the rings on the clasp, so if someone pulled it, the rings would bend and the clasp and necklace would part company. BUT, crucially, the pearls would not be pinging off in 40 different directions.

Close up of the clasp and necklace findings
Close up of the clasp and necklace findings

And here is the finished necklace…

The upcycled and repaired vintage pearl necklace
The upcycled and repaired vintage pearl necklace

An added bonus

Stringing the necklace in this way meant that I had a few pearls left over.

Not enough pearls for a bracelet and too many for earring dangles – and my friend doesn’t wear earrings anyway. She does love turquoise though, and I had some beads of just about the same size, so strung them together¬†in a classic design completed with a gold tone magnetic clasp. Easy to open and close, but very strong.

The magnetic clasp on the vintage pearl and turquoise bracelet
The magnetic clasp on the vintage pearl and turquoise bracelet
A beautiful upcycled set of jewellery
A beautiful upcycled set of jewellery