Choosing the clasp
Usually, complicated or hard-to-fasten clasps keep a lot of people from wearing some of their jewelry pieces. Taking an aged lady who had arthritis for example, nobody was around to help her fasten and undo the clasp so it was easier to leave the pearl jewelry in her jewelry box. This could be prevented with a bit of forethought. When choosing a clasp, consider:
How secure is it?
How easy is it to fasten and open?
How versatile is it?
How much does it cost?
Determine what is most important to you about the clasp because normally, some compromises will have to be made. For example, to get a clasp that is easy to open, you may have to accept less security.
Listed below are four basic pearl clasps along with their advantages and disadvantages.
1. Fish-hook clasp: This is a popular clasp because it's inexpensive and secure. It may be silver, gold or gold-plated. The main drawback of the fish-hook clasp is that it can be hard to fasten and undo, especially for someone with arthritis or other hand problems.
2. Push clasp: The main advantage of this clasp is that it is fairly easy to open, even with one hand when it's used on a bracelet. It's also relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, it is not as secure as some of the other clasps.
3. Lobster clasp or lobster claw. Secure, easy to open and relatively inexpensive, this is an ideal clasp both for pearls and gold chains. It's not used as frequently for pearls, however, as the fish clasp and push clasp. If you're having pearls strung, you may wish to request this clasp.
4. The screw clasp: This clasp can add versatility when it's inserted in pearls to form a hidden or mystery clasp. For example, a long strand of pearls with three mystery clasps can be unscrewed and turned into a bracelet and two smaller necklaces.
Mystery clasps are fairly easy to open and close and are secure, if they're screwed in all the way and aren't stripped out. They tend to cost a little more than the fish-hook, lobster and push clasps. Sometimes the string breaks on necklaces with mystery clasps. This can happen when people unscrew the clasp incorrectly or when they can't find the clasp and try to unscrew the necklace in a spot where there is no clasp. This problem can be avoided by having the jeweler show you how to find and open the clasp. When undoing it, you should be sure to grasp at least two pearls on either side of the clasp. Turn them together as a unit. Don't twist the string.
There are a wide variety of clasps besides these four basic ones. For example, type of hanged clasp, variations of the push clasp and the pin pearl adaptor. Each end of a single pearl strand is attached to a clasp. Sometimes accessories are used to accent pearls with plain clasps. But pearl enhancer is most popular. The top of the pearl enhancer has a hinged clasp which closes over the necklace between two pearls and Centerpieces can be used to create impressive-looking necklaces.
There are many other types and styles of clasps besides the ones pictured in this chapter. You can see them on display in jewelry stores. No matter what type you choose, do not take a necklace or bracelet home without first having the salesperson show you how to fasten and unfasten the clasp. Then try doing it at least two times by yourself. Some clasps are like puzzles, and if you try to figure them out on your own, you could damage the clasp and/or the pearls. If your budget is limited, put your money into the pearls first, rather than into a fancy clasp. You can always upgrade the clasp later on. When buying a pearl necklace, your first priority should be the pearls.
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