Beading Projects with Clam Shells

Dana Hinders
shells at the beach

Whether you pair shell beads with freshwater pearls or add a pretty gemstone pendant to a shell necklace, beading projects with clam shells are both attractive and fun to make.

The Diversity of Shell Beads

Shell beads are most often associated with "hippie chick" jewelry, but there are actually many different styles of projects that can be created using shell beads. Shell beads can be made into various shapes, such as teardrop pendants, linked squares, or double-sided arrowheads. White clam shells cut into discs can be strung into one long chain for a smooth, flowing look. Jewelry made with dyed shell beads can have a funky, casual appearance. Combining shells with other materials, such as ribbon, leather cord, or chain, can further enhance the look of a particular beaded piece.

Making Shell Beads

Before you can begin any beading projects with clam shells, you must have a nice selection of shell beads to work with. If you're lucky enough to live near a beach or happen to have shells leftover as a vacation souvenir, making your own beads can be a fun way to create a project with a special personal meaning. Shell beads can be any size, although most crafters prefer to use shells that are between one and two inches.

You will need to drill a hole through your shells that is the correct size for your stringing material. For example, nylon cord is usually two millimeters, while jewelry wire is most often 0.8 millimeters. Choose a drill bit that is just slightly larger than the diameter you need.

Working on a stable surface, place a bit of painter's tape over the top of the shell to prevent cracks when you drill. Drill slowly and steadily to make sure your hole is as even as possible. Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes.

Buying Shell Beads

If you don't want to take the time to make your own shell beads, beads can be purchased from most major craft stores as well as beading specialty shops. However, you will find a much larger selection if you investigate the many online retailers that sell shell beads, such as the following:

When looking for sources to buy shell beads, don't confuse actual beads with clam shell findings. Also known as bead tips, clam shell findings are used to finish off a necklace or bracelet strung on beading thread. You slide a small seed bead onto the end of the thread, loop the thread back through the bead, and then insert the bead into the finding to keep the knot secure.

Ideas for Beading Projects with Clam Shells

Using shell beads doesn't have to be difficult. You can come up with plenty of interesting designs simply by playing with the arrangement of the beads on your bead board until you find a pattern you like. If you need some inspiration, however, you can find ideas for beading projects with clam shells by reviewing the following links:

Of course, you can make more than just jewelry with shell beads. Here are some more projects to consider:

If you prefer to have a printed reference handy when you're planning your projects, Make Your Own Jewelry Using Fabric, Leather, Embroidery, Beads & Shells by Ann Kay has more than 420 photographs of 40 wonderful projects that combine shells with other beading materials for a distinctive look.

Beading Projects with Clam Shells