Here I made a turquoise clay bead necklace with beads that resemble turquoise semi-precious stones using a technique called antiquing.
I used polymer clay to make the beads, it’s a wonderful medium – easy to work with and doesn’t need a lot of equipment. You can create so much with it, my kids and I often sit for hours shaping figures, food, and animals that we then use as charms for necklaces and bracelets.
Polymer clay is hardened by baking in the oven and once baked in can last for a long time.
What you need to make the turquoise clay bead necklace
- Polymer Clay: Fimo Peppermint
- Black Acrylic paint
- Bead roller (optional)
- Sanding paper (400 to 1500 grit)
- Alcohol based ink, ginger
- Sponge or paintbrush to apply the ink
- 2 – 3 m of leather cord (1mm), depending on how long you want your necklace to be (I used 2m, which made a 50cm/19in long necklace)
- Silver spacer beads
- 2 Silver cone beads
- Epoxy glue
- Toggle fastener
How to make the necklace
Step 1 Hardening the clay and chopping it up
Put the fimo in the fridge for at least ½ hour to harden.
Take the fimo out of the fridge and chop it up into little bits. We want the beads to develop cracks and folds when shaped so they resemble real stones.
Step 2 Shaping the beads
I shaped all the beads by hand, but you could use a bead roller to make them look more uniform. Make different shapes like balls, ovals and flattened ovals.
How to form the beads: Squeeze the clay into a rough ball and lay it in your palm. Cover your palm with the other hand and press down on the ball of clay. Continue shaping until you have a ball with some cracks and crevasses.
Make ovals by sweeping the top hand back and forth over the ball. Then take both ends between your two forefingers and roll it back and forth to make the points.
Flatten these shapes between your fingers to make flattened ovals. Don’t forget to leave cracks in all the beads. Put the clay back into the fridge, if it gets too soft while you are shaping the beads.
Step 3 Create the bead holes
Hold the bead between your thumb and forefinger. Drill a cocktail stick through the centre of the bead with a twisting motion until it comes out on the other side.
Remove the stick carefully and insert it from the other side. This will give you a good looking hole on both sides of the bead.
Step 4 Bake the beads
Most clay brands recommend baking at 130 °C (266F) for 30 minutes, but check the packet for baking instructions, to be sure.
Make a tent out of aluminium foil and put it on a baking tray, then place your beads inside. Put the tray on the middle shelf of the oven for even heating.
Once baked let the beads cool down, this takes just a couple of minutes.
Step 5 Antiquing the beads
Paint the entire beads with black acrylic paint. Let the paint dry well.
Sand away the paint, leaving some paint in the cracks and folds. Start with the 400 grit paper and continue sanding and increasing the grit from 600 up to 1500. This process will result in a very smooth surface. It’s hard work but really worth the effort.
Now apply the ink either with a paintbrush or sponge. I tried both and found a sponge works better.
Step 6 Buffing
To give your beads a matt finish simply buff them on a piece of sturdy fabric like denim or wool, moving the beads back and forth.
Step 7 Assemble the necklace
Decide on how long you want your necklace to be and add 31 cm (12in). Cut it to the length you need and divide it into three cords. Now knot and thread a bead and knot again to hold your beads in place. Add spacer beads in between.
Add the toggle fasteners to the jump rings on the cone beads. Pinch the leather cords together so they fit inside the cone bead and glue into place with epoxy glue. Allow the glue to set for a couple of hours before wearing your necklace.
Read my tutorial on how to make a recycled bottle glass bead necklace.