Renaissance Necklace

I had this tutorial up on my old website years ago. I finally found my backup and put it on TrishStuff!

3 necklaces I've made using these basic stepsTired of the simple single strand of pearls necklaces, but can’t afford a really great reproduction? I’ve got a nice little pearl and bead necklace that was worn by both men and women during the late 16th century in Elizabeth I’s court.

What you’ll need:

Figure out how long you want to make your necklace and triple that number and add a few inches (2 or 3) for the bulk of the beads and knots. I used fake pearls so I didn’t have to worry about using silk and knotting in-between them, but if you are using real pearls and knotting in-between, you may want to add additional length for that. I used the elastic cord simply because it’s easy to work with, fairly inexpensive and won’t break as easily if someone pulls on it. I have had strung beads go spilling onto the floor before…necklaces1This is the necklace type you will get with these directions.

A clasp. I’m still trying to find out which types of clasps are period. The one I started with broke and I added on another, in a different style. If you make your necklace long enough you may not even need to use a clasp.

Beads of 2 different colors, they must be the same size, you will be using 8 per repeat.

Beads of the same 2 different colors, one or two sizes larger, you will be using 3 per repeat.

Spacer beads with a large hole, you will be putting one of these in between each of the repeats for the first time through, then you will just pass the string through this same hole 2 more times, which is why you need the larger hole.

To Begin:

  1. Knot or secure one end of your selected string or cording to your clasp.
  2. String 4 beads of one color in the small size onto the cord.
  3. String 1 bead of the same color, but in the larger size on next, then 4 more of the smaller size beads, all of the same color.
  4. String on your spacer bead.
  5. Continue by stringing 4 beads of your contrast color in the small size onto the cord.
  6. String 1 bead of the same contrast color in the larger size on, followed by 4 more of the small size beads, all of the same contrast color.
  7. Follow up with another spacer bead.
  8. Repeat steps 1 through 7 until you have gotten just under 1/3 of the length of your cord. Knot or secure this end to the other end of your clasp keeping the beads fairly taught, without too much stress. You should have 2/3 of your cord free at the end.
  9. Whichever color you ended on, continue in that SAME color, 4 small, 1 large, 4 small, but instead of adding a spacer bead, go through the one that is right there at the same end you just finished.
  10. Continue going back matching colors of beads with the 4 small, 1 large, 4 small beads, and going through the spacer beads until you get back to the beginning.
  11. Once you get back to the beginning, make another knot to the clasp, then continue going to the other end, matching bead colors and the 4 small, 1 large, 4 small beads, going through the spacer beads again, until you get to the end again.
  12. Then knot or secure the end of the cord to the end of the clasp and you are finished.

If you have made your cord long enough to easily slip over your head and you do not wish to use a clasp, in the first step, start off with a spacer bead and use a paper clip or something handy like that to knot off to, leaving a good tail for the end. Then at step 9, instead of turning around, go back to the beginning, go through the original spacer bead, and match the colors and 4 small, 1 large, 4 small beads, then go through the spacer, until you have 3 rows of beads in each repeat and you should be back at the end, and use the long tail you left at the beginning to knot off or secure your cording accordingly.

Here are the portraits that inspired this necklace. Period Sources:

henri2detail Henri II of France 1550 by François Clouet

Henri’s necklace appears to be a black then white bead alternating all the way with his necklace to go with his striped outfit.

dudleydetail Lord Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester 1560 by Steven van der Meulen

Robert’s Necklace has 2 of the same color repeats, to 1 contrast color, with two black beads in between the two same color repeats, with red as the contrast color.

eknollysdetail Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Layton 1577 after George Gower

Elizabeth appears to have 4 strands, all with equal sized beats, but a single bead strung around and in-between each section.

unknownladydetail Unknown Lady 1593-95 attributed to William Segar

This unknown court lady has chain links in between her repeats with all of the beads the same size.

Now once you’ve made this necklace you can get the idea to make others with variations such as these:

Inspiration:I used different color beads, added a drop jewel, and only used 2 rows. On the first one I made, I used different spacer beads with large beads on either side of each spacer. I also just used string and knotted them together at the back

necklaces3 necklaces2

Now once you’ve made this necklace you can get the idea to make others with variations such as these:

  • Make 4 rows instead of 3.
  • Make only 2 rows instead of 3.
  • Use semi precious stones instead of pearls.
  • Add a hanging jewel.
  • Use a different color large bead than the other 4 small beads in a row.
  • Try to find a way to use all the colors from your court garb in this necklace.
  • Alternate from one color to the next within a row.
  • Use different spacer beads with large beads on either side of each spacer.
  • Make it really long and double it when you wear it.
  • Use really fun, colorful beads as the spacers.
  • Use a silk beading thread to be more period and make it long so you don’t need a clasp.
  • Remember in period, glass beads are very valuable and sought after, use them to look important.
  • Mix up the spacer bead, don’t use the same type each time.