Tesla Necklace with a Nod to Cynthia

I love big beads.  Big hollow beads.  Doesn’t matter whether they’re made of glass, metal or polymer.    Maybe because it’s a challenge to figure out how to make them and probably because people are always surprised at how light they are.   And I have made a boatload of hollow beads over the years.  

Which brings me to last week when I brought a strand of big polymer beads into the pottery studio and someone was interested in buying it which was a problem because it was only temporarily strung and I had not figured out an appropriate clasp.  But it got me thinking.  

I have always admired the perfectly integrated polymer covered barrel bead clasps on Ford and Forlano’s big bead necklaces.  I wanted to make an integrated clasp myself but I did not want to use barrel bead – I wanted to use a hidden magnetic clasp.  Which brought up two problems.  First, it would have to be a very strong magnet. Big hollow bead necklaces still have some heft after all. And you cannot bake a magnet without diminishing its magnetic properties.   People used to bake their magnet clasps all time time. But we have learned that  baking weakens the magnets.

So I had to find a strong magnet and a way to integrate it into polymer bead halves without baking.  I was surprised to learn that there was a paucity of information on using magnets and polymer clasps.  I mean there are some old tutorials that instruct you to bake the magnet into the clay but as we have discovered, that’s a no-no.  

Then I discovered Mag-Lok magnets and found this video  from Cynthia Tinapple.  I put my own twist on Cynthia’s technique and  made a necklace with the Tesla beads and a magnetic clasp.   How very appropriate. 






I will share how I make hollow polymer beads and magnet clasps at the next meeting of the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild.   Thank you Nikola Tesla and Cynthia Tinapple!











Nikola Tesla, Beads and Me

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-born inventor who made major contributions to the development of the AC electricity system that we use today.   His  experiments  to learn of the effect that lightning storms had on the earth revealed evidence of  terrestrial stationary waves which indicated that planet earth was an excellent conductor of electricity.  And this is the basis of wireless technology.   (The Internet is full of information on this topic if you care to read more about it.)

In 1899, Tesla conducted  an experiment  at his laboratory in Colorado Springs that was reported to have  produced  100 foot long lightning bolts before it blew a dynamo  at the El Paso Electric Company.  Not shabby.

What does that have to do with beads or me?  Well may you ask.  When I made the polymer clay beads, you see below,  some of them reminded me of lightning and electric waves.  And I took the pictures with an iPad which is a wonderful example of wireless technology.  Tesla is known in some quarters as the “Master of Lightning” so I call these “Tesla Beads”  despite the fact that my Italian American father was fond of reminding me that Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio-another example of wireless technology.

You’ll have to admit that the name “Marconi Beads”  does not evoke the same kind of image.  It just reminds  me of pasta and then I get hungry. 

Here are some pictures.  The round beads are hollow and I formed the cores on marbles up to 40mm.  I described the technique in this post.