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Know Your Anatomy Of A Necklace

Posted by learntobead on April 22, 2020

A necklace, or any type of jewelry, has a structure and an anatomy. Each part has its own set of purposes, functions and aesthetics. Understanding each type of structure or physical part is important to the designer.

If we looked at these sections of a necklace from solely an Art standpoint, we might primarily focus on the centerpiece of the jewelry and consider The Strap (and most other parts) as supplemental and less important to the piece, in a similar relationship as the frame to a painting or the pedestal to a sculpture.

However, jewelry is a 3-dimensional object serving both aesthetic as well as functional purposes. As such, we need to be more sensitive to the entire jewelry-anatomy and both its Art and Architectural reason for being. This kind of thinking is at the core of what makes jewelry design, as a discipline, different than art.

Typical structural parts of a necklace might include,

The Strap: The entire linear component of the piece, comprising Yoke, Clasp Assembly, and Frame

The Yoke: The part of The Strap behind the neck, typically 6–7” including clasp assembly

The Clasp Assembly: Part of The Yoke, and includes, not only the clasp itself, but rather all the pieces it takes to attach your Strap to the Clasp, including clasp, rings, loops or knots or crimps at ends of stringing material

The Frame: The visually accessible part of The Strap, connecting to The Yoke at The Break point. On a 16” necklace, The Frame might be 9–10”

The Break: The point where The Yoke connects to The Frame, often at the collar bone on either side of the neck. Very often, this point is one of a critical change in vector — that means, the angle The Frame lays radically changes from the angle of The Yoke. Think of this as an inflection point.

The Bail: A separate part which drops the centerpiece or pendant drop below the line of the Frame

The Focal Point, Centerpiece, or Pendant Drop: A part which emphasizes or focuses the eye, usually dropped below the line of The Frame, but is sometimes a separate treatment of The Frame itself

The Canvas: Typically the stringing material or foundation of the piece

The Embellishment: Things added to the surface or edge of The Canvas, The Strap, or the Centerpiece which serve as decorative, rather than structural or supportive roles

Each part of the body of a necklace poses its own special design challenges for the jewelry artist. These involve strategies for resolving such issues as:

— Making connections

— Determining angularity, curvature, and roundedness

— Transitioning color, pattern and texture

— Placing objects

— Extending lengths

— Adding extensions

— Creating balance and coherency

— Anticipating issues about compression, stretching, bending, load-bearing, and distortion

— Anticipating issues related to physical mechanics, both when the piece is static (not moving when worn) and dynamic (moving when worn)

— Keeping things organic, so nothing looks like an afterthought, or an outlier, or out of place, or something designed by a committee

— Determining which parts are critical to understanding the piece of jewelry as art as it is worn, and which parts are merely supplemental to the piece

The Strap

The Strap is that continuous line that extends from one end of the clasp to the other. The Strap may or may not consist of the exposed Canvas. The Strap typically delineates a silhouette or boundary. This usually sends the message to the viewer about where they may comfortably and appropriately place their gaze on the wearer’s body.

The Strap is a type of funicular structure. A funicular structure is one where something like a string or chain or cable is held up at two points, and one or more loads are placed on it. Loads increase tension. Loads lead to compression.

The placement can be centered or off-centered. If more than one object is placed on The Strap, each object can vary in mass, volume and weight. We do not want The Strap to break because of the weight or placement of any load or loads. We do want to control the resulting shape of the silhouette or curvature of The Strap which results from the weight or placement of any load or loads.

The span of The Strap is very sensitive to force and stress. A piece of jewelry may have more than one Strap. In this case, the span of each Strap, and their built in support and structural systems, must be tightly coordinated, if to respond optimally to forces and stresses.

The Yoke

The Yoke is one section of the Strap which is the part around the back of the neck, typically including The Clasp Assembly. The length of The Yoke, and whether the beginning and end parts of The Yoke should be exposed on the front of the body is something to be determined by the designer. The designer must also determine the proportional size of The Yoke relative to the remaining part of The Strap. The designer must determine what role the elements, such as beads, which comprise The Yoke, will play, and whether they should be an active part of the visual composition, and/or a critical part in the functional success of the piece, or merely supplemental. The Yoke balances the load requirements of the remaining Strap (The Frame), Bail and Pendant.

The Break

At the point The Yoke connects to the remaining Strap (called The Break leading to The Frame) on either side of the neck, this is a point of vulnerability, often assisted and reduced with the addition of support elements. Because it is at this point — The Break — where The Strap may alter its vector position in a dramatic way — that is, the angular positioning of the Strap at the point of The Break may vary a lot as The Strap continues around the front of the body — this is a major point of vulnerability.

There are always transitional issues at The Break. The designer needs to have strategies for managing these transitions. This might involve using visual cues and doing something with color or pattern/texture or rhythm or sizes. The designer might add support systems, such as rings, at this point. The designer must decide the degree The Frame should be visually distinct from The Yoke.

The Clasp Assembly

The Clasp Assembly is most often part of The Yoke. The Clasp Assembly includes, not just the clasp itself, but also all the other parts necessary to attach it to the Strap. There might be some additional soldered rings. There might be loops left at the ends of the stringing material. There might be crimp beads or knots or glue or solder.

Whenever choosing a clasp, it is more important to think in terms of choosing a clasp assembly. You might want to use a very attractive clasp, but it may take so many parts and turns to attach it to your beadwork, that you end up with a visually ugly clasp assembly.

Occasionally, The Clasp Assembly is part of The Frame. This will present a different set of architectural issues and considerations.

The Frame

The Frame is that part of The Strap which connects to either side of The Yoke at The Break.

Too often, when the designer does not recognize the Yoke as distinct from The Frame — even if the transition is to be very subtle — less-than-satisfying things happen. Proportions may be off. The piece may not lay or sit as envisioned. The Strap may have too much embellishment going too high up The Strap. Sometimes the balance between Yoke and Frame is off — too much Yoke and not enough Frame. The change in vector angles between The Yoke and The Frame may pose many architectural issues for the designer.

Bi-Furcated Frame: A Frame visually split in half, usually at the center and in two equal parts, with a centerpiece focal bead or pendant drop in the middle. Here the designer needs to think whether the two lengths should move in a coordinated fashion, or not.

The Focal Point, Centerpiece or Pendant Drop

While not every necklace has a focal point, centerpiece or pendant drop, most do. The Focal Point gives the viewer’s eye a place to rest or focus. Usually this is done with a Centerpiece or Pendant Drop.

Othertimes, The Focal Point is more integrated with The Strap. This might be created by graduating the sizes or beads or playing with color or playing with rhythm or playing with fringe.

A Centerpiece would be a part that extends beyond the line of The Frame, usually below it, around it, or in front of it. This forces transitional concerns between it and The Frame.

There should be a natural visual as well as functional transition from The Strap to The Focal Point, Centerpiece or Pendant Drop.

The Bail

The Bail is a part that drops the Centerpiece below the Frame, forcing additional transitional visual and functional concerns among Centerpiece, Bail and Frame. We are concerned about its impact on emphasis, harmony, balance, distribution of size and proportion, point, line, plane and shape. We are concerned about its ability to maintain stability, given the effects of gravity, the weight of the drop, and its relationship with and fit to The Frame of The Strap. Most Bails would be considered vertical structures.

The Canvas

The Canvas typically refers to the stringing materials. However, in a layered piece, may refer to any created “background or foundation” off of which or around which the main composition is built. The Canvas might be either a horizontal structure (like an arch or truss) or a vertical structure (like a wall or frame). It might be exposed, partially covered, or fully covered. It might change materials or construction systems along its length, such as transitioning from a cable wire to a chain.

It is important to know what The Canvas is made of, and how its function and appeal might improve or weaken as its Span is lengthened or shortened, widened or narrowed, over time. The steepness of its slope or positioning might also affect its integrity.

Sometimes more than one Canvas are interconnected. You can picture a necklace with additional strands crossing the chest from one side of The Strap to the other. You might also have a necklace where strands radiate out at angles from the neck and across the chest.

Architecturally, additional Canvases which span from one side to the other of a piece of jewelry operate like Trusses, Arches or Support Beams. These types of structures are referred to as Horizontal Structures.

The Embellishment

The Embellishment includes things like fringe, edging and surface decoration. Embellishments are decorative elements added for purposes of improving the visual appeal of a piece. Embellishments typically do not play any support or structural roles.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Design Philosophy: Not Craft, Not Art, But Design

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

Creativity: How Do You Get It? How Do You Enhance It?

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

Point, Line, Plane, Shape, Form, Theme: Creating Something Out Of Nothing

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

Contemporary Jewelry Is Not A “Look” — It’s A Way Of Thinking

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

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