Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My "Bless Me and Protect Me from Evil" Necklace

or, what to do with all of those old religious medals.

A while back, I created a one-of-a-kind necklace for myself that generates a conversation whenever I wear it.  I took 15 old religious medals (that kind generally worn by faithful Catholics), spaced them out, and hung them from a brass-colored chain with large links.  I picked out different shapes and sizes, some from my grandmother and mom, others that I had collected along my way in life.  Its longer length is great to wear with sweaters, and I really like that is jingle-jangles.  I call it my "Bless Me and Protect Me from All Evil" necklace. 

Here's a brief tutorial on how you can make one!

First, collect all of the medals you have (or can get your hands on).  Looks a flea markets, thrift stores, and through the drawers and jewelry boxes of relatives and/or friends.  Let people know you're looking for them, and you'd be surprised how many you'll get!  You may have to pay a couple of dollars each for them at a flea market, but don't be afraid to bargain!

Sort through the medals and select the ones you'd like to use -- you can pick a theme (one of mine has medals featuring the Blessed Virgin Mary, another is made up of only saints), or stick to a color (silver, brass, gold), or make a mixed metal necklace, which is what I prefer.  I like to select unusual shapes -- crosses, ovals, cut-out medals, squares, etc.  Lay out your medals in a pleasing manner.  This necklace has the largest medal in the center, and each one is a bit smaller working out to each side.  I have put smaller medals next to the large one in the center on helps fill in the gaps created by very large medals.
You'll need 21 inches of chain, and one jump ring for each medal, plus two for the clasp.

The center medal is a 'book' that opens!
I select a chain with larger links in a 'neutral' color, usually gun-metal grey or brass.  I buy this by the inch/foot at The Bead Garden, in Havertown, Pa., ( ) which is my local bead store.  These necklaces are 21" long.  You'll also need jump rings -- these are the little round or oval-shaped rings that can open with a pair of chain nose or round nose pliers.  Start in the center of your necklace.  Open a jump ring, slip on the medal, and slip the jump ring through the center link on your chain.  Close the jump ring.  A note about opening and closing jump rings:  jump rings are in a nice, round circle.  Don't pull the cut ends away from each other and distort the circle.  Instead, use the pliers to hold one side of the ring, and use your thumb to push the ring down and away from you, until you have a big enough opening to slip on the medal.  Then, use your fingers (or a second pair of pliers) to pull the ring back up toward you, until the cut ends are even and touching.  Some medals may already have a jump ring on can use it, but I replace them so all of the jump rings are the same.

Depending on how big your center medal is, you'll want to count over a few links to hang the next one.  In the photo above, I hung the next medal four links over to the right, and then the third four links over to the left of center.  After I put on each pair of medals, I hold the chain up and see if the placement is good -- I want the medals to be separate, but still clink together when the necklace is worn.  Continue adding medals, right and left, until all of them are on your chain.
The last thing to add is a clasp.  I prefer a hook and a jump ring's easy for me to do myself.  The weight of the medals will keep the necklace from coming undone while you are wearing it. 
That's it!  You have a one-of-a kind piece of jewelry, with a little added protection from above (we hope!). 

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