Pearls – Knotted vs Strung

knotted vs strung

Traditionally – pearls were knotted – strung on silk with a knot tied between each pearl. This was when pearls were enormously valuable and rare, and later, because it was just traditional and if you had imitation pearls – you wanted them to look like the real thing – right down to the method of stringing.

Nowadays – you can get reasonably priced pearls, and very fine imitations – all at budget friendly prices. So, would you still want to knot your pearls?

Traditionally – the reasons given for knotting pearls were

  1. if the strand broke, you only lost one or two
  2. the knots prevented the pearls from rubbing on each other and damaging each other

I’m going to add, that I strongly suspect that there was a 3rd, unspoken reason, is that a strand of knotted pearls is longer than the same length un-knotted, and so they looked like a better deal. And 4th, also unspoken, is that the silk will age and the pearls will need to be restrung, at your local jewelers, for a per-knot fee. Sorry – just me being cynical. ๐Ÿ˜‰

But over and above this – Pearls, or anything strung on silk with knots in between, will move and draped completely differently than something just strung.

Check out these two necklaces. Both are 80 pearls (6mm Preciosa Cream) knotted vs strung. The clasps are about the same size. The knotted pearls are strung on a creamy silk, about 3 meters worth, and wound up about 25 inches long, 64 cm. The knotting could be more consistent, I grant you – and by about 60 pearls – I had gotten back into the swing of it. It has been some time since I knotted pearls. While we have tools to help, all I used was a pair of tweezers to finesse the knot into position.

box clasp – with crimped beading wire (Softflex)

The strung version, with clasp, came out at 18 inches, about 48cm. It is strung on medium softflex, and crimped at the ends.

box clasp, and knot covers. A small bead is inside the knot cover, with the cord knotted around it. The knot cover, like a clamshell tip, goes on second to last, and a small bead after. A knot is formed around the small bead, and the knot cover is closed up over it. This is one of the traditional ways to finish knotted pearls.

But back to the topic of drape and movement. Note here, the knotted version lies in loose loops, while I physically hold the strung version in a loop …

And as soon as I release it, it sproings open.

Now, that is a function of the stiffness of the beading wire. It’s not the knots, it’s the silk that is soft. But you can’t successfully tie that many knots in beading wire without destroying it.

And each is its own look, and of course, knotting takes a bit more practice and skill. And time. Definitely more time. If you need a knotting course, check in with Amanda for what might be coming up, or check out youtube. Knotting isn’t hard.

And I will hazard the opinion that if you are looking to give a thoughtful and traditional gift to a bride or graduate or perhaps someone a little older – hand-knotted pearls will blow their socks off.

Pearls. Classic for a reason. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  1. I knot most of my necklaces. The “hand” and drape of the knotted necklace just feels better. That said, I am not above using wire for a quick necklace for The Lady to wear tonight. I try to match the harness of the beads with each other or stick in metal spacers between beads.

  2. Mary Vincent

    Hi there.

    If it is real pearls, I knot especially if it also has sterling or 10k beads. The other case for knotting would be for restringing old beads. I am restringing my Mother’s 1950’s faux pearls and am knotting in between each bead.

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