Clay beads are one of the earliest forms of personal adornment, with examples as old as 40,000 years being found in archeological digs. They were also used as currency in the form of bracelets that were easy to carry during long treks, then traded for goods.
In more modern times, people use clay beads to enhance their outfits, make a statement about themselves, or simply wear them because they’re pretty.
Clay bead bracelets are primarily made from synthetic materials that create a seemingly limitless number of designs. There’s no end to the designs that can be made with polymer clay and the colors used in their creation. You’ll find it hard to stop once you start looking at clay bead bracelets to add to your stash because there are so many amazing variations to pick from.
Here’s a look at why clay bead bracelets belong on your wrist and in your jewelry box.
What are clay bead bracelets
A clay bead bracelet is a bracelet that’s made with clay beads strung on jewelry wire or stretch cord. These are often made from polymer clay beads, but vinyl is also used because it gives the appearance of clay when turned into a finished bead. A clay bead bracelet can be made to any size, use any shape and size of bead, and is worn for fun, to match an outfit, or for the joy of expressing oneself.
Most clay bead bracelets are strung onto elastic string or cord for ease of putting on and wearing. Sometimes they’re put onto beading wire and closed with a clasp to protect against a broken cord.
A million wrists can't be wrong
Clay bead bracelets are popular for a multitude of reasons. They’re inexpensive, yet provide a feeling of happiness and satisfaction that’s worth more than their low price point. It’s easy to replace a broken bracelet with a new one, but it’s just as easy to buy a bunch of them for stacking or matching with an outfit.
Overall, clay bead bracelets are fun and show the world that you’re not afraid to express yourself.
Clay bead bracelets to rock your world
The following is a look at 12 stunning clay bead bracelets you’ll love wearing. They range from Boho looks to minimal designs to options with bright colorful beads that practically jump off your wrist. Wear one style together or mix them up to make a statement of your choosing.
Bohemian bracelets — such as this beautiful example from NBDesignBoutique on Etsy — refers to a style of art and clothing that arose during the Art Nouveau period of the late 19th century, but it’s also used for how people dressed during the hippy era of the 60s and 70s. It’s an eclectic style that is associated with golds, browns, and earthy greens for the 19th century version and bright colors with mismatched prints for the 60s/70s version.
Tribal clay beads — like those seen in this gorgeous bracelet by on Etsy — feature designs that look like traditional African glass trade beads. Their beauty lies in their irregular shapes, simple geometric patterns, earthy colors, and defined textures.
Geometric clay beads — like those shown here from YourDIYSupply on Etsy — are less common than heishi and round shapes, but they’re worth searching out, especially when you want to stand out. Geometric beads come in diamond shapes, squares, tubes, and just about any shape that can carry a hole for stringing.
Color is what drives clay beads as the material lends itself to creating a variety of effects, shades, and tones. You’ll find bracelets — like this vibrant example from ShopCraftyOctopus on Etsy — with beads made from solid colors, swirls, slices, and covered in designs that invite looks from passersby. Consider sticking with your personal color pallette or have fun with a bracelet that uses fluorescent colors.
Earthy bracelets — like this happy design by usagibliss on Etsy — are ones made with subdued, earthy colors and sometimes feature a botanical design. They’re great for making a statement about being in touch with nature or for those times you want color without being flashy.
Global clay beads — such as this stunning design by The Sample Room on Etsy — are inspired by tribes from around the world and ethnic enclaves that have developed their own distinctive style. They feature designs that are easily associated with the type of artwork a tribe is known for producing.
A minimalist bracelet is one that has little-to-nothing in the way of color shifts and design elements, as seen her in this pristine offering from EmoryHartDesigns. The colors are muted and can feature a simple bead that’s of a similar size with a minimal design. Its tones are also muted and flow together without standing out or clashing.
An embellished clay bead bracelet — like this delightful piece by TheKaylynnsKreations on Etsy — is one that features cane slices with pictures, has a focal bead that stands out from the rest of the bracelet, or features abstract designs. They’re distinctive in their look as they’re intended to make a statement about a day at the beach, a girl’s night out on the town, a holiday, or a favorite sport.
A classic clay bead bracelet — such as this stack of three from BandsbyMolly on Etsy — is one that’s made from one style of bead with little else to disrupt its appearance. They can consist of a single color, a combination of two or more colors, or have a metal heishi bead to break up the pattern. These types of clay bead bracelets are good for wearing with a conservative outfit as the colors won’t distract or detract.
The rainbow bracelet — like these from Laibracelets on Etsy — is great for those days where you feel like Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz and need something bright and cheery. It’s also great for making a personal statement if you prefer. Rainbows come in all colors, and you can wear a rainbow clay bead bracelet that fits your needs.
Do you have a favorite saying, or do you like to wear your name on your wrist as an ID? A statement bead bracelet — as seen here with these sweet bracelets by lylajoyjewelry on Etsy — lets you speak volumes without saying a word. Combining letter beads with clay beads brings together your preferred colors with a saying or name of your choice.
Nature-inspired clay bead bracelets — like this beautiful example from SupplyEmporium on Etsy — feature focal beads that have an image of an animal, bird, or insect. Wear one that has your favorite creature featured prominently, or for the simple fact that you like it.
How to Style Clay Bead Bracelets
You can style clay bead bracelets in any way you see fit. They’re great for expressing your mood, telling observers about yourself without saying a word, or completing an outfit. Here’s some ideas about how to style your clay bracelets.
Match with Outfit
The variety of clay bead bracelets gives rise to the opportunity to match an outfit for work or play. You can wear a loud and splashy polished bracelet for a day that calls for jeans and a t-shirt, or pick one with a subtle design and color scheme to wear with business attire.
Another idea is to wear a clay bracelet with discs or tire-shaped beads that are reminiscent of edible candy bead bracelets for a bit of fun with any type of outfit.
It’s a good idea to wear just one or two bracelets and keep a subtle appearance for work. However, there’s nothing that says that you can’t wear multiple bracelets and have fun.
Mix and Match Different Bracelets
Stacking different bracelets together on your wrists is fun, expressive, and simply works. Pull together a bunch of clay bracelets that match in terms of tones, patterns, and different colors for a cohesive visual, or have fun and put on whatever you feel like wearing.
Clay bracelets are a unique way to colorfully clash — or match — with each other or your outfit.
Make a Statement
Clay bead bracelets lend themselves nicely to making a statement that shows your interest in a cause. For example, you want to show your support for breast cancer. Look for a bracelet in pink and white, or one with pink ribbons on a white background, or wear both along with variations on the theme.
The same goes for any cause you’re passionate about — adding an accent bead to the middle of an existing bracelet is an easy way to explore adding meaning or inspiration to a fancier design you already love.
Care and Maintenance of Clay Bead Bracelets
Whether caring for your own bracelets or a friend’s, clay bead bracelets are sturdy but they are, like any other type of jewelry, prone to getting dirty and damaged. Here’s a look at how you can keep your clay bead bracelets looking good and repair them when they suffer damage.
Cleaning and Storage
Both polymer and fired clay beads are sensitive to the use of detergents when it comes to cleaning. The safest way to clean clay beads is to use a microfiber cloth with warm water and a light touch — of course following any care instructions from the maker. This protects the finish of the bead while removing dirt. In the event the cloth isn’t effective, you can use a cotton swab to gently rub the dirt and loosen it from the bead’s surface.
Using soap or acetone on a clay bead may cause the coating on the bead to rub off or damage the bead itself. You may need to put some effort into cleaning the bead with water, but you’ll also preserve the look of your clay bead bracelet for the long term.
Store your clay bead bracelets in a box with cotton padding to protect them from the light and from rubbing when the box is moved. This protects their surface from scratches and helps them look fresh and new.
Removing Tarnish and Discoloration
The coating or finish of a clay bead bracelet may turn yellow over time from exposure to UV light. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to be done to restore the beads to their original color or finish outside of stripping off the old sealant or finish and reapplying a new layer.
The best line of defense against tarnish and discoloration is to minimize exposure when you’re not wearing your bracelets.
Repairing Cracked and Broken Beads
The best method for repairing cracked or broken beads on your bracelet is using a thin cyanoacrylate glue. The secret behind the glue’s bonding abilities is the fact that it’s thin and flows into holes. Once you allow it to dry and cure completely it creates an incredibly strong bond that holds the bead together.
It’s worth noting that it’s not always possible to repair a cracked or broken bead, but there’s nothing wrong with trying.
If necessary, you can create a completely new bead, which is a cool project for craft beginners. Once find a suitable material, roll out, bake, and cure your new bead — then string it into your favorite bracelet to add even more personality to the finished product.
Stringing it together
There’s a lot to like about clay bead bracelets that go beyond their fun factor. They’re affordable, versatile, durable, and are limitless in terms of their designs and colors.
The above list of 12 clay bead bracelet ideas helps you get started on finding designs that work for you. You can identify the style that you like best, and build out your collection based on the initial design. Another way to use the list is to discover new styles of clay bead bracelet designs that you might not have seen before.
It’s always fun to discover new things, and the list can help you go down the virtual rabbit hole of finding new ideas.
Benefits of Wearing Clay Bead Bracelets
Wearing clay bracelets has a host of benefits that range from lifting your mood to making a statement. They’re inexpensive and enable you to build an entire collection that’s full of versatility. You can mix and match or stack them, wear one at a time, have a color spectrum that matches with everything in your wardrobe, and more.
The ultimate benefit of wearing a clay bead bracelet is that it makes you feel good about yourself.
Tips for Maintaining Clay Bead Bracelets
It’s wise to keep in mind that clay bead bracelets are strong and durable, but are also prone to breaking unexpectedly. The cord used in many bracelets, whether elastic or faux leather, will lose its stretch over time, weaken, and break. Hitting a countertop or desk with the small beads can result in a broken bead.
However, all is not lost when a cord or bead has broken as you can restring or glue them back together.
Restringing the beads into a new bracelet is easy, and you can do it repeatedly for a favorite bracelet by using fresh elastic cord, which is readily available at craft stores. It’s also a good time to wash the dirt off the beads and make them shine again. Store your clay bead bracelets in a dark place to prevent UV damage to both the beads and cord to help them last.