Anatomy of a Rosary
These instructions will help you make a five-decade rosary using one of the more traditional methods of simple wire loop connections. This type of loop in loop connecting of beads is sometimes referred to as a rosary chain. Other methods used to make rosaries are bead stringing and wire wrapped loop connections.
What distinguishes a rosary, however, is not the method that is used to make it, but the pattern of beads in the chain which are used to signify the prayers to be recited.
To make a rosary, the following materials are required:
- 53 six- to eight-millimeter beads for the decades
- 6 larger separator beads
- 14 short pieces of chain to connect the decade beads, the separator beads, and the rosary components
- Wire or headpins
- A rosary connector medal
- A cross or crucifix
- 4 open jump rings
To make a rosary, the following basic wire jewelry making tools are needed:
- Wire cutter
- Flat nose pliers
- Round nose pliers or step bail making pliers with a small barrel
Bail making pliers are a type of round nosed pliers with one or two jaws that are the same diameter the length of the plier. Step pliers have several different size round barrels on each side of the plier jaw. These types of pliers make it super easy to make consistent sized loops.
To make consistent size loops with round nose pliers, mark the place to wrap the wire on the jaw of the plier with a sharpie marker.
Rosary Medallion Connectors and Crosses
Another thing that characterizes the rosary beside the pattern of the beads is the medallion connector and cross or crucifix. These are available in a wide variety of sizes, styles, and patterns. The rosary center is a three-way connector and may have a Saint or other significant image on it. The Crucifix or cross will dangle from the point of the connector.
Choose a medallion and cross that match the style and size of the beads.
Assembling Rosary Chain
The traditional structure of rosary prayer beads is five groups of 10 beads (decades) separated by an additional bead.
For each beaded segment, cut a piece of wire to size, turn a loop on one end to make an eye pin, add the bead, and then turn a loop on the other. Repeat this a total of 53 times.
To get a head start making a rosary, you can opt to use eye pins instead of cutting wire for each rosary link.
No matter whether wire or headpins are used, it is important to figure out how long each wire or headpin should be so the links and loops are consistent. Once you know the size, you can cut all of the wire, then turn all of the loops on the end to make headpins. To make the loops, follow these instructions for making a simple wire loop. To make consistent loops, the step pliers are easier to use than graduated round nose pliers.
Once you have made all of the components, link them together by twisting open the loop to the side using chain (aka flat) nose pliers. Slip the next loop in place and close the loop. Join the beads into five groups of ten and a small chain of three beads.
Adding Chain and Bead Spacers
The separator beads are slightly larger than the main beads and they are joined to the decade bead segments with a piece of chain. Traditionally, about three links of chain are used, but it may vary depending on the size and type of chain used.
Cut six pieces of wire for the connectors and 14 segments of chain to add the connectors and rosary parts. Make a loop on each side, add a connector bead, and add a second loop to make each connector bead component. Open the loop to add a chain segment on each side of the connector bead. These segments will be used to join the decade bead segments you made in the last step. There will be two extra pieces of chain. These are used to connect the decade strands to the rosary medallion.
Attaching the Decade Beads and Rosary Medallion
To connect the decade bead strands, using your chain nose pliers, open the loop on one side of the decade ten bead strand. Add the connector bead by slipping the chain segment onto the loop and closing the loop. Repeat until all five decade bead segments are connected.
Use the same technique to add a piece of chain to each end of the now long strand. Open a jump ring and attach the chain on each side to the top of the rosary medallion.
Completing the Rosary
The shorter strand on a rosary is connected to the main strand by the rosary connector. This strand is made up of a connector bead, three decade beads, a connector bead, and then a crucifix or cross. The connector beads are joined to the decade beads with a segment of chain, as are the rosary medallion and cross.
To connect the pieces, use a jump ring to connect the rosary parts to the chain, and open the loops on the decade beads, add the chain on the connector beads and close the loops to secure.
Wearing Rosary Beads
In religious tradition, rosary beads are not meant as adornment or outward signs of faith, but as assistance in practicing devotion to recite prayers. However, rosary style jewelry is widely available.
Many different necklace designs are similar to the traditional rosary—from the use of simple loop wire connections between beads, the bead configuration of five repetitions of ten beads with a separator, or the Y shape of a necklace with a beaded drop containing a pendant. Some designs are meant to reinforce the religious symbolism, while others are pure fashion with little religious significance.