Current Fabrication Time: Approx. 4 Weeks

How to Use Captive Bead Rings

How to Use Captive Bead Rings

If you aren’t familiar with captive bead rings, then my septum hoops and cartilage earrings may be frustrating to work with at first. I promise it gets easier the more you practice! Please note, some of these recommendations only apply to the jewelry that I make.

A captive ring has to be adjusted so that it fits tight enough to hold the bead in with tension. It’s very important that you don’t use tools to open or close a captive ring that you purchase from me if it’s 18 gauge, 16 gauge, or 14 gauge. I make my hoops out of niobium, which is a softer metal and easy to accidentally deform if you aren’t using your hands. When you first get your hoop make sure that you don’t pull the bead out forcefully as this can damage the coil. Instead, hold the hoop and pull the bead to one side in a horizontal motion. This motion will make the opening wider and one side of the bead will pop out so that you can remove it. You can put the bead back into the hoop using the same motion in reverse.

Table of Contents

How does a captive bead ring work?

A captive ring is meant to hold the bead in the gap with tension. A traditional captive bead ring (CBR) uses a small ball that has dimples on either side. I find these difficult to work with, which is why I chose to use a coil for the backside of my jewelry. The way that you create the tension on the bead is by adjusting the opening of the hoop so that it’s smaller than the bead itself. You apply this to my jewelry style by making the opening of your hoop a smaller width than the length of the coil.

Designs you may like:

Each one is made out of high quality, nickel-free materials. The captive hoops are made out of pure niobium, and the beads are made out of tarnish-resistant silver or solid gold. 

How do I get my captive bead ring open?

When you first get your captive ring from me I’ve already adjusted it so that it holds the bead tightly. You will need to pull the bead using a horizontal motion, which will allow one size of the bead to pop out because you're using the bead to push one end of the hoop away from the other end. You are not pulling the bead out of the opening vertically or forcefully, it’s just being pushed/pulled horizontally as if it is strung on a string that hangs between the two ends of the hoop. The horizontal pulling motion will make the bead slightly widen the gap in the hoop, which will release the tension on the bead. You can then lift it fully out of the hoop.

How do I put the captive bead back in the ring?

To put the bead back in the hoop line up one end of the hoop with one side of the coil and repeat the same motion you used to remove it in reverse so that you can pop the bead back into place. If the hoop is adjusted correctly the bead will sit firmly in place and a gentle tug will not dislodge it. It will be able to rotate freely in place, this isn’t a defect. 

One thing that you will want to check is the alignment of the ends of the hoop. They should be aligned with each other. If they aren’t, and one side of the hoop sticks out further than the other side, then your bead will not seat in properly. The picture below shows how the ends are supposed to line up together - if there wasn't a gap, the hoop would create one continuous circle.

The ends should line up like this to properly hold the bead.

Ends that don't line up won't keep your bead in place well.

My bead is falling forward! Is it broken?

If the bead is flipping forward on your hoop there’s nothing wrong with your jewelry. All you need to do is take the hoop out and adjust the opening so that it’s smaller than the length of the coil. A bead that falls forward like the one pictured below just means that there isn’t enough tension in the hoop to securely hold it in place.

My captive bead ring fell out. What happened?

If your bead fell out of the hoop, then it’s most likely an issue of tension. The ring can’t hold the bead securely if the opening is small enough. For smaller gauges, like 18 gauge, you may need to squeeze the opening closed more than you think you do to create the amount of tension necessary. Notice how the gap in the hoop pictured is smaller than the length of the coil.

Another reason why the bead may fall out is if you sleep in your jewelry and it snagged on your bedding or clothes. I don’t recommend keeping the bead in the hoop while you sleep (or shower) because it’s the most likely time that you will lose the jewelry.

Help, I can’t get the bead into the hoop! What do I do?

If you’re having a hard time getting the bead into your ring, then you are probably dealing with one of these two issues. First, make sure your hands are clean. If you’re trying to insert the bead with any type of oil on your fingers (like what you would use to lubricate the hoop to insert it), then you will have a very difficult time working with the bead. I personally think wearing nitrile gloves with textured fingertips makes working with captive beads much easier because they give you better grip.

Once you’ve ruled that out, check the opening of the hoop. While it does need to be smaller than the length of the coil to hold the bead you can adjust it too small. If the opening is adjusted too small you will have a hard time inserting the bead back in place. You may also have difficulty working with the jewelry if you purchased a hoop that is too small for your piercing (smaller inner diameters are always harder to close). 

Need some new jewelry? Check these out:

Each one is made out of high quality, nickel-free materials. They're the perfect size for septum, helix, daith, and conch piercings.

How do I make the design stay centered in my captive bead ring?

If you’re having a problem with the design falling to one side try using some o-rings on the hoop. Place an o-ring on either side of your piercing. When you purchase o-rings, you need to buy one gauge smaller than the gauge that you wear so that it has a tight hold.

There are two types of o-rings available for body jewelry. The first is made out of silicone, which is a stretchier material and least likely to irritate sensitive skin. The downside to silicone o-rings is that because they are stretchier they fit more loosely on the jewelry. To combat this I just double up on them (so for this application you would put two o-ring on either side of your piercing for a total of four). 

The other type is made out of nitrile, which creates a tighter hold on the jewelry because it isn’t as stretchy.

Why is my silver bead turning black and how do I fix it?

All silver will eventually tarnish, including the tarnish-resistant silver that I make my captive beads out of. It usually progresses from a slightly yellow color, then to a brown color, to finally a dull dark grey/black color. It’s important to note that tarnish in terms of silver is not the same as rust (your silver doesn’t rust). This can happen faster if you wear your jewelry while you shower, or if you live in a very humid environment.

Tarnish on silver is a result of silver sulfide, which is what creates that dull, dark appearance. Moisture alone does not cause the silver to tarnish, however, humidity does have an effect on atmospheric sulfur which is the cause of tarnished silver. 

If your bead has started to tarnish you can easily restore it back to the way it looked when it was new. Use a silver polishing pad (or cloth) to restore the shine, and always store your beads in a bag with an anti-tarnish tab when they aren't being worn. Your package contained a small polishing pad square (white) and an anti-tarnish tab (black) if you ordered a silver captive design from me. 

You can also use 1500 grit sandpaper on the front side of the bead to restore the brushed finish if needed after polishing. This will also fix any scuff marks that happen after dropping the bead on a hard surface. Make sure you are only using the sandpaper in a horizontal motion across the front side of the bead design, never use sandpaper on your hoop.

How do I adjust the width of the hoop opening?

To adjust the tension on the bead you will have to make the hoop opening wider or narrower. It should always be slightly smaller than the length of the coil on the back of your design. To adjust it to create more tension on the bead gently squeeze both sides of the hoop until the opening is smaller. If you're having a difficult time inserting the bead into the hoop try lessening the tension by gently pulling the ends of the hoop further apart. Make sure the gap is still smaller than the coil otherwise the bead will just fall forward when you insert it into your piercing. When the tension is adjusted correctly you will be able to gently tug on the bead and it won't pull out of the hoop (it will still rotate in place if you manually push it). 

Squeeze the ends of the hoop closer to create more tension. Never do this while the hoop is in your piercing.

Carefully pull the ends further away from one another if needed. Make sure the gap is still smaller than the coil.

I'm still having trouble getting the bead in. Help!

If you've already followed all of the above tips and you're still having a difficult time inserting the bead, then it's possible that you're trying to wear a hoop that's too small for your piercing. Make sure you have taken the time to measure your actual piercing using one of my size guides. Some piercing locations will need to have extra size added to the hoop to accommodate the space that the design will take up (septum and daith). I always list how much of the inner diameter the bead design will take up in the product description for this reason. You can find my measuring guides here:

Video Example - Using Captive Bead Rings

This video shows how to properly remove the bead, as well as how to adjust the gap in the hoop so that it holds the bead securely.

Captive Bead Rings You Might Like

Check out some of these unique captive bead ring designs by Metal Lotus! Each one is made one at a time by a single artist in small batches using high quality materials. 

Death's Head Moth CBR

This niobium hoop features a silver death's head moth captive bead design (also available in solid gold). It's the perfect size for septum, daith, conch & helix piercings. 

Moose Skull CBR

This niobium hoop features a silver moose skull captive bead design with antiqued details. It's completely nickel-free and can be used for septum, daith, conch & helix piercings.