Updated: Sep 8, 2021
By Craig Jones
(10) strands of Teton Synthetic Disc Beads. 16" per strand, the bone color was used in this project
(4) bags of Teton Barley Corn Beads. The greasy blue color was used in the project
(1) bag of Teton Skunk Beads. The greasy blue color was used in this project.
(2) Teton Replica Resin Conch Discs. The smooth edge was used in this project.
(2) bags of Teton Brass Shoe Buttons.
Misc materials. Thick, brown harness leather, white brain tan hide for lacing, brass beads for the ends of each loop. Imitation sinew can also be used to string the disc beads (the author suggests doubling the sinew).
Planning your necklace. I recommend that the first loop is about 10" long, each successive loop should be an additional inch. Meaning the first loop is 10", second 11", third 12" and so on. There are a lot of variations of these necklaces, some are actually quite short, some have the loops all the same length. I chose to create a graduated loop necklace that is most commonly found in museums and worn by dancers. Planning your necklace is pretty straightforward. If each strand is 16" and you have 10 strands, you will have a total length of 160 inches. To plan how many strands you need to buy, add up each strand and you should have your total. The 10 strands of synthetic beads, when the first strand is 10" requires a total of 145 inches.
Start by laying out your harness. Your first hole should be 1.5" from the top of the strap so you have room for a neck loop. Each hole should be spaced 1" apart until you have enough loops. My necklace will have 11 strands, with the last strand being made up of some disc beads, barleycorn beads, and brass shoe buttons.
Old necklaces and breastplates like this were typically made by piercing the harness through the side, not through the top grain like most breastplates, chockers, and necklaces are made today. This modern adaptation is primarily due to the difficulty of finding a harness strap that is thick enough to pierce the side and so a thinner strap is used with holes punched through the top grain. I chose to do this the old way to get the right look. You can choose to do yours however you like, either way, is fine.
Several awls were used to open up the hole to accommodate the leather thong.
A large eye needle was used to thread the lace through the harness, then the brass bead, then start stringing the disc beads.
The disc beads come strung already and it is easiest to just thread them right off the string them come on. This makes the project move quicker. Continue to string your necklace as you designed it.
You may want to consider a leather thong to go around your back to hold the bottom of the necklace in place, but this is not required. You can tie the conch discs to the harness leather either through the 2 holes in the center or you can drill a hole at the top and suspend them. Some old necklaces have the shells suspended like this and I chose this method to replicate that old look.
An antique necklace was used as the model and inspiration for this necklace. Note how the brass shoe buttons were laced into a piece of strap leather. This was a common variation on the necklace. I chose the greasy blue beads for the contrast to compliment the greasy blue skunk beads in the middle of the necklace.