How to Finish Leather Cord Jewelry

Pyramid Wrap by Molly SchallerLong live the leather jewelry trend!  Visit any craft store and you’ll find lots of premade leather bracelet cuffs and necklace cords that already have clasps and closures attached.  You can make some fun jewelry with them, such as the Pyramid Bracelet by Molly Schaller shown here.

But you don’t need to limit yourself to premade pieces.  You can finish any leather or suede cord in a neat, professional way.  The key is figuring out which option is ideal for your project.  Some  work best for smooth, round leather cords, while others are more suitable for flat leather lace strips.  Each technique will give your jewelry a different vibe: sporty, romantic, natural, classic; choose the one that fits your jewelry style.

Here are six of the easiest ways to finish your leather cords:

1. Knotting

Type of leather: Both round cords and flat lace

To end a long leather cord necklace (the kind that doesn’t require a clasp), simply tie an overhand knot with the ends of the cords.  Pull the ends of the cord to tighten the knot.  If the cord has some rough texture (like flat suede lace), the knot will likely hold without glue.  (The weight from the beads on the necklace will help keep the knot at the back in place.)

overhand knotTips: Instead of an overhand knot, tie a double overhand knot by making one more revolution around the bottom cord before forming the knot.  This is a stronger knot, but it is also larger and more bulky.

I’ve had mixed success with knots made with smooth, round cords; some hold, some do not.  If your knot will not hold tight when you let go of it, then try another finishing technique.

If the knot does hold, you can dab a little glue (such as E-6000 or GS Hypo Cement) on the knot using a toothpick in a well-ventilated area. Let dry.  Adding glue to a knot secures it, but also makes it stiff, which could make it uncomfortable against the skin.

Once you become experienced with simple knots, you can use more sophisticated knotting options such as sliding knots and knotted button-and-loop clasps.

2. Wire Wrapping

Type of leather: Both round cords and flat lace

Fold the cord over a closed ring, split ring, or chain link. Use wire to wrap the two cords together. Thinner wire (24- to 26-gauge) will be easier to cover with other design elements; heavier wire will make more of a bold statement. If you’re having trouble wrapping the wire with your fingers, try using your flat-nose pliers.  Sometimes it’s easier to use a tool to get tight, neat wraps.  Tuck in the wire ends. Trim.

wire wrapping on cord

Tip: If you don’t want the wire wraps to show, you can cover them with bead cones, several jump rings, large-holed beads, or short bits of leather lace or cord.

In my Island of Capri Necklace, I used wire to wrap around the thin round cord connecting the beaded strands to the chain.  Then I used short strands of leather lace with simple knots to hide the wire.

Island of Capri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Adding Holes

Type of leather: Flat lace

Use a leather hole punch to add a hole at each end of your leather lace. Make sure the hole is not too close to the edges of the cord. Use a jump ring to attach the clasp of your choice to the leather lace.

Tip: The leather hole punch pictured is one purchased at a hardware store.  You can turn the spoked wheel to choose the size of the hole.  (I always use the smallest setting for jewelry.)  A smaller leather punch with just one hole size is available at craft stores.
punching holes in leather

I used this technique for my Moroccan Holiday bracelet. I added jump rings to each hole in the leather.  One end has a lobster clasp.

Moroccan Holiday

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Using Cord End Findings

Type of leather: Round cords

There are several types of cord ends; all work the same way. Buy the cord end size that most closely matches the diameter of your cord. Ideally, you want the cord to fit snugly inside the cord end.  In a well-ventilated area, dab a heavy strength glue (such as E-6000 or GS Hypo Cement) inside cord end using a toothpick and insert cord. If needed, use a jump ring to add the clasp of your choice to the cord. Let dry.

Cord ends

  • Hook cord end: One cord end has a hook, while the other has a loop.  The cord end is the closure; no need to add a clasp. This kind of clasp is better for a necklace than a bracelet; the weight of the necklace will help keep the hook from slipping out of the ring.
  • Magnetic tube: The cord end is the closure; no need to add a clasp. The magnet can be quite strong, so you’ll want to make sure that the glue is fully set before giving the clasp a tug.  Also, remember that people with pacemakers should not use magnetic clasps.
  • Foldover clasp with cord ends: The foldover clasp connected to these large cord ends is a secure one, making it a good choice for bracelets.
  • Coil: You’ll need to use a jump ring to connect the loop on the coil to the clasp of your choice.

Tip: Instead of using one large cord, braid three smaller cords together to fit into a larger cord end.

Cord ends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Using Ribbon Clamps

Type of leather: Flat lace

These are sometimes called ribbon ends or ribbon crimps, but they are not just for ribbon!

Choose a ribbon clamp that is the same width as your leather. Insert the flat cord into the ribbon clamp. Use your flat-nose pliers to close the ribbon clap. The teeth on the clamp help it grip the leather; no need for glue. Use a jump ring to attach the clasp of your choice to the loop on the ribbon clamp.

ribbon ends with leather
6. Using Foldover Cord Ends

Type of leather: Flat lace

These might also be called crimp cord end caps.

Foldover cord ends come in a number of sizes; choose the one that most closely matches the width of your cord. Some foldover cord ends are smooth; others are textured. The textured ones not only look pretty, but they help hold in the cord by providing some additional friction inside the cord end.

Insert the cord into the cord end. Make sure the back of the cord is facing up. (The fold portion will be at the back of the cord.) The cord should be just below the loop on the finding.  Use the flat-nose pliers to fold one flap of the cord end closed. Fold the other half.

Foldover cord ends with leatherTip: If desired, you can dab glue into the cord end before closing. Generally, if the leather cord and the foldover clasp are both not super smooth, glue is not required.

That said, if you find that the leather lace moves around when you’re trying to fold over the ends, you might try a small dab of glue just to hold it in place while you close the finding.

I used multiple foldover clasp ends in my Magenta Magic necklace. The cord ends at the front of the necklace connect to a ring; the ones at the back connect to the clasp.

Magnetic Magic Necklace

 

Discover Your Own Techniques

These are just a few of the ways to finish suede and leather cord jewelry.  Once you gain some experience, don’t be afraid to mix things up.  Maybe you can fit round leather cord into a flat ribbon clamp or perhaps you’ll find that you prefer the chunky look of 20-gauge wire wrapping on leather.  There are lots of possibilities—you best get started!

Michelle Mach

About Michelle Mach

Michelle Mach is a jewelry designer in Colorado. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines including Jewelry Stringing, Beadwork, BeadStyle, and others. She also edits jewelry how-to books, most recently Fine Art Wire Weaving, Bead Metamorphosis, and Mastering Herringbone Stitch. She is the author of Unexpected Findings: 50+ Clever Jewelry Designs Featuring Everyday Components.

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