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Riveting custom bead caps and beads

Create custom bead caps, then use a classic cold-connection technique to make a stunning focal
Just riveting_hero

Highlight a bead with handmade bead caps and create a personalized centerpiece. Learning basic metalwork techniques like sawing, texturing, and tube riveting isn’t hard, and these skills expand your jewelry-making possibilities to grand proportions.


one bead

  • 18–25 mm focal bead with large hole
  • 1–3 4 x 2-in. (10 x 5 cm) pieces of 22-gauge sterling silver or 24-gauge copper or brass sheet
  • 7/8–1 1⁄4 in. (2.2–3.2 cm) sterling silver tubing, 3⁄16-in. (5 mm) outside diameter (OD)
  • anvil or bench block
  • ball-peen hammer
  • bench pin
  • dapping block and dapping punches
  • dividers or circle templates
  • files: round, flat, and half-round
  • fine-tip permanent marker
  • hole punch or center punch and drill
  • jeweler’s fine-grit sandpaper
  • jeweler’s saw and 4/0 blades
  • liver of sulfur or Black Max oxidizer (optional)
  • metal stamps or other materials for texturing metal
  • nonpermanent felt-tip pen
  • plumb bob or tapered tool
  • polishing cloth
  • ruler
  • scribe (optional)
  • vibrating engraver or flexible shaft (optional)
Just riveting_photo a
Just riveting_photo b

1. Plan how many bead caps you would like to stack on each end of the bead. The largest bead cap should start with a circle that is 10–12 percent larger than the diameter of the bead; for example, a cap for a 20 mm bead should start as a 22 mm diameter circle. Additional bead caps will be progressively smaller. 

2. Using the dividers or an appropriately sized template, draw a circle on the metal sheet using the felt-tip pen. Using the ruler, draw a line through the center of the circle. Draw a perpendicular line through the circle, then divide each of the four segments in half (PHOTO A). If you want a more detailed edging, continue dividing each segment in half until you have the desired number of segments for your edging.

3. Using your ruler or a template, mark each line an equal distance from the edge. Draw in your edging using the felt-tip pen (PHOTO B). This sample shows a large cap with a scalloped edge that comes in 1 mm from the outer circle. The outer cap on Jima’s bead features an organic, irregular flame design, which comes in further from the outer circle. Once your design is finalized, trace it with the permanent marker. If desired, you can scribe the design with a scribe or sharp object before tracing it with the permanent marker to make the line sharper and easier to follow with your saw.

4. Using the jeweler’s saw, cut along the outer edge, following your lines. Use a hole punch or a center punch and drill to create a hole in the center of the disk (PHOTO C). Because dapping the disk into the dome shape will enlarge the hole, create a hole slightly smaller in diameter than your metal tubing.

5. To decorate the disk with stampings, set the disk on an anvil or bench block, position the stamp where you would like the design to appear, and hit the end of the stamp with your hammer (PHOTO D). You can also use the hammer itself, a vibrating engraver, flexible shaft, or other tools to create the textures and patterns you desire. 

Just riveting_photo c
Just riveting_photo d

6. Set the disk face down in the largest depression on your dapping block and place the appropriate dapping punch above it. Hit the top of the dapping punch with your hammer to shape the disk (PHOTO E). Turn the disk several times, and continue dapping until the disk conforms to the dome of the depression. Remove the disk from the depression, and set it in the next smallest depression. Continue dapping, changing dapping punches as needed, and checking the size of the bead cap against the bead frequently. Smaller bead caps may not need to be dapped as tightly as larger bead caps; check the size of the cap against the cap it will sit above.

7. Refine the edges of the bead cap with the files (PHOTO F). If necessary, enlarge the hole in the bead cap using a round file.

8. Repeat steps 2–7 to make the desired number of bead caps for both ends. If desired, oxidize the caps using liver of sulfur or Black Max according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Polish the pieces with a polishing cloth. 

Just riveting_photo e
Just riveting_photo f
Just riveting_photo g
Just riveting_photo h
Just riveting_photo i

1. String the bead caps and focal on the tubing in the desired order, leaving 1⁄16 in. (2 mm) of the tubing protruding from the end. Mark the tubing 1⁄16 in. (2 mm) from the other side of the bead with the permanent marker (PHOTO G).

2. Remove the pieces from the tubing, and use the jeweler’s saw to cut the tubing at the marked line. Replace the pieces on the tubing, and set them securely on a hard surface, such as a work bench or bench block. The bead needs to be held firmly in place so it will not wobble or roll as you work, and you need to be able to turn the piece over repeatedly. 

3. Position the plumb bob or tapered tool in the tubing (PHOTO H), and strike twice with the hammer to begin flaring the tubing. Flip the bead over, and repeat on the other side. Repeat again on each side as necessary to get a flare started that will hold the beads in place.

4. Progress to using the small dapping punch in your set, and increase the size of the flared tube on each side. Use the hammer to flatten the rivet so it is almost flush with the surface of your bead (PHOTO I).

5. Sand the bead caps as necessary to remove any hammer marks, and polish with the polishing cloth.


Jima has been making riveted beads for years, but if you are just getting started with metalwork, here are a few tips for beginners:

  • Start with a simple design. It takes time to learn to saw well, so large scallop or star designs are easier for beginners than tiny detailed designs.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Use inexpensive brass or copper sheet metal to practice sawing, texturing, and shaping your bead caps before you start using more expensive metals. 
  • Experiment with focal beads. I was a little nervous about using a hammer near a beautiful art-glass bead, so I started out using sturdy resin beads as my focals. 
  • My beads kept rolling as I tried to start my rivets, so I set them back in the dapping block for the first few taps.

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