Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Balance in Earrings

If you haven't noticed, I've been making matching earrings for most of my recent beading patterns. The Cosmic Windows design is no exception. Here's the matching pair for the Antique Glass colorway:

What you may not have noticed is that I spend a lot of time engineering these earrings to make sure that they're balanced. Unlike pendants or bracelets, earrings do not have a surface to lean against when worn, so if too much of the weight of the earring is on the front, back, top, or bottom, the earring will not hang correctly. Unbalanced earrings can lean forward or backward from the viewer, taking the eye away from the focal point, and ultimately making the earring unattractive. Unbalanced earrings can also be downright uncomfortable to wear.

So, how do we solve this balance problem? Well, there are a couple of different strategies that I've learned to use to make well-balanced beaded earrings.

Design Symmetry

One way to get a balanced earring is to design it to be the same on the front as it is on the back. My Tila Droplet charms naturally make for well-balanced earrings for this reason. See how the bottom drop bead lines up with the top connecting seed bead? Since both sides of the earring have the same beads, its weight is naturally symmetrically balanced.

If you can't get the earring to be exactly the same on the front and the back, another option is to symmetrically balance the weight down the center of the earring. I do this in these Fiberoptic "Egg" earrings, a variation on the Fiberoptic Duo beaded bead design:

Even Weight Distribution

If it isn't possible to design the earring to look the same on both sides, you can still make a balanced earring by distributing its weight evenly between the front and the back. Here you can see how the Cosmic Windows earrings face the viewer without tilting forward:

The reason for this is that the bulk of the weight of the earring is sitting in the middle of the component; if you cut down the center of the earring so that the front is in one piece, and the back is in another, both sides will have about the same weight. You can see this more clearly in this side view:

In this case I've engineered the cosmic crystal to sit in the same plane as the bail, positioning the crystal slightly above the tila bead frame and not below it. This puts the bulk of the weight of the earring right in the middle, and naturally solves the balance issue.

Thoughtful Bail Engineering

Unfortunately, it isn't always easy to engineer a beaded earring to have symmetrical weight across the component. The Tropical Dahlia pendant is like this, as are its matching earrings. To solve this inherent balance dilemma, I turned my attention to the positioning of the bail.

Usually, it's easy to add a bail to a pair of earrings; you just make a little loop for the ear wire in the most convenient position in the beadwork. The problem with this approach is that this position doesn't always lead to a balanced earring. You can see what this looks like in the earring on the right; the natural bail position is too far backward, so the face of the flower points downward and away from the eye. The earring on the left shows a bail engineered with balance in mind; the bail is anchored to both the front and the back of the component, resulting in a much more pleasing look.

I used this same strategy for the earrings of the Fiberoptic Dodecahedron Set. These earrings have five points of seed beads built into the star-shaped component, which mimics the stars on the matching beaded bead. At first, I tried weaving the bail up from one of these points, but when I added the ear wire, the earring would tilt forward, away from the eye of the viewer. So, I instead built the bail up from a middle set of seed beads, resulting in a more balanced design.

It makes for a much more tedious way of finishing the beaded earring, but in the end, it's an important detail that makes for much more solid design.

How do you achieve balance in beaded earrings? Do you create symmetrical components, or do you focus on the bail? Or do you use a different strategy?


  1. Great photos with very clear explanations. Thank you for such an informative blog post!

  2. Your posts are always a delight - informative and well researched - thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks and you're very welcome! Sometimes I think I'm a little too detail-oriented with regard to my beadwork, but in this case, I think it's a detail worth obsessing over :)

  4. What a great article! I've long admired your work, but hadn't followed your blog before. Today Onye Obama-Ndika shared this on FB.

    I think this article deserves a permanent link on the open FaceBook group, Beading Information. It will be the first item in a Jewelry Design file. Thank you for allowing me to share this, along with some of your other informative posts.

    Liz Hart

    1. Thanks Liz! I'm honored to be included in your Jewelry Design file in your Facebook group!


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