Chain Clasps From Hell



Taco Dinner Delayed by Crappy Clasps!

Does wrestling with frustrating chain clasps drive you to drink?

Who hasn’t had an issue with a chain clasp from hell? I’ve had lots of them. There’s nothing more frustrating than rushing to get dressed for dinner at your favorite taco place, and then  wasting time trying to put on your necklace with a clasp that just won’t work! Argh!

Somehow, the hook thingy just won’t fit into the tiny ring on the other side. What’s up with being saddled with a crap clasp?

You Deserve Better!

I replace chain clasps regularly on chains, necklaces, and bracelets. It’s one of the most common fixes I do. I’ve had lots of practice! So I’m jumping up on my soap box to discuss clasps gone bad and giving you advice on what to do about it!

Aging and Chain Clasps That Are Too Small

Four different sizes of spring ring 14kt yellow gold clasps

That Tiny Clasp on the Left? Whoever Uses it Should be Arrested For Cruelty

The most frequent problem with clasps—and the rings they hook into—is that they are too small. The average human female finger can’t manipulate clasps the size of a grain of rice or end rings the size of the head of a pin. And yet they sell them to us. This is so wrong.

Too tiny a clasp

Ridiculously Small Clasp and End Ring

As we age, our fingers tend to become less dexterous. Tiny clasps that we were able to cope with when we were seventeen, may not be as easy at sixty.

I recommend replacing your tiny clasps and end rings with larger ones. What good is your necklace, if you can’t put it on or take it off comfortably and easily with your smile intact?

Clasps if Your Dexterity is Challenged

Many of my client’s with barely there or weak fingernails find pulling open a traditional clasp too difficult or painful. My dexterity challenged clients also find normal clasps too difficult. Their options for clasps include magnetic clasps, Push-locks and hook styles. This section focuses on alternative clasps.

Round 14kt magnetic clasp

Magnetic Clasp with 14kt Yellow Gold on the Outside

Magnetic clasps are the best choice when you have little dexterity in your finger tips. Doris puts the chain on clasp ends in front of her and swings them both toward each other till they catch. Then she moves the clasp to the back. She first tried a cheap metal version, but when she realized that the clasp being heavier than the rest of her chain, spent most of its time in the front, had me find her 14kt yellow gold ones. Doris said she wanted the 14kt clasp, so it’d look like a “funny decoration” as opposed to a “hideous, cheap clasp.”

14kt yellow gold hook clasp

The Hook Style Clasp

Another option is some sort of hook style which doesn’t require much manual dexterity. The hook clasp is a great choice for heavier and thicker chains. They are quite easy to use. I personally find them easier to use than push-locks. However they run the risk of allowing the chain to fall back through since the closure is open.

Push-lock chain clasp

Push-Lock. Arrow at Round Push Point and End Piece for Pushing

This seldom seen push-lock was invented to help the arthritic to open and close their clasps with no fingernail action needed. Push-lock clasps allow you to press on your clasp to open it. There is a little rounded part that you can push on and the spring loaded piece retracts for opening and closing.

Push Lock clasp

A Different Style of Push Lock. Arrows at Push Bump and Piece That Lock Inside Clasp

The Push-Lock above does require you to have good feeling in your finger tips to detect the very small bump you need to push down on to open your clasp. It’s advantage is its beauty. Many of my client’s have ordered it not just for the ease of opening, but for its pretty and smooth look. A little bar slips into a hole and locks in place until the bump is pushed to release the bar inside. These are usually used with thicker style chains. Installation is more complex, so use this on special chains.

Puah-lock lobster clasp in 14kt yellow gold

A Lobster Clasp/ Push-Lock Clasp

This lock looks like  normal lobster clasp, but it is made for people who don’t have the fingernail strength to pull back a normal lobster clasp pull tab. This push-lobster has a higher and easier to manipulate push bump.

Squeezing a Push-Lobster

For traditional chains these push lobster clasps are easy. They install with the same method as normal lobster clasps. They offers a nice and easy way to open a clasp.

Why Do They Make Undersized Clasps?

You may be thinking: why put undersized clasps on chains to begin with? I think the reason is cost. Less gold goes into creating a  4mm long clasps than 6mm long clasps—especially if you’re making thousands of them.

Attaching the 4mm clasp to the chain will cost significantly less than attaching a bigger one. The fact that you’ll rediscover cussing while trying to put it on isn’t in their budgetary considerations.

Clasps That Don’t Work With Your Acrylic Nails


With Acrylic Nails You Need Better Clasps to Manage your Necklaces. It’s a problem women run into all the time when the clasps have very low opener tabs. Mostly on lobster and spring ring clasps.

I’ve seen some tabs that were almost flush with the body of the clasp, making it all but impossible to hook a fingernail on it and pull it back. Not Fair!

If you plan to use acrylic nails always test the pull tab of clasps before you buy that chain. If you have chains with too low of pull tabs, get your favorite jeweler to find you proper clasps with tall pull tabs.

Possibly the Worst Clasp Design of All Time – The Barrel Clasp!

barrel clasps close up details

The Blue Ribbon Winner for Worst Clasp – The Barrel Clasp

Yellow Gold Barrel Clasp

That Tiny Fin Must Find a Tiny Opening

This clasp from hell and possibly the blue ribbon winner of all time, is the barrel clasp. It’s round in shape and lightweight, that’s good.  But using it is a nightmare.

Trying to line up the two pieces, so the fin slides into the invisibly-tiny-opening on the barrel, is predictably, the biggest challenge for me. That safe looking safety catch drew me in. Then after having one and struggling with it for a year, having my hair get caught in the safety and then finding the safety flopping unconnected later in the day, I asked myself, “why am I putting up with this awful clasp?” Actually I may have said something more salty.

Box Clasps 

14kt yellow gold box clasp

Box Clasp

Like their name suggests box clasps are often rectangular and like a box. They have a tongue that slides into the box and locks with an audible click. The generally have a safety clasp along the side.

When clasps have an angular shape like the pictured box clasp, they are much easier to use. Finding the line for the fin to go into is much easier to do without looking.

Having a figure eight safety clasp is a pretty wonderful thing as well. I do want to warn people with long, especially fine hair, that the box clasp with its figure eight safety clasp offers two different opportunities for your hair to get caught.

Bad Box Clasp Tongues

Yellow Gold Box Clasp with safety clasp

A box clasp is fairly easy to use and is great, unless your tongue (the sticky in-y part) gets worn out.  A problem I’ve dealt with many times with box clasps is worn out tongues that no longer hold the two ends together.

This results in clasp malfunctions and your precious bracelet ends up lying in the gutter or falling onto the asphalt between cars in big parking lots!

If that tongue doesn’t have an audible snap when you close it, don’t wear it. Fix that clasp!

When you are buying a chain or bracelet with a box clasp, make sure it gives an audible click when closed so you’ll always be able to listen for it. That click is how you know that your tongue is OK and holding on and locking properly.

I Love the Lobster Clasp For Chains

Four varieties of lobster clasps in 14kt yellow gold

Small Square Back Lobster, Pelican Lobster, High Pull Tab, Swiveling Lobster and Large Figure Eight Lobster with High Pull Tab

There are a lot of varieties of the lobster clasp style. This is because it is a very secure and easy to use clasp. Unlike the circular spring ring which is lighter weight in general, the lobster tends to have heavier and longer lasting springs. Many of the varieties offer taller pull tabs that make them quite easy to use.

Open position of lobster clasp 14kt yellow gold

The Design Helps Keep Chains Safe

An old lobster clasp of mine finally broke. The spring somehow wiggled out of its spot, allowing the closer end to flop open. Even though I wore it like that for hours the chain stayed on. This is because there is a good bit of curving distance down the clasp that the chain opening ring has to go down, to get out of the clasp. My chain stayed safe. Thank you Mr. Lobster clasp.

chain clasps

Squarish Back Style Lobsters

Everyone has their favorite clasp style. Mine is a squarish lobster clasp. These are different from the tapering back lobster clasps. The squarish style is more stable when you are holding the pull tab back while putting it behind your neck.

I also like it to have a pull tab that’s high enough to easily feel and pull back with my nails.

Bombproof Bracelet Clasp (From Hell), the Sister Clasp

Sister Clasp in open and closed position

The Dreaded Sister Clasp

My client Marta’s daughter was given a bracelet and she wanted to wear it all the time. Marta had seen how her seven year old fussed with things and took old toasters apart and she wanted a strong reliable clasp that would be such a pain to remove that little Dessa would leave it along.

The sister clasp is such a clasp. It is often times used on medic alert bracelets. It is such a challenge to line up the curving pieces so they both open at the same time to release the link, that I’d never give it to someone unless they intended to wear that bracelet daily.

Get Larger End Rings!

Oval end ring for clasping. Chain clasps

That Custom Large End Ring is Much Easier Than Tiny Rings

Every clasp I have in my collection has been customized with a nice larger than normal end ring. Sometimes your clasp is fine, but feels problematic because the end ring you need to hook it to is too small.

If you are in doubt about getting a larger clasp, try getting a larger end ring first.

Wear It, Don’t Warehouse It!

The moral of this story is; you don’t have to live with the clasp that came with your necklace or bracelet. Clasps from hell have ruined many a piece of jewelry for women I know.

A better chain clasp was all they needed to wear and love their previously irritating chain or bracelet. It’s an easy fix to get a bigger or different style clasp.

Ask for a larger end ring too! As I always say: “Wear it, Don’t Warehouse it!”

Your Personal Jeweler,
Calla Gold

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About Calla Gold

Calla Gold is a Personal Jeweler and Author who takes pride in working with clients one-on-one to integrate their personal sense of style and taste into custom designed jewelry and repaired jewelry pieces.   Unlike typical Santa Barbara jewelry businesses, Calla Gold has no brick-and-mortar location. Calla Gold comes to you, bringing you the jewelry collection you want to see and collaborating with you to create unique custom jewelry. Calla also works with at-a-distance clients.

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Lori Cooper
11 years ago

I have noticed more than once, during my work with my Wardrobe Wisdom clients, how a dysfunctional clasp can keep women from wearing their much beloved jewelry. Calla Gold is a genius at coming up with practical and attractive solutions which encourage you to wear those pieces that have been languishing in your drawer, like a creepy dead spider.

Jackie Ruka
11 years ago

I love this post Calla Gold, because it is so true to what happens with these silly chain clasps. It’s the simple things in life that can make such a huge difference, especially when you’re headed out the door and wanting to wear your favorite bracelet or necklace and can’t seem to hook it on!

Melodee Meyer
11 years ago

I know this is going to sound weird but I have never even considered the idea of changing a clasp on a piece of jewelry! This will change the way I look at my jewelry…. wow.

10 years ago

How do you work with long distance customers? And do you do other than clasps?

7 years ago

Moms knuckles are large and she needs her ring sized up to a much larger size. Any suggestions?
Where do I get parts for us regular folks without a liscense? Platinum?

Joy Raskin
5 years ago

I agree with you. My aging mom lives with me and her hands are all twisted from arthritis, and my hands are already warping from arthritis as well. Since the majority of my customers are 55 to 85, their hands and sight isn’t as good as it used to be. So for a long time, I’ve been upgrading clasps to bigger and bigger lobster clasps, specifically a marquise-shaped lobster clasp that is easier to use than a regular clasp. When I buy ready to wear chains, I swap out the tiny clasp for a bigger clasp. My philosophy is, if… Read more »

Mary Ann Stitt
Mary Ann Stitt
5 years ago

Love your post! I sell to boutiques and incorporated magnetic clasps, the good ones, into my pieces. As much as I educated boutiques on the benefits and downside, I Do not believe they passed the info onto their clients who were purchasing my pieces. Issues particular to magnetic clasps include, as you know, the proper way to slide the magnetic clasp open, rather than pulling, being aware the magnet will attach itself to all things metal, eg., your car, fridge, elevator doors, and soon. I have been looking for larger end rings in sterling silver and gold filled and having… Read more »

Mary Ann Stitt
Mary Ann Stitt
5 years ago

A BIG Thankyou Calla! Sharing your knowledge is generous, and very much appreciated!
Mary Ann

tom paul
tom paul
4 years ago

Why doesn’t anyone explain the ‘M’ Clasps and how to use them, Please, anyone”?
Like the ones from Thailand, gold baht chains.

4 years ago

Question, I melted down a lobster claw clasp the was supposedly sterling silver. When heated, it made a crackling(popping) noise. Three tiny ball droplets of silver appeared and I was left with of shriveled skin of a lobster claw clasp, it appeared to not melt but shrivel and the insides are what balled up scattering into 3 tiny balls. What do you think? Is this silver? Ore maybe a coated metal.