Mala style necklaces are hot!  People love them because they are a timeless style and suit just about everybody. But they can be tricky to make especially if you are using gemstone guru beads. These 3 hole or T-drilled beads are hard to string. I've tried crochet hooks, wire even dental floss needles but the only things which worked really well were the specially made needles from Shade of the Bodhi Tree.  See Jason's awesome Mala making tutorials here.

However, TierraCast has come up with the neatest solution!  They sent me their new high quality pewter guru beads to try.  These are available from bead suppliers such as Art Beads, Fusion Beads and Rings and Things. Or try your local bead store.

Usually guru beads come as a pair - the round bit and the lower cone.  But TierraCast combined the two and there are only two holes. There is a loop to hang tassels and charms at the lower end. So no more struggling trying to get cords through 90 degree angles!

I used tassels with Tierracast end caps for both my gemstone necklaces.


True malas have to have specific numbers of beads - 108 for necklaces. 18, 27, 54 for bracelets depending on the size of beads you use. Note that 18 x 6 = 108, 27 x 4 = 108 and 54 x 2 = 108.  But you don't have to follow any of this if all you want are mala style designs.

I made this easy stretchy rose quartz bracelet with a silver Tierracast guru bead and one of their lovely lotus charms.  I use 18 x 10 mm beads counting both the gemstone and glitter beads. The guru bead is not counted.

As I wanted to make 108 bead mala necklaces, I had to get creative with the limited gemstone beads I had. So for this purple design, I used amethyst as well as fluorite beads to make up the number.  I placed the darker amethyst beads in groups next to the metal elements.

I took a different approach with the jasper necklace. I actually mixed 8 mm fancy jasper, bloodstone and jet beads.

The easiest way to ensure a good blend is to sort out each gemstone type into 5 even piles. The piles are then grouped to that the new piles have 20 beads.  That is 100.  Then I added 8 more beads randomly to the piles.

I used my bead board to arrange the beads from each large pile so the color distribution is pleasing to my eye.


I also used two different stringing techniques. The amethyst necklace was strung with 7 strand beading wire. Do use 19- or even  49 strand beading wire if you prefer a softer drape. As gemstone beads are heavy, I made sure I had 2 crimps  - I placed them at either end of the focal area. These were covered with crimp covers.


Knotting is a good technique for two reasons. Pearl necklaces are often knotted because the knots prevent pearls from rubbing together and wearing down the surfaces.  The other reason, no matter what beads you use, is to prevent bead losses should breakages happen.

8 mm beads are perfect for 108 bead necklaces if you don't knot them.  So this knotted design will be a meditation mala as it is too long at nearly 46 inches to be worn otherwise. Alternatively, if you still like the knotted look, use fewer beads.

I used 0.8 mm nylon cord.  Since this has to pass through small holes, I used thin flexible needles to string the beads.

One tip to string quickly is to load a few gemstone beads onto the needle before pulling the cord through the lot.  I had a few beads where I had to string individually.

The easiest way to knot is to use a pin. Place the pin just above the bead as you slowly tighten the simple knot. I had to undo a few knots which were not well placed.   Check out this past post which shows you how to use fine tweezers, round nose pliers and a professional knotting tool to do the same job but with better precision.

The final knots were done at the guru bead.  I passed both ends of the cord through the guru bead, tightened it and knotted at both sides.  I dotted the knots with a bit of Super New Glue (not the regular kind), let it dry before trimming the cord ends.  Just like the double crimp beads in the previous necklace, I was not depending on a single final knot.

You can string one bead and then make a knot before repeating the process with the next bead. But you can speed up the process if you string all the beads first.  And then knot in between.  Notice there is a bead clamp at the other end of my strung beads. This is to shorten the excess cord temporarily so that there was just the right amount of cord for when I pulled the strand through.

I learned this pre-stringing and knotting tip from watching this video of a Chinese worker knotting HUGE South Sea pearls freehand. She used no tools other than just her thumb! (I previously wrote about this here).

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I used natural light, my iPhone 6S with the Camera+  and ProCamera app. I also used both  Modahaus TS400 tabletop studio and the Orangemonkie studio (which comes equipped with LED lights) - The Foldio2 is particularly affordable. Check out my How to Photograph Jewelry Webinar .

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