Tools for Making Bracelets That Fit
If you sell bracelets or give them as gifts, you probably know that sizing bracelets is more difficult than sizing earrings or necklaces. If a bracelet is too small, the clasp won't close; too large, it will fall off. You can make stretchy bracelets, memory wire bracelets, or chain bracelets that close with a lobster clasp to help minimize this problem. But what if you want a bracelet with an exact fit? Here are some tools to try:
Ruler or Tape Measure
This basic measuring method works fine for some bracelet projects, but not all. With a ruler, this strand of glass beads I bought at Michaels looks like it measures about 6 inches. With the addition of a 1-inch toggle clasp, it should be a perfect fit for someone with a size 7 wrist, right?
Take a look what happens when I use those beads to form a circle. That inner measurement is actually only 4 1/4 inches around. I've lost nearly 2 inches because those large (18-20mm) white bumpy rounds and pink polka-dotted rondelles take up some of the space where I'd normally put my wrist.
I still use a ruler to get a basic idea of size, but I'm careful to try a second measurement method (even if it's just draping the beads around my own wrist) before I crimp the beading wire.
Bracelet or Wrist Gauge
A couple of weeks ago I bought a stiff metal bracelet gauge (pictured here) from jewelry designer Melinda Orr (Orrtec on Etsy). It's a nice option for craft shows if you're taking custom orders and need an accurate measurement. You wrap the gauge around the wrist and put the peg through the most comfortable hole. (There are holes every 1/4 inch.) I like that you can try out several settings to see how tight or loose you'd like the bracelet. You could also use it to get a better size estimate for a strung strand, by setting the gauge to your wrist size and wrapping the beads around it. The metal gauge is stiff and keeps its circular shape. I have seen leather or plastic versions of a similar tool at other shops, if you prefer something more flexible.
EZ Bracelet Sizer
Another option is an EZ Bracelet Sizer, which is shaped like a cone that you slide your bracelet over. I don't own one of these, but my understanding from the descriptions I've read is that it comes flat and you assemble it into a cone shape yourself. It may have a larger size range than the bracelet gauge. (I've seen versions that include children's sizes and some that just have the most common measurements for women's bracelets.) Unlike the bracelet gauge, this tool shows measurements in both inches and centimeters.
Bangle gauges are large, round rings secured together on a small ring, with each large ring being a different bangle size. (If you've ever seen ring gauges, this is very similar.) You slide your hand into each ring to see which size fits you as a bangle bracelet. It should be large enough to fit over your hand, but not so large it slips off when you hold your arm at your side. You may need to buy several sets of these since sometimes they're sold grouped into small, medium, or large rings with each group clustered together.
Of course, these are only a few options for sizing bracelets. I've seen some clever DIY solutions that involve paper gauges or marking wood bracelet mandrels (typically used for metalwork) with measurements. I once had a customer send me a piece of string that she had used to measure the size of her wrist. Don't laugh. It may not have been very sophisticated, but it did the trick!