Why Math Matters in Jewelry Design

Leslie Rogalski

Beaded Jewelry Design tips you can count on
I always knew I was going to art school. I did not need math to be an artist. Guess what? Mom and Dad were right. Artists need math. Not algebra, thank the gods, just a grasp of numbers and relationships. At the very least we count our beads, but knowing which numbers go well together will make us better designers, almost the same as knowing which colors go together. This is a formula to use to our advantage! Here’s how:

Easy as 1, 2, 3
Pick a number–let’s say 3. When you string patterns, make each section or accent group from factors of your number. Factors are numbers you multiply to get other numbers. So 3 is a factor of—6, 9, 12, 15, and so on. Sounds dreary but it’s kind of cool. And though by no means is this method something you must do, you won’t believe how much it ties your design together visually and gives you a framework to use to make choices.

Let’s do the math
The 2009 edition of Creative Jewelry really sums up my theory in many of its projects. Check out some of these examples to see what I mean:


Flight by Rebecca Campbell uses sets of 5. There are 5 main silver squiggles and groups of 5 accent beads between the other silver squiggles. She finished her strands with groups of 5 beads, too.

  beaded-jewelry-design Mixed Metal Magic is all about 3. There are 3 of each accent bead, 3 sets of 3 leaves on each strand and even 3 variations in the patterns of the beads used in the 3 segments between the accent leaves. What I found most intriguing is how designer Stephanie Glickman used a square focal pendant, a definite 4 amidst all the trios.
beaded-jewelry-designs My own Ancient Treasure necklace is about 3. Even though I strung segments with 4 black beads flanking a red bead between each of the 3 saucer-bead accent sections, those beaded segments are a trio: black beads–red bead–black beads. I made the tip of the JoAnn Zekowski pendant bead with 3 beads. And, each strand has 6 sets of those saucers. (Remember, 3 is a factor of 6!) beaded-jewelry-design The Happy Fun Bright bracelet by SaraBeth Cullinan has more complexity. Here’s why I think the piece works: Basically it uses the number 3. Look carefully to see how there are 3 green accent beads on each side strand of the 5 strands. The outer strands also use 3 pink crystals in sets. There are 3 mostly green strands in the center of the design.
Sum it all up with Creative Jewelry
It doesn’t matter if your use of math is intuitive or intentional, attention to the numbers adds balance, harmony, and a plan to get you started. It  may help you break free of beader's block simply by giving you a jumping-off point. Just start grouping your beads on your bead mat, and you'll be surprised how your right brain starts sizzling away with ideas.  Even for someone like me who breaks out in a rash at the mention of the word, math makes design choices easier.

And talk about numbers––there’s over 135 doable ideas just a click away in the downloadable version of Creative Jewelry 2009. Add this exciting collection to your project library by clicking here, and you can count on inspiration for a long time to come.


Is 5 your lucky number? 
Here’s a free project that uses 5 elements in the focal combination and 5 accents in the strands. This gorgeous Babylonian Dreaming necklace from designer Joan Tucker and porcelain artist Lana Weed has elements based on authentic historic artifacts.

Do you factor in numbers when you create your jewelry? What’s your favorite magic number? Tell us here on Beading Daily.

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