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Beads with Friends: Beautiful Bead Pairings


“How can I use these?”

We’ve all had that thought while shopping for beads, seeing a color or style that catches our eye and just has to come home with us. Over time, these eye-catching acquisitions may build up to an impressive, but seemingly mismatched, bead collection. We’d like to help you with that.

Puzzle over a veritable rainbow of beads no longer: Here are a few color schemes that can help you turn those enigmatic components into wearable pieces of art. And, should you start with a specific color in mind, we can help you find its color-based partners!

Introduction to the Color Wheel

The color wheel, the first of which was created by Isaac Newton in 1666, is an outstanding guide for pairing colors. It was originally designed to demonstrate the relationship between colors, but is also a handy tool for any designers seeking to group colors together. It can be invaluable to jewelry designers by showing how projected pairings could look. Below are some of our favorite schemes, inspired by the color wheel, to incorporate into our pieces.

Monochromatic SchemesGone are the days of getting dressed, wondering if “this blue” matches “that blue”; a piece of jewelry that effectively picks up both can pull the outfit together. As the name might imply, a monochromatic scheme utilizes multiple shades of the same color. Canva’s Berry Blues and Fresh Greens palettes are excellent examples of grouping many types of one shade together.

Analogous Schemes

When you’re ready to add a few more colors into the mix, an analogous color scheme can help you branch out and incorporate new shades. Closely related to monochromatic schemes, analogous schemes bring together colors that neighbor one another on the color wheel. This scheme is a good one if you like working in “warm” or “cool” palettes, because the colors associated with each are adjacent on the color wheel naturally.

Complementary Schemes

Complementary schemes can seem a bit off-putting or dramatic at first, perhaps evoking thoughts of the Los Angeles Lakers uniforms (purple and yellow) or clunky Christmas themed jewelry (red and green). But pairing colors that sit opposite the color wheel from one another doesn’t have to be jarring; after all, opposites can attract, can’t they?

To soften the effect of such a pairing, make the most of shades of color, rather than aiming to utilize the sometimes harsh primary and secondary forms of color. Canva’s “Surf and Turf” and “Crisp Complementary Colors” palettes show how softer forms of these opposing colors can play together nicely. And, to take it a step further, this Ethiopian opal strand naturally pairs shades of purple and yellow in a pleasing and subtle fashion.

Triadic Schemes

For an added degree of difficulty, triadic design brings together three colors spaced evenly from one another on the color wheel. For example, oranges would be grouped with greens and purples, or reds could be strung alongside yellows and blue. At first blush, this might seem like a cacophonous idea, producing jewelry that is loud or difficult to match. However, the key here is subtlety.

Using varied shades of the colors in question can produce rich, complicated pieces without feeling scattered or thoughtless in their composition. Such work requires some ambition, but the effect is stunning when achieved.

Neutral Schemes

Some of the best utility pieces in our jewelry boxes can come from our most neutral pieces. Composed primarily of browns and tans, they are the chromatic result of mixing complementary colors (red + green = purple + yellow = blue + orange = brown). Mixing metals and grays into this palette can create striking pieces that are far from the “boring” implications that their composition would suggest. Look no further than this mystic labradorite chain for inspiration: plain in color, but a striking addition to any outfit, nonetheless.

Achromatic Schemes

Can you use less color than that used in a monochromatic piece? Yes. By combining whites, blacks, grays, and clears, you can create achromatic jewelry with the potential to be as eye-catching as its colorful counterparts. Consider, for example, this crystal quartz rondelle black gold chain. Jewelry made with these colorless shades can become the workhorses of our jewelry boxes, adding a bit of sparkle to an outfit without fear of mismatching.

As we send you off on a journey toward creating beautiful pieces, we’re inspired by this quote from Margie Deebs of The Beader’s Guide to Color:

You already possess the most important tools: your passion and sense of wonder. Learn the tangibles, and let your passion and wonder take you where knowledge cannot. Let color thrill you. Seek its magic.

We hope you’ll take the suggestions here to heart, and harness the magic of color in your soon-to-be favorite pieces.

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