Monday, January 9, 2012

Body Jewelry ~ The Captive Bead Ring ~ how to open and close captive bead ring jewelry

The captive bead ring (CBR) is the classic standard for many body piercings - at least from a historical point of view. When speaking of Gypsies or belly dancers, the image of a simple ring through the navel typically comes to mind.

A basic captive bead ring can be worn in many a piercing and the variations are seemingly endless. Basic structure is a almost completed circular ring with ends that have been burred to a smooth finish. There is a small gap into which a small round bead fits. These beads either have two  dimples, or shallow cusps on either side. The center bead may a hole drilled through the center. In any event, all three are held between the ring ends by the pressure/tension of the ring ends at the terminal of the bead. Though there is a modified bead which is soldered onto one end of the ring, generally speaking the bead is not a permanent fixture on the ring.

The standard operation for the classic CBR involves the use of 2 different piercing pliers: opening and closing. Of course new styles of pliers offer 2 in 1 options now. Depending on the CBR diameter, and gauge (thickness of the jewelry) two separate pliers would be more advantageous over the other. For most standard CBR styles of 10 gauge+ and 1/2" diameter I typically chose a small dual purpose 2 in 1 open/close plier. Manufacturer and size of the pliers as well as the shape and size of the plier nose affects my choice.

Most CBR jewelry comes assembled if you do not have it installed by your piercer. For example, if you purchase from me, the jewelry comes autoclave sterilized in a sealed pouch already assembled. Disassembling   the CBR is the first step toward installing into the piercing.

For the purpose of this article, I am speaking in terms of utilizing two separate pliers: both the opening and closing tools.

Before you begin:
1. consider wrapping the ends of the plier nose in cloth medical tape to protect your jewelry.

2. place a clean towel beneath your working area in case a center bead escapes your grip.

3. have sterile water based lubricant on hand and ready to use on the ring end to allow for easier insertion into the piercing.


In the relaxed, non working status position, the jaws of the plier nose are closed. (Imagine a bird beak in the closed position when viewing the profile).

The opening pliers typically have spring loaded jaws. When the handles are squeezed the jaws open outward. This is a similar functional concept as auto shop snap ring pliers.

Insert the nose of the pliers into the center of the CBR. Hold the center bead with the thumb and forefinger of one hand and the pliers with the other. Holding the center bead will keep its location in check once the bead has been released from the CBR.

Gently squeeze the plier grip so that the jaws open and thereby increase the ring diameter, and thereby reduce ring pressure on the bead. At this point the bead should release.


Place the bead in a readily accessible area. Hold the ring in one hand and open the jaws of the pliers. Place the jaws around the diameter of the CBR.

Gently,slowly & slightly squeeze the plier grips. This will  decrease the diameter (thereby increasing  CBR pressure). Avoid closing too much or the ring may warp out of shape.

Lube Time - if you have not already done so, dab one end of the ring into some water base lube.

Insert ring into the piercing without using undue force. (Remain calm and breathe!)

Once the CBR is inserted, carefully insert the opening pliers as in step one into the CBR and slightly open the jaws to open up the ring.

This is where things get tricky when you first start! Open just enough to align the dimples (or drilled holes) of the bead one side at a time with the ends of the ring. The goal is to abut the ring ends with the bead anchoring.

The ring tensile properties usually keep the ring somewhat "springy" if not opened far to wide for insertion of the bead. Therefore, once you are able to abut one side of the bead and one ring end, further gentle manipulation of the second side should allow some tension to hold the bead in place - or - captive.

In difficult to navigate piercing areas, it is best to have a pro piercer install the jewelry. Even in areas that have easier access such as the navel, have a pro show you how to safely execute this tricky little maneuver. As a piercer I have done countless CBR installations. In fact, I dont even look as much as I feel where the ring and bead are when installing. Everyone has a unique method and when you do them as often as a pro piercer it seems as though we can do them in our sleep!

Sometimes this can frustrate the most patient of beginners. Don't give up - get assistance from a reputable shop if you need it. Some charge a nominal fee for this service. Regardless, it is worth your safety and patience to learn how should it prove too tedious the first few times.

Good luck and feel free to email me at or if you need advice. I may not always have the answers, but I will do my best to find them for you - or at least refer you to help.

All photos courtesy of Beltane Moon ©. Permission to link or reuse photos and or article required. Please link back to this blog when granted permission and credit Beltane Moon © as original photographer and author.

1 comment:

  1. If you set out to make me think today; mission accomplished! I really like your writing style and how you express your ideas. Thank you.


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