Prayer beads come in different types and are used traditionally by a variety of Christian denominations. The three most commonly known styles are the Catholic rosary, which many people are familiar with due to popular media, Anglican prayer beads (which have occasionally been referred to as Anglican rosary), and the Orthodox prayer rope. However, for personal use, you can make prayer beads in any configuration you would like. If choosing to veer from the traditional formats, keep in mind that some who follow tradition may be offended if their terminology is used to refer to the finished product, so it may be best to stick to “prayer beads” if the finished item does not meet traditional guidelines.
There are kits available for those who are learning to make prayer beads. It is also possible to make beads from scratch, resulting in a completely handmade piece. Some of the possibilities include clay, paper, plastic, wooden, or rock beads. Many of these can be handmade but most are also available premade to save creators the time and effort of starting from raw materials.
Each type of prayer bead is set up differently. Depending on the denomination, there are more or fewer beads.
The most common Catholic rosary has a total of 59 beads, with five sets of ten (called “decades”), with larger beads between and a “tail” that holds two large beads flanking three smaller ones and terminating with a crucifix. There are also smaller ones that consist of only one decade – ten beads separated by a larger bead with a crucifix or other symbol attached, something like a charm. These were easier to hide when there was severe religious persecution.
Anglican Prayer Beads
A set of 33 beads are arranged in four groups of seven, separated by larger beads. The total is symbolic of Christ’s earthly life while the number 7 is use by God to signify completion. The groups are referred to as “weeks” and the separator beads are referred to as “cruciform” because the separators, when the beads are spread out into a circle, form the ends of a cross. The thirty-third bead separates the loop from a cross that usually is attached.
Orthodox Prayer Rope
An Orthodox prayer rope is usually made of knots; however, beads are used to divide the groups of knots. The most common has 100 knots, but it is not unheard of to find prayer ropes with other quantities, including 12, 33, 50, 250, and 300. It is intended to aid in concentration rather than quantity, as a reminder to pray rather than what to pray.
A rope of 100 knots is usually divided into four 25-knot sections, though some use a form that originated in Russia in which the knots are divided into 12 (to represent the apostles), 39 (to represent the weeks during which Mary carried the Christ in her womb), 33 (to represent the years Christ spent on earth as a man), and 17 (to represent the prophets). Nine dividers are added – one between each section and several at the end – to represent nine angel ranks. The total of knots and dividers in this rope is 110, and the ends are connected with four triangles that represent the four Gospels.
While Orthodox ropes were originally made of knotted wool, it is common now to find them made of satin or other materials, including beads.
Beads can be made from all kinds of materials, including rocks or minerals, wood, clay, glass, plastic, and paper.
Paper beads are made by cutting long triangles (choosing the width based on how wide you desire the finished bead to be) and rolling the length from the widest part to the smallest, with glue along the length to hold it, then allowing it to dry. Thinner papers like magazine pages or gift wrap are both easier to roll and more colorful. Thicker papers and thin cardboard can be used but will be more difficult to roll and will need to be held longer while drying to prevent unrolling.Paper beads can then be coated with a clear sealant such as Mod Podge, Elmer’s glue, or clear fingernail polish, or colored with paint or nail polish.
Clay beads will need to be baked. Remember to make a hole through before baking. Clay beads can be made with colored clay or painted after baking.
Plastic beads can be made from plastic bottles or bags. Color strips, if desired. Roll up and hold with pliers while heating with a heat gun or hair dryer.
Glass beads can be handmade, too, but this can be a dangerous process, as it involves very high temperatures. It is likely easier and safer to purchase glass beads premade.
Making Ropes and Rosaries
Most of the time, regardless which type is being made, a knot is tied both before and after each bead. This makes a small separation between beads, while larger separators (larger beads) are used between sets (decades or weeks). This makes it easier for people who use the beads for prayer to do it by feel alone, without it being necessary to look at the beads, allowing them to concentrate on the prayer being said.
While crosses are the most common charm or pendant used with these, any symbol can be used. Some use nature-based symbols such as trees, animals, or creatures, while others use different precious stones instead.
When beginning a string, remember to leave several inches before beginning, in order to symmetrically finish at the end. If the end is to be a single row, using both beginning and ending strands can lend more stability to the finished product.
Where to Buy
SUNNYCLUE 1 Bag DIY 2 Strand Wood Natural Gemstone Catholic Rosary Prayer Beads Making Kit Include 2 Strands 8mm Wood Turquoise Stone Beads, Jesus Christ Crucifix Cross,Centerpiece, 1 Roll Thread
SUNNYCLUE 1 Box DIY 1 Set 8mm Polymer Clay Bead Rosary Necklace Bracelet Making Kit Alloy Jesus Crucifix Virgin Mary Centerpiece Christian Catholic Jewelry Making Kit for Adults Beginners
SUNNYCLUE 1 Box DIY 6Set Beaded Stretch Rosary Bracelet Making Kit Catholic Jesus Christ Crucifix Cross Prayer Beads Craft Kit, Nickel Free
Pandahall 211pcs/Box Wooden Crucifix Cross Beads Set with Clear Elastic Beading Wire Mixed Rosary Jewelry Making Kit for Catholic Rosary Jewelry Making Findings
This book explains the history of the beads and their symbolism and teaches how to create strings. Also included are a variety of prayers that can be used with the beads.
This beautiful rosary set has everything included to create a beautiful and useful Catholic rosary, with instructions. It is also possible to adapt the kit to an Anglican rosary, if desired.
Two sets of beads with thread, dividers, and findings are included in this kit. Half of them are turquoise while the others are round wood.
This kit by SUNNYCLUE includes 80 beads made of polymer clay along with pendants, pins, jump rings, and a clasp in a plastic container. It includes instructions for putting the beads together.
This wooden bead rosary kit is one of 14 kits of different materials and colors offered by Linpeng.
The pieces in this kit come in an organized container and includes everything needed for six bracelets.
Acrylic cross beads, wooden beads, and cross pendants are neatly organized into this plastic container and packaged with a roll of elastic wire.
The wooden beads in this bag were all handmade in Bethlehem. It is possible to make several strings of prayer beads with these beautiful wooden beads.
This container of unfinished wooden beads contains beads of six sizes. While compatible with all kinds of strings and wires, this set does not include any. It is the beads only.