I got a message from a reader today asking about the clasp I used in the Purple riveted bracelet I posted about a few days ago. I thought I'd answer her here and give a bit more of a response than, "It's a snap clasp." :)
What are they?
They're most commonly referred to as snap clasps (because the two halves snap together), but I've also seen them called ball and hitch, trailer hitch, ball and socket, and button. Really, couldn't we decide on one name so people can find them? All the hitch/sockets names make sense to me, but "button" does not.
They come in a number of different colors: bright silver, dull silver, gunmetal, antique copper, copper, antique gold, and gold. There may be others. They also come in different sizes. The ones in the above picture are about 16mm loop to loop. That is the most common one I've seen. Another size I have is about 14mm loop to loop. We'll see that one a bit later.
Let's take a look at those two clasps from the side:
At this angle it's easy to see how the two halves fit together. The ball fits into the ring (or socket or whatever) from underneath. It doesn't look like it would stay closed, but it does. There's some sort of spring mechanism inside the ring to help the ball pass while opening and closing.
When opening the clasp, you press down on the ball while pressing up a bit on the ring from underneath. To close, you position the ball under the ring and press up while pressing down a bit on the ring from the top. That sounds way more complicated than it is in practice. It can be easily done with one hand.
The "official" snap clasps have patent information on both halves. Sometimes I'll get a clasp that's closed like this:
I consider the "PAT.2007" to be the bottom, so I flip that ring over before stitching onto my project. Someone once told me that she thought that was part of the design, so if you like it, keep it face up. It won't affect how the clasp works.
The clasps with patent information will be a bit more expensive than the ones without. There's a good reason for that - the quality is higher. I don't think I've ever had a problem with patented clasps, but I've had knock-offs that are too tough to open or are too loose. Yes, the stiff ones will loosen up a tiny bit after you open and close them a few times, but some are even tighter than that.
While I prefer the patented ones, sometimes I can only find the colors I want in the off-brand clasps and don't feel like waiting until the "good ones" are restocked, or sometimes I flat out want to pay a lower price for whatever reason. In that case, if I have the option of choosing my own clasps, I'll stand there and open and close clasps and reject those that seem off. Ordering off-brand clasps online is a crap shoot.
Why do I like them?
I really like that I can open and close them one-handed. I can do that with toggle clasps, but not as easily. Also, snap clasps tend to be smaller than toggles, making them less obtrusive and giving you more space for your design.
They can be attached using jump rings or split rings like in the Purple riveted bracelet above or stitched on like in the Twisted Finster bracelet below.
I really like using snap clasps when I have a flat stitched piece, as with my Cobblestone Path:
Finally, here's an example of the smaller button clasp on a bracelet next to what I think is the standard size snap clasp:
It's surprising that there's only a 2mm difference between them, but that's all it is. I measured. This design is my It's Got Legs, which is a thinner version of Cobblestone Path.
Where can you find them?
Check your local bead store first, of course. Sometimes there are little baskets or bowls with them near the checkout or in other areas of the store. I've also seen them in baggies on a rack or loose behind the counter. Ask if you can't find them.
For online suppliers, my first recommendation is Knot Just Beads (that's my local bead shop where I get most of my snap clasps). You can get "button clasps" from Fire Mountain Gems, but the quality isn't as high as the ones from Knot Just Beads. You can also do a web search for any of the terms to see what's out there.