Jewelry-Making DIY Basics – What is a Lobster Claw Clasp?

Those who works with jewelry supplies and beading projects may forget that not everyone knows all the terminology of jewelry making components.  Learning the terminology of jewellery-making supplies will help you to communicate your desires for jewelry components to your local bead store, your jewelry designer or your jewelry supply vendor.

Handmade artisan jewelry, mass-market costume jewelry and fine jewelry frequently uses lobster claw clasps to fasten jewelry and to enhance jewelry appearance.

What is a lobster claw clasp?

“Lobster claw” is a term often used generically for a family of clasps having triggers that open and close.  Lobster claw clasps primarily hold two ends of a jewelry piece together by locking the clasp trigger around a jump ring or through a link of chain on the opposite end of a necklace, bracelet or anklet.  Some jewelry makers will use lobster claw clasps to attach charms or, if the lobster claw has a fancier design, to act as a visual centerpiece in the front of a necklace.

Jewelry purists will tell you that lobster claw clasps have long, straight oval shapes.  Pelican clasps, specialty trigger clasps,  are curved specialty trigger clasps with the trigger on the outer convex surface.  More symmetrical teardrop shapes describe oval trigger or rounded trigger clasps.  Balloon clasps, with a longer oval shape and thinner construction, often require less metal than a traditional oval trigger clasp; therefore, balloon clasps will weigh less than a similarly sized lobster claw or trigger clasp.  Other specialty clasp shapes include heart trigger clasps, elephant trigger clasps and cat trigger clasps. lobster claw finding

Swivel clasps, a style of oval trigger clasp where the base rotates separately from the rest of the claw, may offer the wearer more comfort by giving another “degree of freedom” to the bracelet, necklace or anklet.

Precious metal jewelry clasps in the United States must carry quality stamps to indicate their precious metal content per Federal Trade Commission guidelines.  Lobster claw metal type will generally match a dominant metal in the jewelry piece.  Lobster claw materials in the United States will most often fall into the following categories:

  • Platinum
  • Palladium
  • Gold: 18 karat, 14 karat, 12 karat in yellow gold, white gold, green gold, rose gold
  • Gold-Filled: base metal with karat gold mechanically and thermally bonded to visible and wear surfaces
  • Silver: sterling silver (.925 silver) including argentium silver and blackened silver
  • Titanium
  • Surgical Steel
  • Lead-free Brass, usually plated with gold, silver, copper, imitation rhodium, gunmetal, and optionally antiqued or oxidized

Some designers and consumers consider lobster claws as less stylish than toggles.  However, lobster claw clasps usually offer more secure fastening than do toggles because toggle bars may slip out of their loops, even if the pieces are appropriately sized to the wearers. The most common flaws of lobster claws, more common with inexpensive costume jewelry clasps, are:

  • A lobster claw trigger that sticks
  • A trigger with a spring that “pops”
  • A lobster claw base with little strength which fatigues and breaks with ungentle wire wrapping or wearing

Jewelry makers learn the merits of each type of lobster claw by experience — judging the size, weight, cost, appearance and ease-of-use with respect to their vision for different jewelry pieces.  There is no one perfect lobster claw design for all jewelry applications.  Fortunately, there are many different designs of lobster claws to accommodate the needs and budgets of amateur and expert jewellery makers.