Make Scentsational Rose Beads

With this lovely, long-neglected craft, you can transform the fleeting beauty of a rose into a fragrant, long-lasting necklace.

  • Rose Petals And Blender
    Rose petals are added, along with water, to the blender, to make a pulp that can be shaped into beads.
  • Rose Bead Necklace
    A necklace made from the roses of a bridal bouquet, a theatrical debut, or a gift from a loved one, turns the fragile petals into  treasured keepsake.
  • Making Rose Beads
    After the pulp has cooled, beads are rolled and pierced with a needle. (These beads are fairly large.)
  • Rosa gallica officinalis
    The Apothecary Rose, Rosa gallica officinalis, is one of the prized fragrant varieties of Gallica roses used for rose oil.

  • Rose Petals And Blender
  • Rose Bead Necklace
  • Making Rose Beads
  • Rosa gallica officinalis

Centuries ago, when knighthood was in flower, noblewomen made fragrant beads of petals plucked from castle rose gardens. Strung together into rosaries (from the Latin rosarium, meaning "garland of roses" or "rose garden"), the beads assisted the devout in saying their prayers. Indeed, many believed that the lovely perfume, released into the air as the beads were handled and worn, wafted to heaven and disposed God to listen kindly to all entreaties.

Today, religious rosaries are commonly composed of different materials. Yet necklaces made of rose beads still deserve attention, because they make charming, unusual personal gifts and unique craft items. What's more, the scented chains are quite easy to fashion if the basic material—a goodly quantity of rose petals—is available.

Supplies to Make Rose Beads

To make these naturally aromatic necklaces, you'll need a few simple tools: an electric blender or a ceramic mortar and pestle, a saucepan (preferably glass, enameled, or—to make black beads—cast iron), a wooden spoon, and a No. 1 or 2 knitting needle or a similar sharp, pointed object with which to make a hole through each bead. For materials, you'll need nylon monofilament line and several quarts of rose petals. You may also choose to use some rose oil to strengthen the scent, and a clasp to finish off your necklace.

Making the Rose Bead Pulp

The first step is the pleasant task of gathering rose petals. Try to get the strongest-smelling, "rosiest" blossoms you can obtain. Don't worry too much about color: As a rule, darker roses have a more powerful scent than lighter ones, but there are many deeply fragrant pink, white, and yellow varieties as well, and the beads will dry to a dark red, brown, or black, no matter what color the petals are. Once you've gathered the blossoms, pluck off the petals (about two quarts' worth) and put some into the electric blender. Add water—1/4 cup for every 2 cups of petals—and chop the mixture fine. (The nonelectric alternative to this procedure is to mash the petals in a ceramic mortar, and then to add water. This is the traditional way to do it, but a blender will save time.)

Now, heat the rose pulp in a saucepan over medium heat. The old recipes say to use a cast iron pot if you want your beads to turn black. (The iron oxidizes, and thereby darkens, the pulp.) However, my beads made from both red and yellow petals turned dark, dark red (almost black) without any special help. Whichever container you choose, do not boil the mixture, or its scent will be destroyed. Just stir it with a wooden spoon until it's the consistency of clay and doesn't stick to the side of the pan. At this point, remove the pot from the stove.

Shaping Rose Beads

When the fragrant concoction is cool enough to handle, work and knead it with your fingers as if it were clay. If it seems too watery to shape, remove the excess moisture by pressing a paper towel to the pulp's surface.

If you're working with petals that are unscented or only lightly perfumed, you should put some rose oil on your fingertips just as you begin to form the beads so that the fragrance can seep into the little globes. Rose oil can be purchased at many health food stores.

Now, roll around bits of the pulp to form balls about the size of marbles, or slightly larger, keeping in mind that the beads will shrink to half their original size during the drying process. It's possible to graduate the sizes from small to large and back again so that you'll wind up with the rose equivalent of a perfectly matched string of pearls.

After the globes are shaped, poke a hole through the center of each one with a fine knitting needle or similar bodkin . . . but be careful! The newly made bead may break apart when pierced. If this happens, reshape it firmly around the shaft of the needle, then gently pull the needle out.

Allow the beads to dry for at least two or three days, during which time they'll shrink and darken. Roll them over daily to insure that they dry evenly. Sometimes the hole in a bead shrinks and closes up entirely. To prevent this from happening, people often string the rounds—very carefully—onto clear nylon fishing line before setting them out to dry, and then slide them gently along the strand every day to keep the holes open.

When the rosy globes are thoroughly dry, they'll be (surprise!) rock hard. Polish them gently with a clean, soft cloth, and, if you haven't already done so, string them. If you've been able to form a large number of rose beads, you can make a long necklace that has beads all the way around and just slips over your head. Otherwise, you might use a necklace clasp (available from most craft stores). To preserve their fragrance, wrap the beads in a soft cloth saturated with rose oil, and always store them in a closed container.

7/15/2019 11:54:07 AM

HI. Thanks for this great great article. Im wondering where , since I don't have roses in my garden any longer, I would obtain fresh rose pedals in the larger quantities I wish to use... and can this process be done with dried rose pedals ? (silly as that may sound) some things come back to life when oils are added, etc so Im just wondering ? Also if a florist sold me rose pedals that fall off or roses are older , would I need to make the beads immediately or can I store the pedals in an air tight container in the fridge for a couple weeks until I can get to them. Any help would be so greatly appreciated !

5/13/2016 6:43:43 AM

Could the drying process possibly be sped up by letting the beads cool in front of a fan or by using a hair dryer, or something? I'd like to make my little cousin a rose petal rosary for her Catholic confirmation, but her party's unfortunately tomorrow. I'm the WORST last minute gift idea person ever!

Barbara Beaher
5/15/2012 7:25:20 PM

This is one of the best rose bead recipies I've tried. The time saved by using a blender and cooking the petal mash in a cast iron skillet is well worth doing it that way. I've been making these beads since I read this method in 1983. I give them as gifts regularly, and have many people purchase them from me, or bring me their special roses to be made into a necklace. The original ones that I make in 1983 still look and smell great!

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