JEWELRY TUTORIAL: Texas Longhorn Steer Skull Necklace

A few months ago, Noah Scalin of Skull-A-Day fame, gave me this Skulls Unlimited International Catalog XIV that they sent him. His intention was for me to do something creative with it. The catalog is filled with inventory images of reproduction animal skulls with a spattering of reproduction eggs, skeletons, bones, and fossils. I intend on making something large with many of the angled skull images. However, when I saw these symmetrical photos of horned animals, I knew they needed to become necklaces. So far, I've made two skull necklaces, a domestic ram and a Texas onghorn steer with them. The ram was my 1st go at it, to test my techniques. The steer was made to show you all how to make your own. As I've mentioned in the past, I have a love of skulls, but many of my tutorials can be used with other motifs. Since this is a paper craft, you can definitely use other images like flowers, animals, trees, etc. Flip through your old magazines and catalogs to get inspired.

Domestic Ram and Texas Longhorn Steer Skull Necklaces


There are a lot of supplies and tools in this photo, but the necklace is really easy to make. Don't feel overwhelmed by this photo. I have all of these supplies and tools handy because I've been making jewelry for many years. The cost for me was under $1, but if you don't have these, the cost can be substaintal. However you will get a lot of use out of the tools and left over supplies. Heck, you might even have a new hobby and skills.

  • An image you want to use from a magazine or catalog - I'm using the Texas Longhorn Steer Skull from this catalog. The catalog sells for $9.95, but if you read the info about it on the link, you can get a refund on it if you purchase something $25 or more from the catalog. If you work for a "legitimate educational institute", the cost is waived. If that doesn't apply to you, then basically you get many lovely pages of skulls to make things with. Like I mentioned before, if you prefer a different motif, feel free to use any magazine or catalog.
  • Decorative scrapbook paper that is heavy weight - I used piece of paper from a 4.75" x 6.75" Halloween themed scrapbook paper pad. I chose one that had the stripes on one side and solid purple on the other side. You'll see the purple in a little while and the stripes again at the end. The weight of this paper is almost as thick as card stock. You want something with some stiffness, so the flimsy image paper has support when made into a necklace. There is a plethora of scrapbook papers available. You don't need a pad of paper, just one sheet of scrapbook paper that you like. I chose a double sided one because I wanted the necklace to be reversible...and well all the decorative papers I have are double sided and Halloween themed...what? You shouldn't need to ask.
  • Small scissors - Small scissors are great for cutting out the details carefully.
  • Glue stick - I prefer glue sticks over wet or tacky glue, because they give an even coat of glue and dry quickly.
  • 2 pairs of jewelry pliers - These are smaller than regular pliers and work best for jewelry projects. Many years ago at Michael's, I bought a pack of 5 different jewelry tools...4 different pairs of pliers and 1 pair of cutters. The two in the photo are a pair of round tipped and a pair of bent tipped. I used the two plier method when working with jewelry, because the tips of the pliers are smaller and stronger than my fingers alone.
  • 1 pair of small wire cutters/nippers - These were included in the pack I described above. They are sold separately too. They cut through soft wire and fine chain well.
  • Fine chain - I bought this spool of chain from Michael's a few years ago. I don't know what gauge this particular one is, but any gauge will work, as long as the clasp can fit into the chain holes to secure the necklace for wearing. Mine chain is silver colored.
  • 1 Lobster clasp - These are sold in packs, but are very handy. I prefer a lobster clasp to a spring clasp, because they are easier to use and more secure.
  • 2 Large jump rings and 1 small jump ring - I make my own jump rings. I take medium gauge wire, wrap it around several times along a small dowel rod, and use the wire nippers to cut individual rings. Alternatively, you can buy packs of jewelry findings with lobster clasps and jump rings. You can always make the rings smaller, but not bigger.
  • A straight pin and a safety pin - These are to gently make and enlarge the holes for the jump rings.


1) Select your image and with the small scissors, cut it free from the rest of the paper. These cuts can be loosely around the image. After it's free from the rest of the paper, you can precisely cut the image out.

2) Lay your scrapbook paper down, with the side up that you want to glue your image to. Apply the glue to the back of the image. My glue dried too quickly, so I had to do the glue in sections. I applied some glue to the skull, and smoothed it down to the scrapbook paper. Then I gently applied glue to one horn, smoothed that down. And did the other horn the same way. You want to make sure the image is completely glued to the scrapbook paper. Take your time. Don't worry about getting glue beyond where the image is on the scrapbook paper, you'll cut away the extra paper in a little bit.

Image has been cut out, and glued to scrapbook paper

3) Cut around the glued image to free it from the excess paper.

4) Trim the excess paper, so there is a small edge around the image. After doing that, if you flip the paper over, you will see the shape of your image repeated. I chose this striped paper, because it has a Southwest feel to it and works great with this skull shape. A Texas Longhorn Steer is very "Southwest" by local, so the paper compliments that.

5) With the straight pin, gently poke a hole through the two layers of paper. Make the hole at least 1/4" from the edge of the paper, so it won't rip when the rings are placed into each hole and when the necklace is worn. I looked at the shape of the skull to decide where to place those holes. I chose to put each one slightly away from where the horns start on the skull, so the necklace would hang nicely. After the pin has made a hole, gently wiggle it around to widen the holes slightly. Make both holes before doing the next step.

6) With the safety pin, gently put the sharp part through the hole you just made, to widen it more. Wiggle it around gently. Do this for both holes.

This is what the 2 holes look like on the reverse side of the paper.

7) With one plier in each hand, pick up a large jump ring with the plier tips, and gently open it a bit. If the wire is soft enough, you can do this with your fingers. Open both large jump rings like this. You aren't pulling apart the circles to widen them, but separating then ends by pushing them apart back and forth. This maintains the circle shape and is easy to close later. If this description seems confusing, watch this handy video by Margot Potter. This video is very handy for closing the jump rings too, which we will do later.

8) With your fingers, carefully insert one jump ring into one hole and one jump ring into the other hole. Leave them open for now. Set the skull aside. We'll get back to it in a moment.

9) You need to measure your chain on your neck, so the skull sits nicely on your neck later. I laid the chain around my neck, matching up the end to my collar bone. I pulled the strand to my other collar bone to make sure it was even. I like my necklaces to be adjustable, so I added a 2-3 inches to that measurement. With my fingers, I grasped the chain at that final measurement.

10) With the chain still in between your fingers, remove the strand from your neck. Use the wire nippers to cut one link at that measurement. This will separate the strand for your necklace from the spool of chain.

11) Lay the chain back over your neck like you did when measuring it. Pinch the chain at the back center of your neck, so you know where the cut it again to make two pieces.

12) With the chain still pinched lay it down on your work surface still bent. Use the wire nippers to cut a link at that bend to separate the two strands.

13) Set the long chain to the side. With the two pliers, pick up the small jump ring and open it like you did the large ones. Onto the small jump ring, slip on lobster clasp through it's small hole, and one end of the short chain. Using the two pliers, close the jump ring making sure the wire ends touch.

14) Back to the skull... Slip the other end of the short chain onto one large jump ring. Using the two pliers (one per hand) close the jump ring, making sure the wire ends touch. With the long chain, slip one end onto the other large jump ring. Close the ring using the two pliers, so that the ends meet. 

If you have followed my instructions, your necklace should look something like this.

What ever image you chose to use, I hope this tutorial makes you look at your magazines and catalogs in a new way. Happy making!


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