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Captive Bead Ring Removal

I have to say that one of the most common calls or e-mails I get is on how to remove Captive Bead Rings and how to get that bead or ball out. Whenever possible it is best to just stop by the studio and have the jewelry removed by your piercer. However that is not always possible, I think anyone who wear large gauge jewelry fears a trip to the emergency room and either they or the staff on hand is unable to remove the jewelry.

The easiest answer is to wear thread jewelry but it also has it's on set of problems and issues like ends coming unscrewed on their own. It is one of the reasons that many often choose the less expensive and more secure Captive Bead Rings. The major advantage to CBRs is that once the ball is in place you usually don't have to worry about it falling out or losing the jewelry. In fact, a high quality CBR could be worn for years without removing it or any maintenance at all.  


The reason that they are called Captive Bead Rings is because the tension of the ring holds the bead in place. The bead or ball is not attracted to the ring physically or threaded on to the ring. Instead the edges of the ring sit inside the dimples or hole in the bead or ball. Once the rings tension or hold on the bead or ball is broken, the bead or ball will separate from the ring and allow you to remove the jewelry. 

Small gauge jewerly(18g to 12g) can usually be removed by hand by taking the following steps:

  1. Grab the jewelry by ring with the index and thumb of one hand
  2. Grab the bead or ball with the index and thumb of the other hand
  3. Pull and apply force in opposite directions causing the tension that the ring has on the ball or bead to break.
  4. Once the ball or bead is free, rotate the jewelry out. With smaller rings there maybe a clearance issue and the ring may need to be bent to allow it to be removed. I strongly suggest that you twist the ring opposed to pulling it apart. Making a cork screw. This will make it much easier to keep the trueness of the ring.

Larger gauge Jewelry(12g and up) may require ring expansion pliers to open the ring. You can buy specialty pliers but in a pinch ring expanding pliers or even needle nose pliers can work. However to avoid scratching the finish of the jewelry or causing other damage that you cover the pliers with cloth medical tape. This will not only reduce damage but will also add traction.

  1. Insert the pliers into the ring.
  2. Grab the ball or bead with your free hand.
  3. Apply outward pressure on the pliers to expand the ring.
  4. Once the ball or bead is free, rotate the jewlery out of the piercing. If there is an issue of having enough clearance to remove the jewelry, expand the ring until there is enough. Understand that if you have to expand the jewelry you will need closing pliers to close the ring enough to hold the ball. In a pinch you can use hog ring pliers that you can find at most hardware or farm supply stores.


  • I found a long time ago that wearing medical gloves will increase the traction and grip you have on the slippery beads, balls and rings. 
  • Make sure that you have a paper towel or other safe place to place the ball or bead after you remove it. They are in cases perfectly round and will roll whatever direction gravity pulls them. Also if you are removing the jewelry over the bathroom sink, put a towel in the sink to avoid losing the jewelry down the drain.
  • Have someone else help you. Piercings especially those located above the neck are hard to see or to get ahold of. Save yourself hours of frustration and have someone else remove the ball.
  • If you are going to be changing jewelry on a regular bases, I would suggest some practice with a piece of jewelry that is not in a piercing. Removing and replacing the ball can be tricky and the only way to learn it is through practice. I would suggest that you sit at a table with a towel laid out in front of you to avoid spending all your time chasing after escaping bead and balls.
  • It is easier to remove jewelry after a shower, soak or compress. This will not only remove anything that has deposited on the jewelry but will also cause the piercing to expand. Soaks and compresses should be done with a sea salt and warm water mixture. 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per cup or 8oz of warm water. Soak are done by inverting a small cup over the piercing area or submerging the piercing for around 10 minutes. For piercings where is not possible, take a folded up clean paper towel or sterile gauze sponge, soak up the liquid and lay it against the piercing area. Re-submerge the compress when it cools and apply it for roughly 10 minutes.
  • A small amount of water based lubricant can be used to make the jewelry easier to remove. 

Storing Jewelry:

  • Jewelry needs to be stored alone. Placing a number of pieces of jewelry into one container or bag will increase the likelihood of damage to the jewelry's finish from the contact with other jewelry.
  • The most common and easily available form of container is a zip lock baggy. It should be new to avoid contaminates. Also any air tight container will work including plastic ones.
  • The best option is to have your piercer wrap and sterilize the jewelry in an autoclave. The jewelry will be sterile kept sterile for a few months as long as the pouch is unbroken.