For centuries people have used rosaries as tools for prayer and meditation. Composed of a series of beads arranged on thread, cord or chain, rosaries come in many shapes, sizes, styles and materials. A ladder rosary is a special type of rosary. It is distinctive because its beads are positioned between two lengths of chain rather than strung onto one length of chain. This design gives the rosary a ladder-like appearance; consequently, this type of rosary is also referred to as a “Jacob’s Ladder” or a “Stairway to Heaven.”
Cut 1 foot from your length of sterling silver chain using wire cutters. Set the foot-long portion of chain aside.
Cut the remaining 4 feet of chain in half so that you have two chains measuring 2 feet each. Lay these two chains side by side on a piece of cardboard; they should run parallel to one another with about 1 inch of space between them. Tape the ends of the chains to the cardboard, making sure the chains are pulled taut and lie flat against the cardboard.
Mark the cardboard with a pencil where you want to place each of the 55 beads that will go on this portion of chain. Draw 55 lines in pencil in the space between the two chains, representing places where you wish to place a bead. Note that a traditional Catholic rosary has a total of 59 beads; 55 go on the main loop and four go on the portion that dangles from the loop. The 55 beads on the main loop are divided into five groups of 10, or decades, with one bead between each decade representing an "Our Father" prayer.
Grasp a sterling silver eye pin. Push the eye pin through the hole in the bead. Position the bead on the cardboard between the two lengths of chain where you made your first pencil mark.
Slightly open the loop of the eye pin that emerges from one side of the bead using pliers. Slip the loop through a link of chain to the side of the bead. Bend the loop closed over the chain link using pliers.
Bend the portion of the eye pin emerging from the other side of the bead into a slightly open loop using pliers. Slip the loop over the link of chain to the side of the bead. Close the loop completely around the link of chain using pliers.
Continue to create a ladder of beads between the two chains using the process described in Steps 4 through 6. Attach beads in the places indicated by your pencil marks until you have attached 55 beads.
Remove the tape from the chains and cardboard. Bend the chains in half to create a loop. Attach a Virgin Mary rosary center to the base of the loop where the two ends of chains meet. Slightly open two jump rings with pliers. Slip the rings through the two rings at the top of the rosary center and through the end links of the chains. Close the jump rings securely. Set this portion of the ladder rosary aside.
Grasp the foot-long section of chain you set aside in Step 1. Cut it in half with wire cutters. Lay the two equal portions of chain on the cardboard so they are parallel to each other with 1 inch of space between them. Use the opposite side of the cardboard without any pencil marks. Tape the ends of the chains to the cardboard, pulling the chains straight and taut.
Mark the cardboard with a pencil in the places where you want to attach your remaining four beads.
Attach the remaining four beads to the two portions of chain using the same process you employed to attach the beads to the main loop of the rosary. Remove the tape and lift the chain away from the cardboard.
Dangle this portion of the rosary from the bottom of the rosary center. Slightly open a jump ring with pliers. Hook the jump ring through the top links of chains of this portion of the rosary and through the ring at the base of the rosary center. Close the jump ring completely with pliers.
Attach a crucifix charm to the bottom of this dangling portion of the rosary. Open a jump ring slightly with pliers. Hook the jump ring through the end links of the chains and the loop at the top of the crucifix charm. Use pliers to close the jump ring completely.
Items you will need
2-millimeter sterling silver chain, 5 feet
Piece of cardboard, 2 feet by 2 feet
59 sterling silver eye pins
59 round beads, 12 to 14 millimeters
4-millimeter sterling silver jump rings, 4
Virgin Mary rosary center
Generally, the distance between the last bead of a decade and an Our Father bead is equal to approximately two beads.
Look at an image of a regular rosary or refer to an actual rosary and use it as a guideline for spacing the beads on your ladder rosary. You can see a good illustration of a rosary that shows where each bead goes at rosary-center.org (see Resources).
- Lewis & Company: Rosary Instructions: Directions for the Double Strand Rosary
- Custom Rosaries: Ladder Rosaries
- "How to Make and Pray Rosaries and Chaplets"; Tyra Murray; 2006
- bead on a plastic wire image by cirikate from Fotolia.com