Opening & Closing Traditional vs. Snap Fit Captive Bead Rings | Painful Pleasures Community

Opening & Closing Traditional vs. Snap Fit Captive Bead Rings

Did you know that there are two primary styles of captive bead rings? Traditional captive bead rings are tension-style rings that often require ring opening and ring closing pliers to manipulate. Learn about the differences between traditional CBRs and Snap Fit captive rings, and get instructions for manipulating traditional captive rings using tools available on

by PainfulPleasures Last Updated: May 13, 2021

There are two primary styles of captive bead rings: Snap Fit captive rings and traditional, tension-style captive bead rings. The chart immediately below compares these two captive ring styles. When you read about each style, you’ll better understand why tension-style captive rings require ring opening and ring closing pliers to manipulate while Snap Fit captive bead rings do not. You see, Snap Fit captive rings have built-in, spring-loaded mechanisms for holding their captive beads in place, so no tools are needed to pop in their captive beads. Traditional tension-style captive rings, on the other hand, hold their beads in place with natural tension that has be be countered with tools.

We show you how to utilize special pliers available here on to manipulate tension-style captive bead rings in the sections further down on this page, titled “How to Open a Traditional Captive Ring” and “How to Close a Traditional Captive Ring”. First, here’s a more-detailed breakdown of the differences between Snap Fit captive bead rings and traditional tension-style captive rings:


Snap Fit Captive Bead Rings

Tension-Style Captive Rings

Snap Fit Captive Bead Ring Tension-Style or Traditional Captive Bead Rings
The ball for a Snap Fit style captive ring is completely smooth. Instead of utilizing a dimpled ball, the edges of the captive ring’s opening have spring-loaded, retractable components that help hold its perfectly-smooth ball in place. When the ball isn’t snapped into the gap in the ring, those spring-loaded pieces stick out. When you push the ball into the ring, the pieces retract to allow the ball to fit in place. Once the ball’s been snapped in, the hidden springs on either side push the components towards the ball to hold it securely in place.

Snap Fit captive bead rings tend to not be as flexible as traditional tension-style captive rings, so there’s less flexibility with the size of the ball you can use with a Snap Fit-style captive ring.


Traditional captive bead rings, or CBRs, hold a bead in place using the ring’s own tension/pressure. The rounded ends of the captive bead ring fit into two little dimpled indentations on either side of the captive bead to hold it in place.

Tension-style captive rings typically have a gap that’s 1mm smaller than the ball size. For example, a14g 1/2″-diameter CBR with a 5mm ball has a 4mm gap between the two ends of the ring. This size-smaller gap allows the ball to be held firmly in place by the ring’s natural tension.

Tip: You can easily insert a captive bead that’s either 1 size larger or smaller than the ball that comes standard with a traditional captive ring. For instance, if your ring comes with a 5mm ball, you can go up to a 6mm ball or down to 4mm, but you shouldn’t jump to 8mm, because that would distort the ring, making it look wider/more oblong. If you prefer that look, there’s nothing stopping you from doing it; using an appropriately-sized captive bead will just maintain the ring’s shape better and make it easier to insert and remove the ball.



How to Open a Traditional Captive Bead Ring

Captive Bead Ring Opening & Closing Tools Insert ring opening pliers into the captive bead ring.
Step 1: Gather all the tools you need for the job. Here’s a list the tools in the picture above, for easy reference. These tools can help you insert and remove captive beads from their rings:

(Only the 1st 3 items above will be needed when opening a captive bead ring, but it’s best to have all tools listed handy since both opening and closing pliers may be needed in the same session. Click any of the names above to shop for that type of tool, or visit our Piercing Supplies section.)

Step 2: Slide the captive bead ring over the tips of your ring opening pliers so that the ring rests on the grooves in the nose of the pliers. Gently squeeze the handles together until the captive ring is secure and not moving around.


Use your ball grabber tool to grasp the captive bead while the ring is over the opening pliers and held securely in place.

Another view of the captive bead ring over the pliers, with the ball grabber tool grasping the captive bead to remove it.
Step 3: Expand the teeth of the ball grabber tool so that they grab hold of the captive bead. As you still gently squeeze on the ring opening pliers, slowly apply pressure with the ball grabber tool until the ball becomes loose and falls out. Since the ball grabber is holding the ball, you don’t have to worry about losing the ball.

Note: Do not squeeze too hard with the ring opening pliers. This will distort your ring. Only a small amount of pressure is needed to release the ball.

Immediately above is another angle showing what you should be seeing as you hold the captive bead ring in place with the pliers and grasp the bead with the ball grabber tool.


Captive ring with the bead removed

Captive bead ring, ball grabber, and ring opening pliers
Step 4: At this stage, the ball is out of the ring, as shown above. Now, release the pressure on the pliers and hold the captive ring so it doesn’t fall as you remove the pliers. As you see in the image above, the captive ring retains its shape if you apply minimal pressure when removing the ball.



How to Close a Traditional Captive Bead Ring

Large ring closing pliers with a captive ring in them

Step 1: Gather the tools needed for the job, listed below. Ring closing pliers won’t always be needed when inserting a ball into a captive ring, but you should have them on hand in case you stretch your captive ring too much with the ring opening pliers and to help when working with heavier-gauge rings.

Step 2: The ring closing pliers shown here can be used if you open a traditional captive ring too far, are changing ball sizes, or are generally changing the size of the opening in a captive ring. Place the ring in the grooves of the ring closing pliers, as shown below. Begin to apply a small amount of pressure. Once the gap is slightly smaller than the ball you’ll be placing in the ring, set the ring closing pliers aside.


Small ring closing pliers Re-inserting a ball into a captive ring.
The large ring closing pliers shown in the top-right frame above are good for larger-diameter captive rings (typically 5/8″ and larger). Small ring closing pliers like the ones directly above are good for manipulating 1/4″-1/2″ capitve bead rings. Step 3: Use the ball grabber tool to hold the captive bead with the dimples facing out. Slide your ring opening pliers and apply a little pressure to hold the ring firmly in place.
Insert the ball into the captive ring using the ball grabber tool.

Slowly release pressure on the pliers and remove them from the captive ring.

Step 4: Gently squeeze the pliers to keep the captive ring open, and then slide the ball grabber tool that’s holding the dimpled ball into place between the ring’s ends.
Step 5: Once the ball is securely between the ring’s ends, release the ball from the ball grabber tool and slowly release pressure on the ring opening pliers. Remove the pliers from the ring.


Follow us @ Instagram