How to Open and Remove a Captive Bead Ring

Different types of captive bead ring jewelry
Metalhead64 / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

If you want to remove or change your CBR (captive bead ring) body jewelry, it's not quite as simple as it sounds. In fact, if you ask someone how to remove it, chances are they'll tell you to go see your piercer. You don't want a lecture, you just want to change your jewelry. But do yourself a favor and listen to the following explanation.

To any professional, your safety is the most important thing.

People have gotten infections and ripped their skin open trying to do these things themselves. And the simple fact of the matter is - your piercer will do it for you for free. A quick trip to the studio and you're in and out at no charge, so what's the big deal?

All right, now let's be real. There comes a time that almost all of us have to change our own jewelry and a trip to the piercing studio is just not realistic. The key is to know what you're doing so you don't end up hurting yourself.

How to Remove a CBR

If you have a lot of piercings and plan on changing your jewelry often, it's strongly suggested that you invest in a pair of ring opening pliers and a pair of ring closing pliers. They are exactly as they sound - special tools designed for the removal and closing of CBRs.

If you don't have a pair of ring opening pliers, a pair of needle-nosed pliers will do the trick. Note: This is where people end up hurting themselves or ruining their jewelry.

Needle-nosed pliers are not made for body jewelry. They can make scratches in the metal, which is a breeding ground for bacteria. It is absolutely essential that the surface of the ring is not scratched! Therefore, what you need to do is wrap the needle-nose with some kind of soft tape such as electrical or masking.

Make sure the tape is clean, but keep in mind that this is far from the sterile treatment your piercing would get at a studio.

Now, place the wrapped needle-nosed end into the center of the CBR and slowly pry the ring open. Be prepared for the bead/ball to fall out by holding your other hand under the ring to catch it. After the bead has fallen out, there will be a space in the CBR. If the space does not look large enough, you can pry it open a little more with your pliers, being careful not to warp the ring shape.

Once you have a large enough space, you can remove the CBR. Slowly turn the ring - don't pull it. As you rotate the CBR, the space will reach a point where it can be carefully pulled away from the skin. If the space still isn't big enough, turn it back and open it more and try again. You don't want to force it out.

Additional Notes

  • Going to a professional is still the best policy. Don't attempt this unless you are very knowledgeable about piercings or have no other choice but to do it yourself.
  • Do not attempt to remove or change your jewelry if the piercing is not healed, which usually takes at least 6-8 weeks with most piercings. If you do, you could end up having to start the healing process all over again.
  • Don't remove your jewelry if you believe your piercing is infected. Removing the jewelry only causes more problems if a piercing is infected. See your piercer or doctor for advice.

How to Insert and Close a CBR

As mentioned above, it is important to be sure your piercing is healed before you remove the jewelry. It is now crucial to be sure it is healed before you go sticking something new in it.

Again, it's highly recommend that you get some ring closing pliers. These will make the job much easier. However, if you don't have any, you can still follow the instructions on the previous page to wrap standard needle-nosed pliers.

Inserting a CBR 

The first thing you need to do is make sure the jewelry and your hands are both clean. If you bought the jewelry from a piercing studio and kept it in its package, it should be fine.

If you ordered it from an online store and do not have any proof that it has been autoclaved, please take it to a local piercing studio and ask them to autoclave it for you. There may be a small charge and it will probably take overnight, so don't take out your old jewelry until the new ring is ready to go.

Now you have your pliers, clean jewelry, and clean hands. Open the new CBR using the instructions on the previous page. Place the ball somewhere clean that it will not roll away while you are inserting the ring. Open the ring wide enough to allow room for any skin that needs to pass through the space, being careful not to warp the round shape of the ring.

Carefully touch one end of the ring to the piercing hole and rotate the ring carefully to allow it to slide through the hole in the shape of the ring. This may take some practice and gentle prodding. You do not want to force the ring. If you feel it catch or think it's not going in the right direction, remove the ring and try again. Sometimes stretching the skin around the hole can make it easier, depending on where it is. Honestly, the less you think about it, the easier it is.

Closing the Ring & Inserting the Bead 

Captive beads serve a more significant purpose than just aesthetics. Once you have your new jewelry in, you need to close it so it doesn't fall out.

Using your pliers, gently close the ring, leaving just enough room to allow the bead to snap in place. You'll notice that the bead either has a hole all the way through or indentations on both sides. This is where the ring holds the bead.

Grasp the bead between your fingers, making sure the indentations (or holes) are on the top and bottom. Line the indentations up with the ends of the jewelry and firmly push to pop the bead between them. This will also take some practice.

If the bead is correctly inserted, you should not be able to pull it back out without force. But it should still swivel freely between the ends of the ring.

Additional Notes

  • Depending on the location of the piercing, it may be helpful to have a friend assist you.
  • Looking in the mirror is more confusing than helpful. It's actually best to close your eyes and feel your way through it.
  • If at all possible, please let a professional piercer do this for you. It's usually free and can save you a lot of trouble.