Guide to Making a “Breakaway”

If you inspect a habit rosary worn by someone who wears it on a regular basis, you’ll often find a mechanism that allows the rosary to not break when it’s pulled, tangled, or caught on something. Especially a longer rosary (like the one I wear) is extremely susceptible to getting caught in a car door, stuck on a pew, or pulled by someone/something. 

This breakaway was made by another friar, made smaller than mine.


The term breakaway is what I’ve called this unique mechanism, simply because no one has provided me with a better name. I got the concept from the breakaway rim used in basketball: a device that keeps guys from crashing the backboard after a big dunk. The purpose of a rosary breakaway is to provide a means for the rosary to be torn away from the belt without destroying the rosary. Since the device is built to provide a weak-spot, the breakaway prevents eye pins or jump rings from being pulled out. It also prevents cord rosaries from snapping. 

I’ve been asked several times to make a guide for these. I took some time because, honestly, I’m still not an expert at it. However people tell me I’m my own worst critic, so I decided to post this guide on how to make a breakaway, especially for those religious who are interested in making their own habit rosary. 



The breakaway serves several purposes. It is a preventive device to keep the rosary from breaking. It is also a secure loop to keep medals, chain, and other loops from breaking…making the junction much better than a standard jump ring

This guide assumes that the reader has experience making wire rosaries, eye pins, and has some basic understanding of wire-making jewelry. This guide also assumes you have the tools to make wire rosaries. If you’ve never made a wire rosary, either a habit rosary or a “regular sized” rosary, I encourage you to view the guides at rosarymakersguide.org. If you need to see to learn, there are plenty of youtube videos about making wire rosaries to choose from. 

This is also the easy way to make this mechanism. I’ve seen breakaways made differently; this is the way I’ve found to be effective and easy to make. BTW: prepare to mess up…a lot. 

Breakaway Guide 

You will need your: 

  • Round-nose pliers
  • a 2nd set of pliers, either round-nose or bent-nose
  • flush cutter or wire cutter
  • ruler or tape measure
  • coil of wire similar in gauge and bend to the eye pins.* This will be called your main wire
  • coil of 21 gauge silver memory wire. This will be called your secondary wire
  • plenty of patience

*using wire of a different gauge and strength can make the breakaway not function properly.  

My tools are bigger for this job because I use tougher wire. Yours may differ.


For my main wire, I’m using 18 gauge galvanized steel wire, purchased from Ace Hardware at $4.99 per 100ft. The wire is extremely firm, similar to chicken wire. When I bought the wire, it came with a little tag, saying: In California, this product has been shown to cause cancer in animals or something like that. As long as you don’t put the wire in your mouth or lick it, I think you’ll be fine if you choose to use this specific wire. 

The other wire is 21 gauge memory wire that I bought from a local craft store. Since the wire will be used as a secondary coil, you can choose to use a different kind. On earlier breakaways, I actually used black-coated wire to give it a cool look. (Note: if this wire is softer than your main wire, you may want to use this wire on your first few attempts.) 

Making the Breakaway: 


  1. Cut off  5 inch segment of your main wire. It doesn’t have to be exact. Straighten it out as best you can. Find the middle of the wire.
  2. With your round-nose pliers, create a round loop in the middle of the wire. The loop should be at least 1/4 inch in diameter, no bigger than 1/2 inch. As a guide, I use the base of my round-nose pliers when I make the loop. The wires should create a 90 degree angle after the bend.
  3. Slide the pliers out to the tip, and reposition them so they are near the “top” of the loop. Bend the length of the wire until it points straight up while maintaining the loop. Bend the other half of the wire in the same fashion, until the two ends are parallel.

    It's important to keep your measuring device handy, so you can plan your next bends.


  4. Measure from the “top” of your loop to the end of your lengths. In this picture, the length is exactly 2 inches. As indicated in the above picture, take your round-nose pliers, and grab the length above the halfway point, providing room for the bend. For this breakaway, I grabbed the wire at 1/8th of an inch above the halfway point. After grabbing the wire, you need to bend the wire on top of itself. I usually hold the loop with my fingers, but if you want more leverage, use your other pliers to secure the loop.

    Bottom length is typical after the bend. Top length is how it should look like after fixing.


  5. After bending the wire on top of itself, the ends should be rounded. Crimp the ends to make the end as thin as possible. Usually during this process, the length of the wire goes all over the place, like in the picture above. Before continuing, grab the stray lengths of wire with your pliers and bend them back so that everything is parallel. When fixing the breakaway, be sure to manipulate the wire with the pliers closer to the ends. This part is covered by the coil after everything is finished, so it’s okay if it get mangled a little.
  6. This is when things get tricky! You now should have wire with a loop at one end and the ends bent on top of each other. Pull apart the two “legs” of wire slightly. With one set of pliers, grab a leg at the midpoint of the length. With the other set of pliers, bend the top portion to a 45 degree angle. Bend the other leg at the same place. You should have a loop that resembles a “Y” now. Straighten out the wire where needed.

    It's okay if the bottom part is slightly mangled; it will be covered by the coil.


  7. Bend the tips of both legs 45 degrees, so the ends of the “Y” look perpendicular to the stem of the breakaway. This is also the time when I insert anything that needs to be secure. In the picture above I’ve inserted a coiled double-eye loop, which I use to connect the chain of the rosary. You can also add other loops for medals and skulls.
  8. The toughest part: Find the halfway point from the end to the bend in the leg. Using both sets of pliers, hold one leg below the halfway point while bending the top part inwards. You want the bend to be approximately 45 degrees, or until the tip is parallel with the breakaway. Bend the other leg in exactly the same fashion.

    I've found it very hard to bend both legs exactly. Sometimes it takes a few extra bends to make them exact.


  9.  Straighten out the breakaway. To make the breakaway function properly (and look acceptable) you must a) make sure that the wires are all straight and parallel b) make sure both legs are bent in the same place and at the same angle, making a diamond shape c) the wire ends near the bottom loop. When it is straightened, squeeze the body of the breakaway together, closing off the loop. If the tips of the legs aren’t touching yet, bend the tops of the leg (below the tips) towards each other until they are touching.

    Keep the coil tight around the breakaway for appearance and to secure the loop.


  10. Grab your round-nose pliers and the other coil of wire. Wind the wire around the nose once or twice to start the coil. It’s okay if the coil is much bigger than the actual body of the breakaway. Next take the wire and begin and begin the coil at the first bend of the breakaway. Squeeze the coil around the body so it is secure. With one set of pliers, hold the loop to secure the breakaway. With the other set, slowly wrap the wire around the breakaway, working your way to the loop. If  the coil has gaps or is loose, use your pliers to squeeze the coil together and tighten the wire.
  11. With your wire cutters, cut the wire from the spool as close as you can to the breakaway. With your pliers, squeeze the end into the coil so it doesn’t snag or stick out.

 The final touch is to make sure the breakaway is secure and of the right tension. Connect the breakaway to the trigger clasp or key ring you use to secure your rosary to your belt.  (If you use a hanger, I suggest getting a small key ring to put through one of the hanger arms for the breakaway) Holding the clasp or ring in the air, allow your rosary to hang from there. Do the tips of your breakaway still touch? If not, then your breakaway is too loose, and you need to bend the top parts of the legs closer together. If they don’t even budge from the weight of the rosary, it may be too tight. Give it a yank, and see how much pressure is required to pull the breakaway from the ring/clasp. 

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June 2010
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Questions or comments?

Feel free to leave any comments. If you have questions or would like to inquire about obtaining a habit rosary, please email me: vito[AT]friartech.org.

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