BELOW is an overview of the form, shape and parts of the Dominican Rosary.
If we think of the Rosary as a necklace — and many Catholics do wear it as such — the Loop is the part which hangs around the neck. The Loop is the largest and most important part of the Rosary, inasmuch as it contains most of the prayer beads — 54 beads out of a total of 59.
The Center is a medal or medallion joining the two ends of the Loop. Usually it portrays the Virgin Mary or some other saint. It is also called the Centerpiece or sometimes the Medallion.
Hanging down from the Centerpiece is a single length of chain, strung with beads. It is called the Pendant. A Crucifix hangs from the bottom of it.
The Crucifix is an image of Christ on the Cross, or sometimes just a plain Cross, hanging from the bottom of the Pendant.
The beads, medallions and other parts of the Rosary are strung along a chain, usually made of metal, but sometimes made of cord or fiber.
The 59 beads of the Rosary determine which prayers are recited and in which order. There are two types of beads; “Hail Mary” beads and “Our Father” beads.
The Five Decades
Fifty of the “Hail Mary” beads are grouped in sets of ten, called “decades”. Technically, the word “decade” refers only to the ten “Hail Mary” beads in the group. In practice, however, each decade of Hail Marys has certain other prayers attached to it, and these are also considered part of the decade. In the Simple Method of praying the Rosary, each decade begins with an “Our Father” bead, so a decade consists of one “Our Father” bead and ten “Hail Mary” beads.
The Antiphon Beads
The three extra “Hail Mary” beads are strung together in a triad on the Pendant. These are called the “Antiphon Beads”. See the diagram below: