Tag Archives: glass

How to set Beach Glass

Glass is fragile. You drop it and it breaks, you drill it and it breaks, you hammer a metal setting around it and it breaks, you force it in to a bezel and it breaks…   No wonder that some of us would rather not work with glass!  There are however some techniques that are used extensively.  Here is a discussion of these techniques. I am sure the list is not exhaustive.

Wire wrapping techniques

Glue Glass Pendant

Blue Glass Pendant

Fine Silver Earrings with Intricate Wire wrapping

Fine Silver Earrings with Intricate Wire wrapping

These are really common.  They are easy.  You don’t need to work the glass itself.  Note that wire techniques are not specially good for rings or for jewelry that is likely to get banged around.  Some of these techniques are a bit flimsy and the piece of glass can come out of the setting.  There are numerous different wire wrapping techniques. I refer you to just one website.  There are also YouTube videos.  Just google “wirewrap beach glass”.  The “Blue Glass Pendant” shown here, was wrapped by myself with a homemade technique using fine silver wire, which is nice and soft.  The earrings were wrapped by an unknown artist in Cusco, Peru.

Wire solder technique

Light Green Beach Glass set with 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire

Light Green Beach Glass set with 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire

You can use thick wire that is not easily formed or wrapped.  I like to use gauge 18 Sterling silver. The idea is to create a “basket” with prongs, place the glass in the basket, and bend the prongs around the glass to hold it in place.  I have attached an example.  Here the prongs are the same in the front and the back so that is does not matter if the pendant flips over, as the front and the back look identical.

Blue sapphire set over light blue beach glass (pendant in Sterling silver)

Blue sapphire set over light blue beach glass (pendant in Sterling silver)

A variation of this technique allows for a smaller stone (blue sapphire in this case) to be set on one of the prongs!

Bezel setting

Bezel formed by hand with thin (gauge 32) soft silver.

Bezel formed by hand with thin (gauge 32) soft silver.

This is more serious.  You will have to cut your silver, solder it together and form a bezel that is shaped after the irregular piece of glass that you want to frame.  It has become my favorite method because the bezel protects the piece of sea glass.  If you shape the base of the bezel, you can accommodate a rounded piece of glass, such as a piece from the neck of a bottle.  Here are a few examples.

Purple glass from a bottle top with silver bezel and brass base formed to fit the inside curvature of the glass

Purple glass from a bottle top with silver bezel and brass base formed to fit the inside curvature of the glass

Drilling the Glass

If you really want to make a hole in your sea glass, you can do so.  Drill with a diamond bit, under cool water, carefully and slowly!  I found out the hard way: it is easy to crack your piece of glass.

One can insert a silver grommet in the drilled hole for added stability, as shown in the last picture. But you will have to tap the grommet with a hammer to close it.  That is tricky and can crack your piece of glass too! Best to use very soft and thin metal tubing for this purpose.  Have fun.

Drilled beach glass (heart shaped) with silver grommet

Drilled beach glass (heart shaped) with silver grommet

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Choosing Diamond Bits to Drill Beach Stones with a Dremel

Jewelers, beading and lapidary enthusiasts, and those that work with sea glass have a common problem:  How to make a hole in their material, be it stone, precious or semiprecious gems, or glass.

Drilled beach stone

Drilled Beach Stone with Silver Inlay

I have worked with beach stones for about 12 years.  They come in different hardness measured on a 1-10 Mohs’ scale.  The quarzites are hard (7 on the Mohs scale) and the sedimentary or sand stones are much softer (about 3-5 on the Mohs scale) and therefore easier to drill.  We use a Dremel drill.  Take a look at the comments to this post about different models of Dremel drills.  We use cylinder drill bits that are coated with diamond dust (simply called diamond drill bits).  I buy them in bulk because we use so many.  I am out of bits again and I just scoured the web for suppliers.  This post is about how to choose a supplier!  Drill bits come in very different quality, so you want to choose carefully.

First, lets consider the different types of bits.  There are  1) cylinder bits, 2) twisted bits, 3) shank bits, 4) core bits, 5) crinkled core bits, 6) cintered core bits. If you are not sure what this means you can check out pictures of these bits at Dad’s Rock Shop.  I have tried choices 1-4.  Considering the cost, I still prefer the simple cylinder bits or the twisted bits. They are much cheaper.  Most sources have a variety of sizes to offer.  And you can buy in bulk.  They work for really hard stones and they work with glass.   In terms of how long they last before they are totally dulled up, it’s your technique which is most important: drill slowly, under water to keep everything cool and with a relatively slow rpm (<2000).   Drill even more carefully and without exerting much pressure if you are making a hole in glass.

So, once again I have decided to go with cylinder bits and I want diameters of 1-2 mm.  I usually order large quantities, say 300 – 1000 bits.  I did a google search for  ‘1 mm diamond drill bits’.  Here is what I got.  The prices are per drill bit.

Dad’s Rock Shop  $3.50 (no discount for large quantities)

Lasco Diamond Products $1.75 (1.5mm Diamond drill bits only)

By The Bay Treasures  $2.30  (min 50 bits)

Delta One Lapidary  $1.85 (min 12 bits)

Twisted bits on Ebay $0.35 (20 bits)

Thunderbird Supply Co.  $1.32 (min 30 bits)

Covington Engineering  $1.00 (min 50 bits)

Daniel Lopacki  $0.95 (min 100 bits)

I read every web site in detail and looked at the “about” section.  That tells me whether the seller has first hand experience with drilling stones.   I have previously bought drill bits (and other stuff) from Dad’s Rock Shop.  They are good quality, but their current prices are not competitive.  I have bought poor quality bits too, but not from any of the suppliers mentioned above.  I was somewhat interested in the drill bits from Bay Treasures because these are clearly lapidary enthusiasts and concerned with quality products.  However, I think I am going to go with Daniel Lopacki.  His prices are very competitive if you buy in bulk.  And the website includes great tips for drillers.  They know how to do it and have done it themselves and quality bits are a concern for this seller too.  As you can see, you can get bargains on Ebay.  I have had variable success with these bits depending on the vendor.  But check out the comments below, because Seth from fans4pc managed to change my mind on his diamond bits which are both well priced and good quality.

For drilling holes in glass, check this new post out!

Drilled Beach Stone – Sterling Silver

Drilled Beach Stone – Sterling Silver

Drilled Beach Stones – Deer Skin Leather