Tag Archives: sea glass

Happy New Year!

My kind of New Year “greeting card”

Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches

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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

Rock Hound on a Motorcycle

On July 27th I flew to San Diego and rented a 1200 RT BMW motorcycle with 4 in line cylinders, a powerful bike with which I was going to cruise 2600 miles across California.  My friend Manu lives in San Diego with his Kawasaki Versys 650.  He picked me up at the airport and we went right to the beamer rental shop.   The next day we set out early, the first leg of a 12 day journey, all the way up to Arcata, CA, on as many scenic routes as possible and then back down along the coast.   We crashed overnight at the cheapest motels in town or at a friend’s house, but we had dinners every night at the best restaurant we could find on Yelp!

Snowflake Obsidian

Snowflake Obsidian

On our way south, in Carlotta, CA, we stopped at Chapman’s Gem and Mineral shop on route 101, also called the Redwood Highway.  This is paradise for rock hounds.  For a couple of dollars I bought snowflake obsidian, jasper, rhodonite and much more. Here are some samples.

Rhodonite

Rhodonite

We stopped in Fort Bragg, CA, and we took the trail to “Glass Beach”.  This was a dump site for local residents, until 1967.  Now, in stead of sand, the ground is composed of small shards of smooth glass, ground extensively by the sea waves.  I had read about the place.  But we found the pieces of glass to be too small to use for jewelry.

Glass Beach

Glass Beach

Rarely, one finds a piece that is larger than 2 cm.

We had passed places called ‘Topaz’, ‘Diamond Valley’ and ‘Emerald Bay’.  Each time I took note and looked for some explanation for the bejeweled name.  No success.  Not until we discovered ‘Jade Cove’ in Big Sur!  It lies protected

nephrite

Nephrite

Cliffs of Jade Cove

Cliffs of Jade Cove

within a National Forest. It is easy to get to from Highway 1.  The green cliffs are composed of nephrite (a type of jade) and also serpentine.   Nephrite is a soft stone (Mohs 6) which is easy to carve and when polished it is vitreous and has an oily luster.  It can be very elegant with white to green to grey hues.  It was  considered an imperial stone in chinese dynasties.  Here are some of my samples.  And a finished piece with banded agate, from Chapman’s Gem shop, see above.

Nephrite

Nephrite

There is more to come about other adventures on this trip, although they have little to do with lapidary or jewelry.  Stay tuned!

Before I set out on this trip, my 17 year old gave me a penguin stuffed animal – a talisman to keep me safe.  Penguino, as we called him, became a pro at riding the motorcycle…

 

Banded Agate in Silver

Banded Agate in Silver

Penguino

Penguino

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

BEACH GLASS & SEA GLASS

“Do you have beach glass jewelry?”  That is a question I often get when I am exhibiting at an Arts & Crafts Fair.

So, yes, I do work with beach or sea glass, terms which are often used interchangeably (see the images in this post).  As any beachcomber knows, a nice piece of glass is a good find.  An uncommon color, a well worn piece (which is old), a recognizable lettering or name that can help date the piece, these are features we all look for.

Green Sea Glass pendent in Silver

I have learned that beach glass is very popular.  A search on the etsy.com website for “beach glass” got 12,484 hits and a search for “sea glass” got 22,050 hits.  Those are items for sale, either handmade jewelry, vintage pieces or supplies (such as bundles or bulk lots of beach glass).   Even with so many buyers and sellers, there is surprisingly little knowledge on this product.  So I tried to educate myself and researched the web on beach glass and found some interesting stuff.

Sea Glass Pendent in Silver

The Wikipedia page on “Sea Glass” is informative.  It is particularly strong on the colors that are sought after and links each color to the possible source: for example red sea glass from old Schlitz beer bottles (1900-1982).  Schlitz was a brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which became Stroh Brewery and is now Pabst Brewing Company.  As with red glass of Schlitz bottles, there are many examples where the particular color helps to date the glass.

Much of this information comes from a book written by LaMotte, who is referred to as the “Godfather of  Sea Glass”.   LaMotte together with Charles Peden founded the North American Sea Glass Association (NASGA).  Their website has news about the Sea Glass Festival in October.  A very useful page compares natural (genuine) sea glass, versus “craft glass” (or artificial glass) tumbled in drums rather than by the action of waves over many years.   You can also find information on antique bottle collecting and a link to Antique Bottle Collector’s Haven!  On this site you can appraise your antique bottle and date it.

Blue Sea Glass pendent

An interesting article describes the amethyst color brought out by sunlight over the years.  It is due to manganese dioxide that was added to glass prior to the 1920s to produce colorless glass by counteracting the natural green hue from iron.  Manganese when exposed to UV light over the years turns to an amethyst color.

Green Sea Glass Pendent in Silver

A frequent query is about which beaches have sea glass.  It turns out that old dumping sites are where you need to go.  There are a few well know ones such as Glass Beach in Fort Bragg CA.   But also many others world wide.  Storms are supposed to unearth old sites of beach glass.  But I think you are better off asking locals about where the town dump used to be 50-100 years ago!  A how-to-method for walking the beach and scouring for beach glass can also be found on the web.  I have a page on the 40 Beaches of East Hampton town.  Some of these beaches contain lots of sea glass, in particular around the ‘Promised Land’!

Finally I found an interesting story about Louise Rogers who made a fortune with her hobby of collecting sea glass.  She has over a million pieces that she found personally.

For now,  take care and happy beachcombing.  David

Genie, is a dear friend.  She reminded me of this piece I made for her a few years ago.  It is a glass bottle neck with a sapphire in silver.  I had forgotten about it!  (photo courtesy of Genie Posnett)

Genie’s Sea Glass Necklace

I have also got some new sea glass pieces listed in ETSY.