How to Make Fake Mother of Pearl

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Faux mother-of-pearl inlay can be used to adorn trinket boxes or other items.
Faux mother-of-pearl inlay can be used to adorn trinket boxes or other items. (Image: Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Mother-of-pearl, which is also known as nacre, occurs in nature as the lining of the shells of certain types of shellfish, such as oysters and mollusks. Its shimmering and iridescent qualities make it much prized for use in making jewelry and other decorative objects. Real mother-of-pearl can be expensive and difficult for the home crafter to obtain. Fortunately, there are a few methods of making faux mother-of-pearl. This method uses polymer clay.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 oz. of white polymer clay
  • Polymer clay blade
  • Pasta roller
  • Very small amounts of polymer clay in various colors
  • White pearlized mica powder
  • Two or three other colors of pearlized mica powder
  • Cotton swabs
  • Disposable aluminum baking sheet, or dedicated baking sheet
  • Oven
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Soft cloth

Condition the white clay by running it through a pasta roller on the thickest setting. Run it through, fold it in half, give it a quarter turn, and run it through the roller. Repeat, and run it through one last time lengthwise. Cut in half with the polymer blade, and put one half aside.

Take a very tiny amount of the colored polymer clay, and with your fingertip, randomly run smears of the color along the other piece of white clay. Use three or four colors.

Fold the clay in half with the color on the outside. Place the folded edge of the clay into the roller, run it through, fold it again, and repeat until the color is just a little darker than you want it to end up. (The more you run it through the pasta roller, the paler the colors will become.)

Lay the clay down with the side you like best facing up. With your finger, take some of the white pearlized mica powder and smear all over the clay. Use the cotton swabs to smear some of the colored pearlized mica powder in streaks over the clay. (The streaks should run in the same directions as your earlier streaks.)

Fold the clay in half with the pearlized side on the outside. Place the folded edge of the clay into the pasta roller, and run it through. Reduce the thickness of the roller to medium, and run through again.

Take the plain piece of white clay that you put aside in step one, and run it through on medium. Use the blade to cut random ovals from the clay with the color streaks. The ovals should not all be the same size, nor should they be the exact same shape. Sizes should range from ¾ -inch up to 1½ -inch.

Arrange the ovals randomly over the surface of the white clay, making sure that no background clay shows through. When the clay is completely covered with the ovals, run it through the pasta machine, give it a quarter turn and run it through again.

To use the faux mother-of-pearl for inlay, cut out the desired shapes and place on a disposable aluminum pan, or on a baking sheet dedicated for polymer clay use. Bake according to the directions of the brand of clay you are using.

You may also use it to cover other items before baking, or roll it into beads.

Sand and buff with a small cloth after baking, to bring out the shine.

Tips & Warnings

  • Add extra smears of color, either of the scrap clay or of the mica powder at any step up to step 5 if the colors are not intense enough to suit you.

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