How to Make Abalone Shell Beads

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Abalone shells are beautiful to look at and you can also use them to create wonderful jewelry pieces. Their iridescent and colorful shells make them an ideal material for jewelry. Use abalone shells to create beads to use in your jewelry projects to make necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Dish soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Varnish or clear nail polish
  • Nail polish remover
  • Rotary tool
  • Goggles or protective eyewear
  • Cellophane tape
  • Fine-tip pen
  • Electric drill and bits
  • Find abalone shells on a beach, or order them online. You will need to clean and prepare them before you can use them for bracelets or earrings. Put gloves on and use dish soap and cold water to clean the inside of the abalone shell. If there is an actual abalone or sea creature inside, pry it from the shell. Scrub the shell thoroughly with a small instrument like a toothbrush, so that it is completely clean. Clean the outside of the shell with soap and water, being particularly careful to get all of the grime and dirt off.

  • Apply a thin coat of varnish. If you don't have any, improvise by using clear nail polish. Some jewelry makers also use a cloth soaked in nail polish remover to clean out the inside of the shell after it's clean, to make it shinier. Be careful not to leave your shells out in the sun once they're clean, as the sun's rays can alter the colors and cause them to fade. Allow the varnish to dry thoroughly.

  • Cut the shell into thin strips with a sharp instrument, such as a rotary tool (Dremel) with a 1/8 of an inch range or a fine metal cutting blade. Many jewelry makers prefer the Dremel brand because they are easier to use than others and move at a higher speed. Wear safety goggles so the fine dust and particles don't get into your eyes. Gloves will also help protect your hands from being exposed to the sharp instrument.

  • Tape the shell to your work table so that it won't move. Use a fine-tip pen to mark where you'd like the hole to be and place a 1/16 inch drill bit in that location and drill through the shell. Do not apply too much pressure when drilling, or you may split the shell.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear gloves when cleaning the shells to prevent your hands from getting dirty.
  • Goggles should be used when using sharp instruments.
  • Avoid inhaling any of the dirt or dust when cutting or drilling the shell.
  • Goggles should be used when using sharp instruments.
  • Photo Credit http://www.shells-of-aquarius.com/images/paua-abalone-polished.jpg
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