How to Make Abalone Jewelry

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Abalone shell jewelry is beautiful and can be expensive to buy. Often inlaid into jewelry, buttons and musical instruments, the pearly iridescent part of this sea shell is stunning. Found in many areas of the world, California boasts a special history with the abalone, dating to the Chumash Indian tribe having once traded abalone as a form of money. It should be noted that the dust from the abalone shell is toxic to humans and animals, so it is important to use pre-drilled discs unless you are a trained professional. Making basic jewelry can be easy, and inexpensive.

Things You'll Need

  • Needle nose pliers
  • E6000 or industrial strength glue
  • Matching abalone discs, pre-drilled (2 per pair of earrings)
  • Hypoallergenic silver plated earring hooks, (2 per pair of earrings)
  • Small jump rings, silver color, (2 per earring)
  • Tumbled & polished 2-inch abalone piece or round cabochon (1 per pendant)
  • Small to medium (glue on) silver plated bale (1 per pendant)
  • Tumbled & polished 1/2-inch abalone pieces (10-12 per bracelet)
  • Silver plated form bracelet (round or square forms, 1 per bracelet)
  • Make some abalone earrings. You can do this quickly, easily, and safely by using a pre-drilled disc or pre-drilled cabochon. The key is finding two that will match closely. Each will already have a hole in the top for application of a small jump ring. The jump ring will be the connector between the abalone shell itself and and the earring hooks. Use the needle nose pliers to connect the hooks to the jump rings, then to the discs. Close all hooks and rings tightly, and voila, a pair of earrings to go with any outfit.

  • Make an abalone pendant. Use a large tumbled colorful piece of abalone at least 2 inches across or a round cabochon (no holes should exist in these pieces). Apply industrial strength glue to a glue-on silver plated bail, attaching to the back top of the shell. Follow drying-time instructions and you will have a lovely pendant that fits most ropes, chains or necklaces.

  • Make an abalone bracelet. Use the silver-plated form bracelet for a base. This has flat surfaces, usually in round or square shapes, where abalone pieces can be easily attached with glue. Most range from 8 to 12 links, so sort out your small pieces of polished and tumbled 1/2-inch abalone pieces, picking out the best ones. Laying the bracelet out flat, apply small dabs of industrial strength glue and affix one abalone piece per section. Allow adequate drying time and you will have a lovely bracelet.

Tips & Warnings

  • If these supplies can't be found in the local craft store, you can order online.
  • Do not under any circumstance attempt to grind, sand, tumble, drill, or create any type of dust from these shells on your own, as the "abalone dust" is considered toxic. This is why most craft stores and wholesales offer pre-drilled discs and pre-tumbled pieces. Unless you are a trained professional with required lapidary equipment and respirator, do not attempt to do this on your own.

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