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Drilling into MOP

I’m interested in trying to, for the first time, set bezel-set CZs into a larger MOP cab. Does anyone have any experience with drilling into MOP, and could suggest any techniques or flex shaft tools I could try? Super excited to dive in and would appreciate any ideas, thanks so much!

Wear a good mask.

What is MOP? (I’m a self taught and thus ignorant jewelry so forgive me)
Oh, I just had a brain spark and guess it’s mother of pearl? I have some rough abalone shell and heard you have to wear a mask for something like that too, or fossil mammoth tooth, etc.

Yes, Mother of Pearl! Noted on the mask, and I was also wondering if there were any special drills I should get. I also heard I should do it underwater to keep it cool. Didn’t know if anyone on here had any experience or other callouts about it.


Hello Sara,
You need diamond bits and do plan to do the drilling underwater. I use a shallow container with enough water to cover the pearl, MOP, etc. If the item is large enough, I grip it between thumb and finger to hold it steady under the water and drill in a bit, pull the drill out to clear the swarf and push it in again, continue in the same manner until the hole is completed. If possible, drill in from the back to meet the hole made from the front - prevents fracturing. I like to use a drill press for a vertical hole, but the flex shaft does well for horizontal holes.

By drilling under water, there is no dust so no mask is needed. Keeping the item cool is important as well.

Best of luck, Judy in Kansas, where a lovely break in the heat is truly welcome.

I have never used diamond drills or bits on pearls. Just HSS twist drills. Unless mother of pearl is somehow harder or different you should not need specialized equipment.

Please excuse any typos-- curse my clumsy digits…

Thanks, all! I’ll start with the HSS drills I have then work my way up to other drills.