How to inlay silver onto seaglass

Anybody have suggestions? I have wanted to inlay silver shapes into seaglass. But trying to bshape the silver to that level of precision wow! Cant! The best i can think to do is shape the silver as accurately as possible around the glass and then put an epoxy coat over it and sand and polish. I am about to try that but havent yet. The shape i am working with is a one inch piercework octopus which turned out ok and it fits the seaglass pretty well but no way near looking like its inlaid


i am wondering if an octopus…with 8 legs!…is a good idea for your first try…

…maybe rivet it on…?…have the legs contour over the stone shape…?…

just a thought



Do an experiment first with a piece of scrap silver and glass. You might rough up the glass and the back of the silver a bit and glue it in place first, then do the epoxy coating. Lots of people embed objects on glass with epoxy. Keep us posted and good luck…Rob


Just an idea…
On a piece of scrap glass use diamond burrs to carve an octopus into the glass. Then try burnishing in .999 silver foil into the spaces. It would probably be best to have a slight undercut in the glass. This technique is used by the Metalsmith’s of Toledo for inlaying 24 kt gold and silver into steel.


Silver foil!!! Didnt know that existed!!! Thats a good idea


Maybe you should do this backwards, and cast glass around your metal parts. You can do glass casting in an electric kiln, as long as it has a computer control to ramp the temperature down slowly as it cools. If the glass part comes out too shiny, some abrasive blasting would make it look just like sea glass.


Stop inserting new projects I don’t have time for into my brain!!’


how did the swordsmiths get precious metals to stick to steel? I have seen elaborate precious metal inlays on custom decorated antique and modern firearms as well. Cutting steel for elaborate designs and undercutting must be an extremely laborious process if done by hand…I supposed that it can be done commerically with computer controlled laser cutting machines that cost a mint!..that still leaves the question of how to bind precious metals to steel… I don’t know anything about it… the arab craftsmen of Islamic Spain did it beautifully… some of the swords are in the Spanish National Museum in Madrid.

There are tow basic techniques, well explained in Oppi Untracht’s extensive book, Metal Techniques for Craftsmen. This and his second book, Jewelery: Concepts and Technology, are essential in any jeweler’s library.
Inlay, properly speaking, is as you described: an undercut area is chiseled into the base metal and the decorative wire or sheet hammered into place.
Japanese overlay, nunome zogan, is done differently. The surface of the base metal is scored with a chisel in a crosshatch pattern and then sheets of thin foil, though not as thin as leaf, are hammered onto the prepared surface. The teeth that were created in the chiseling process bite into the the overlain metal fixing it to the substrate.
The Spanish damascening technique is done similarly to the Japanese technique. A finely scored surface has the decorative overlay hammered onto it.
Here are a couple of videos, one on Japanese the other on Spanish overlay.
This one on Higo Zogan has good closeups:

Here is an overview of the Spanish technique:


very beautiful but incredibly labor intensive… I wonder if there are modern techniques that use acids, chemicals and computer controlled milling to mass produce things like this…? or is the product suited only to traditional methods of production?

Hi, this sounds like a cool project- and I have no real advice except to suggest an alternative.
Some modern inlay uses the material finely distributed through an epoxy binder. After it’s cured it’s sanded level or to shape. You could suspend silver powder/shavings/bits in a cavity made into the glass and then sand that down to level
You could suspend the solid silver shape in a mixture of sea glass and resin, then sand the resin/glass down to reveal the silver flush w the glass
-either way you’d have to etch the glass areas as they will have been sanded and polished along with the silver, to some degree.

I think the silver would be easier to grind down (rather than glass) unless you have lapidary tools.
Either way it sounds cool and I’d love to see what you end up with.

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Inlay undercuts could be milled even though 3-axis CNC mills don’t really do undercuts.

I have milled with jeweler’s burs of various types such as setting burs and ball burs as small as to 0.5 mm. To cut for inlay you’d first make a pocket cut (flat bottomed cavity a little deeper than the surface) with a flat endmill, then use an inverted cone bur that follows a more-or-less spiral vector from inside the pocket to the edges - and back into the pocket again. That would get you an undercut that 3-axis CNC “can’t do”.

As for mass-production, milling silver is very slow going, possibly depending on the machine. But you can mill many copies in carving wax in no time at all.

Neil A


thanks for the response… Not really thinking about actually doing it… too labor intensive. I did enjoy the video from the Spanish studio… wish the guy would have talked at little more slowly and clearly… the English subtitles really helped but I could understand some of the spoken Spanish. He’s making the damascene inlays traditionally…very beautiful but the amount of practice to reach such a skill level seems mind boggling,

“I wonder if there are modern techniques that use acids, chemicals and computer controlled milling to mass produce things like this…?”
Yeah, but where is the fun and satisfaction in that?
For me it’s all about fine craftsmanship and tradition. My husband and I are old school gold and platinum smiths. Between the two of us we have roughly combined 100 years of experience. We both served traditional 5 year apprenticeships under men who learned their skills between WWI and WWII. Our clientele expects traditional hand crafted work. Yes CAD has replaced hand fabricated jewelry.
That said…my husband is the lead of the wax dept. in a platinum foundry. He works with, programs, calibrates, and repairs state of the art super sophisticated printers. So were not total luddites. We’ve been told for the last 20 years that we are dinosaurs. But now we are among the last folks around that have that old school knowledge. It’s all about supply and demand. So now we are considered an endangered species and are sought after. Thus we can charge more. We’re kinda like plumbers. they are disappearing rapidly because every one wants to be a white collar worker. So plumbers now charge a shit ton of money and people are so very happy to pay them. In fact we charge pretty much the same as they do. About $100.00 per hour wholesale. So I’ll take more money and some respect from discerning folks over fast and easy any day.


for me it was all about hand made and the joy of creating something with only a small set of basic tools with a finished product that wasn’t machine perfect, but still very pleasing…while bearing the marks of being hand made… It was a form of fine art, even though our craft is considered artisanal…making a ring could take any where from 8 to 24 man hours of work depending on how complex I made it… did a lot of applique using leaves, grape motifs, shot and twisted wire…later branching out into mixed metals includeing gold, copper and brass on silver,the latter make thier own solder and is etremely difficult to control even though I created them for myself and not for sale, it was pure enjoyment of creativity…I could have chose watercolor as a hobby but using metals are working with something that is alive…hot metal is like a living thing… it undergoes transformation with heat… I can’t do much anymore creative work with neck and shoulder problems, not to mention eyesight problems with advancing age…which makes them even more treasured…
I think that the market for handmade will be around a long time…
I’m thinking about the mass market for cheap jewelry aka Walmart etc. where stamped and mass manufacturered jewelry is sold as pretty baubles to those who want pretty but more machine assisted and/or made than the market for real art…
Craftsmanship is still the number one method by which people on our webside makes jewelry… the questions posed and the answers given do indeed reflect in many many cases, decades of in dvidual experience…while the collective experience of contributors is centuries… all of it is wisdom.
When I did my work, all I used was a bernzomatic propane/air torch…reading books, online metal chemistry and properties and trial and error was how I learned…as I learned more, I bought a rolling machine and a drw plate to save money by making my own sheet and wire, both in silver and gold…a laborious process but still a labor of love…learning to judge temperature by color ( very dull red to bright yellow glows, ie. optical pyrometry without an actual instrument), ruining some pieces by overheating, and sucessfully pulling off others were all part of the learning curve…but it was far less frustrating than exciting…the creative aspect was an application of scientific knowledge of alloys and the properties of metals and their alloys…I once wrote about silver and copper having a eutectic point…exploiting that knowledge made me able to make my own solder with different melting points…three component phase diagrams enable me to use brass to add zinc as well as copper for making solders.
Since then, technology has advanced… laser and pulse arc welders came after my time…CAD was around but not for jewerly making applications…all of these techonolgical advances help the modern jeweler tremendously… the most georgeous pieces that I’ve seen were at the Museu of the Decorative Arts in Paris… I had visited Europe over the summer and made it a point to go there…(it’s next to the Louvre for those who have the good fortune to travel overseas)… Lalique masterpieces were on display…the craftmanship was superb, so much so that the metalwork was a perfect as modern fine jewerly… but the people who created them were limited to mouth blow pipes and bunsen burners, and water gas furnaces…having experimented with blow pipes as a kid studying mineralogy, I can’t imagine how difficult it was to actually make something using them…making things with only the most basic tools,
Computer controlled milling machinery costs far too much for a home hobbyist, but prices will come down and machines made smaller… those who use them will still have to know the properties of the materials they are working with, and will still have to know how to solder… Computer programming will become an art form in and of itself…lbut an entirely different mind set from hand made… Long live hand made!!!.

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PS: plumbers and electricians cost! service people for appliances and handiman labor are not cheap… re-roofing your house will set you back tens of kilobucks… just coming over to see what is wrong with an appliance will cost at least $85 not including parts and labor to fix it… these people are skilled labor… so we don’t think twice about paying them… when I was younger, I learned how to do home wiring to code (physics and a modicum of electrical engineering let me know what I was doing in regards to electric circuits) and plumbing repairs, by sweat soldering copper pipes…but sticking your upper body under the sink and working overhead for hours, while a plumber could do it for less than haft the time eventually was worth paying for rather than straining your body in a cramped space to get it right, which sometimes meant doing it over again to make sure the leaks were completely fixed.

However, I can’t begrudge the high cost of skilled labor… 25 years or so ago, calling a plumber or electrician cost less than a third of today’s cost. The value of the dollar, over the same time period has depreciated to 10 cents due to decades of inflation… so at a $100 dollars an hour now, thirty dollars an hour in the old days still is a relative bargain, a three fold increase and not a 10 fold!!!.. Those who are my age can remember when gold was at $200 an ounce and silver less than $2.00… neither have beat inflation as of the present spot price…just broken even…but you don’t need to be an economist nor a student of economic history to know that inflation is still rampant… just go grocery shopping !!!..

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your suggetion is a very clever technique to overcome an almost intractible problem…except that a purist, like many on our website, there will be those who wouldn’t like it…the real challenge is to get solid metal to bond without using adhesives…that would mean using techniques like damascene to undercut the glass and abrasives to cut fine grooves into the glass, and to force the metal in by burnishing… extremely difficult with a glass substrate that would easily crack when exposed to heat or working…or impossible. your solution might be the only choice.

Wow! The craftsmanship they have is unbelievable. Beautiful pieces.