I had great fun playing around with this last year. Sketch the shape
of the shell you want onto a piece of rice paper (being a snob,
normal printer paper will work) and then PVA glue this to a piece of
silver which a fraction thinner than the shell you intend to inlay.
Let it dry and then cut the shape out of the silver sheet and tidy up
the window you have made.
Next glue a piece of paper to the surface of the shell, let it dry,
place your silver on top of this and trace the shape of the window
onto the shell with a pencil or pen. Cut out your piece of shell a
bit large, which can be done using a standard jewellers saw. Then
work the shell and the hole until they fit together. You will need to
hold the shell and the silver up the light a lot to get it just
Once the two parts are nicely matched, ease the corners on what will
be the bottom of the shell and put it away somewhere carefully. Take
a piece of clean silver sheet slightly larger than the sheet with the
hole cut out, lie them on top of one another and solder them
together. Cut this down to size and tidy it up, also do any other
soldering operations I was making pendants, so attached the jump ring
at this point. Polish the back and edges of the silver unit and
carefully check the fit of your shell without getting it firmly
wedged in place. Next whip up some epoxy, glue the shell in place and
put it somewhere safe to cure. It does not matter at this point if
the glue job is untidy and you can leave the paper mask on the shell.
When it is set, grind the surface flat on coarse sand paper and
gently work your way to a very fine grit. Then follow your standard
polishing steps to rouge, but do not use a wheel, as that will wear
away the shell faster than the silver. I use old rags braced on a bit
of wood and a lot of elbow grease, but I suppose a lapping machine
would work just as well.
Good luck, the results are very satisfying. Also have a go playing
with black lip as well as abalone the colours are fantastic.
Chris at collarsandcuffs.co.uk