Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Strengthening seashells

How would you strengthen seashells in order to incorporate them into
a jewelry design… I would appreciate your suggestions.

Many thanks
Lesley

How would you strengthen seashells in order to incorporate them
into a jewelry design.. I would appreciate your suggestions. 

Fill them with Bondo.
Or, using water-soluble wax you could cast them in metal.

One solution Fill interior with epoxy

Marianne

 How would you strengthen seashells in order to incorporate them into
 a jewelry design.. I would appreciate your suggestions.

Fill them with resin maybe? CIA

Lesley-

Another example of great minds thinking alike: I’ve been looking at
my two huge apothecary jars filled with seashells and wondering what
to do with them (aside from the kitschy stuff that I see made from
shells). I imagine they could be coated with a suitable resin to
strengthen them and give them some luster.

Also, to drill holes in the shells, shall I put masking tape on both
sides to prevent the shell from shattering/splitting?

I promise that I will make elegant seashell jewelry and not
tchotchkes.

Marly

Depends what you want t d with the the seashells, Pat. You could run
some clear two part resin around the inside (wouldn’t show) or fill
them with the two part sculptural epoxy stuff if you don’t mind them
being heavier. I think it matters just what you want to do though so
the treatment doesn’t spoil the effect. Good luck - Blessed be.

Not exactly sure what you mean by “strengthen,” but you could varnish
or dip in epoxy resin to coat them. I have always set them in a bezel
like a gemstone. I do not put pressure on the shell itself, and I
only make pendants or earrings. Bracelets and rings take the worst
beatings!

Mary Ferrulli Barker

Hi Lesley,

There is a two part finger nail repair product called Orly. One part
is liquid, paint it on the back of the shell. Sprinkle the other part
which is powder onto the wet painted liquid. Shake the excess powder
onto a clean sheet of paper. It can be used again. This liquid/powder
will dry hard in a matter of minutes. You can sand it. You can build
it up with more applications. After you sand it you can seal it with
nail lacquer.

Merylyn

1 Like

Fill with plaster of paris :slight_smile:

Again, the material doesn’t determine the quality of the artistry.
I’ve combined tiny shells into my pieces when I think it adds to the
story. Serious pieces of precious materials and I love the effect.

Marianne Hunter
hunter-studios.com

I have incorporated suitable seashells in my jewellery by making an
RTV mould and casting replicas from wax patterns.

Jen

How would you strengthen seashells in order to incorporate them
into a jewelry design.. I would appreciate your suggestions. I
imagine they could be coated with a suitable resin to strengthen
them and give them some luster. Also, to drill holes in the shells,
shall I put masking tape on both sides to prevent the shell from
shattering/splitting? 

I grew up on a beach and am still an obsessive collector of shells
and shell fragments, and have experimented with them in many ways.

You don’t need resin or any stabilizers, except for perhaps shells
that are very fragile to begin with. I tumble polish mine for a few
days in a vibratory tumbler with fine plastic media. This seems to
remove any flakiness and gets the pieces down to “essential shell”.
Very few shells are broken in this process. It’s also a great way to
work with fragments that have an interesting shape. If you want more
shine, switch to porcelain media after the plastic. Tumbling will
not destroy the colors of your shells, although it can alter the
appearance of thin layers of mother of pearl. Won’t remove the
luster, just abrade it down to the next layer.

As for drilling, treat like stones. Use a diamond drill bit of any
desired size, go slowly, and work under water. I usually drill first
so that any tiny chips around the holes are smoothed off in the
tumbling process.

Be aware that some shell colors will fade over time (years). It
seems to depend on whether the coloration goes all the way through
the shell or is more on the surface, and how delicate it is in the
first place.

As for stabilizing fragile pieces, I’m still experimenting. There is
a patina sealing oil that Sculpt Nouveau sells. I think it hardens
over time. I’ve also used many coats of flat Permalac to seal and
preserve extremely fragile objects I’ve collected on the beach.
Neither is as strong as resin of course. If something is fragile
enough to need resin, it probably ought to be cast in metal. (Unless
you like the plasticky look.)

Rene Roberts
sunhotmoon at gmail dot com

1 Like
How would you strengthen seashells in order to incorporate them
into a jewelry design.. I would appreciate your suggestions. 

This might fit better in the “look of PMC” thread, but has
applications here as well. I have experience with probably most if
not all jewelry making techniques including fabrication, raising,
reticulation, all parts of lost wax casting and enameling.

Have you thought about making RTV molds from shells for the pattern
and pressing PMC into the mold? Here the shrinkage factor of PMC or
other metal clays is a plus…taking a piece that is too large to
use as jewelry, shrink to a usable size, and come out metal that can
be an embellishment to fabricated pieces.

I have even used this technique using a fresh flower bud that had
been stepped on leaving an interesting texture with thick & thin
areas. I made the first mold a two part mold for a left and right
pattern (not quite identical because of the way the original bud was
stepped on). By using the mold and making pieces in original PMC,
PMC+ and PMC 3, I had three different sizes of silver pieces for
front and back from one mold each. I then made molds from each of the
finished PMC pieces, which retained the pattern perfectly, and
repeated the process several times. Eventually I had at least 6
instars of a graduated set, stepping down from approximately 2" to
1/2"or smaller. By putting a PMC bail on the back before firing, you
can have a large, medium and small pendant in fine silver. The front
and back pieces can be fused together to make a round piece for a
swivel mounting. A graduated necklace can be made connected however
you please and smaller pieces become earrings. Try fabricating or
casting that in a short time!

JVormelker.com

1 Like

This is one of those situations where you are going to have to use
the method I call observe, deduce, and come to a conclusion. I am
currently experimenting with carving conch shell i find the material
to be quite beautiful in appearance with soft shades of white to
pink.

The problems which arise up to the present date are that conch shell
develops fractures and stress lines in part due to holes from
parasites which criss cross the shell which then falls apart when it
is carved to the thickness i desire. I am experimenting… trying
different solutions to solve the problem so far its lots of failure
and no positive results. I would suggest looking at what other
industries have done to stabilize weak material structure and see if
any of the methods can solve the problems you are experiencing to
convert sea shell into a practical material for use in jewelry.
Perhaps looking at shell from a molecular perspective, Hey !!! maybe
jewelry students should be required to to study chemistry math and
science ? because it seems as though this would help in this
particular situation - goo

to strengthen a very thin section of shell, apply a coat of
poliester resin; you can put on several coats of resin to build up
the surface to be able to sand or to bezel-set the piece.

1 Like

I would suggest looking at how this was solved in Indian shell
carvings in years past and today. Many jewelry pieces were made with
shells in India…have a look at the huge handsaw they used to cut
them…interesting stuff.

Richard Furrer
Sturgeon Bay, WI

Marianne Hunter, Hello! I happened to click the link, and found that you’re one of my favorite artists!!! I hope to have even one 100th of your talent someday! Thank you for inspiring my mind! Your work is exquisite!
Re shells… depends on the shell type and if the area can be seen if plaster or clear strengtheners would be used. Some shells… we don’t want to see filled. So coating it sounds good. I’ll give it a try! Mimi

Most shells are sturdy enough that they don’t need stabilizing. That being said,all the suggestions here are good for the more fragile ones. I do want to stress that these days, when drilling or grinding shells, wear a filter mask!! Shells can build up all sorts of nasty toxins and you don’t want to breath that. Read here about what can happen:https://torontolife.com/city/life/my-beautiful-death/

Maybe borrow a method wood turners use. They resign impregnate or stabilize fragile, insect destroyed wood with resin. It’s done in a vacuum chamber then after heated in a small table top oven. Takes a day or so, but the wood that is stabilized is almost rock hard. There are videos of how it is done on YouTube. Look for a guy by the ID of NVwoodworks. It just might work for the delicate shells by penetrating instead of just brushing on thick layers. It also stabilizes the colors longer. Just an idea.

Aggie