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
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
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
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.)
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