In the past few decades, sea glass has become popular among crafters. It begins its journey as glass perhaps as a bottle, tableware, or other household item. After it has been dumped as trash and then tossed around in the ocean for several years, it breaks into smaller pieces. Over time its shape becomes thick and smooth and its color becomes frosted, which makes it pretty for for jewelry. After many decades or longer, the tide carries sea glass back to the shore for lucky beachcombers to find and bring it back home again.
Sea glass is an archaeological piece of human history that makes it more sentimental and nostalgic than many other gems. Each shard has a history and a story. Some shards are centuries old. Even writers sometimes use sea glass as a symbol or a metaphor for the journey of life.
It could even be said that sea glass shards are epic heros. They have strength and endurance. They go on a long journey. They return to land after having a metamorphosis. It’s no wonder so many are drawn to the sea to collect these little jewels transformed by the ocean.
How to Make Sea Glass Jewelry
There are many ways to make sea glass jewelry, but most of the time it’s done in two ways: You can make sea glass jewelry by wrapping it with jewelry wire, or you can drill holes in sea glass and run a hook or hoop through the holes.
Making Sea Glass Jewelry with Wire
To make sea glass jewelry with wire, you’ll need to purchase a few things from a craft store or a hardware store:
- Wire cutters
- Round nosed pliers
- Flat nosed pliers
- Jewelry wire – 20 or 22 gage gauge
Deciding on a Design
Visualize a design, and decide approximately how much wire you will need. The more sea glass jewelry you design, the more you’ll be able to judge how much you need for each piece. It’s a good idea to use more than you think you’ll need, so you don’t waste wire.
Making the Bail
A bail is a loop of some kind where you’ll attach a chain if you’re making a necklace or bracelet. You make it by looping the wire around one jaw of the round nosed pliers twice. Be sure to make it large enough for the clasp to pass through easily. Make sure it’s sturdy by twisting the wire a few times under the hoop. Use the flat nose pliers on the bail to tighten.
Create the Wire Wrap
Place the wire on the back of the stone and bend the wire where you want both ends to wrap around the front. Most people swirl the wire ends to hold the stone securely. Cut off the excess wire.
I made the black sea glass necklace above for my niece for her graduation from high school. I started with the bail and twisted the jewelry wire around to form a straight coil and then down the back and around the front of the shard back up towards the bail. I used the YouTube video below for instructions.
Different Ways to Wrap Sea Glass
There are different ways to wrap the sea glass depending on the shape of the shard and how you want to style the wire. One of the most important things is to make sure the stone is secure. As you continue to wrap sea glass shards, you’ll soon develop your own techniques and designs.
Making Sea Glass Jewelry with a Dremel Drill
Many experienced sea glass jewelry makers use a press drill to drill holes in their stones; however, these machines are expensive. If you’re just starting out and on a limited budget, consider buying a Dremel drill. You’ll need the following things before drilling sea glass:
- Dremel drill
- Flex shaft attachment
- Pan with water
- Safety glasses
- Diamond drill bits
You can make sea glass by drilling a hole in the stone or stones to attach chains; however, it takes practice and you also take the chance that the stone will crack and break. The best way to drill if you’re a beginner is to drill some damaged sea glass stones first, so you get some practice.
Dremel for Drilling
The first thing to do is purchase a Dremel. A Dremel is a hand-held drill. You can buy one at most hardware stores like Home Depot. You can also purchase them on Amazon or ebay.
You should also purchase a few .084 to 1 mm ball diamond tip drill bits. You do, however, need to be careful about getting the motor from the Dremel wet and electrocuting yourself. Many Dremel users say they’ve never been electrocuted using a Dremel with a cord, and others say they get a flex shaft attachment for their Dremel to avoid getting electrocuted. A flex shaft is an attachment for a Dremel that helps keep the water far enough away from water, so you won’t be in danger.
Some jewelers use a cordless Dremel to avoid electrocution, but they’re usually not as powerful as a Dremel with a cord. They also tend to run low on power quickly.
Before drilling the hole, mark the stone with a magic marker on the front and back where you want the hole to go.
Next get a clear pan and fill it with cool water. The water will help prevent the stone from getting too hot and cracking.
Place the sea glass on top of a piece of wood in the pan so the stone is completely submerged in the water.
Before you start drilling, be sure to wear a pair of safety glasses.
Drill a little at a time, and remove any sludge that develops on the stone. When it’s drilled about halfway through, flip the shard over and drill through until the hole is completely open. The flipping helps prevent the shard from cracking. After a little practice, you’ll be an expert at drilling sea glass.
From my experience, Triple Ripple are the best diamond drills to use for sea glass.
Eventually, you might want to use bezel settings to make sea glass jewelry.