If you love the look of polymer clay jewelry, but wish it had the feel and weight of real gemstones, try this out. This tutorial will show you how to make beautiful laminate polymer clay beads out of low quality gemstone beads.
Step 2: What You Need
Polymer clay in at least two or three colors, but you can use as many as you want.
Inexpensive gemstone beads. Any size or shape will work for this project. I used 25mm rounded, coin-shaped grey marble beads. I got the strand for just a few dollars. They're pretty ugly, but that won't matter.
Polymer clay varnish is optional. Whatever method you like best. I used UTEE.
Optional: pasta machine to flatten clay.
Round cookie-cutter shapes about the size of your beads, if you have them.
Xacto or other clay cutters
Step 3: Set Up Your Clay
Get out your clay and condition it to soften it. This basically just means rolling it around in your hands so that it warms up a bit and is easier to work with. (Note: make sure you don't over mix your colors.)
Then start laying pieces down on a flat surface. I used scraps and bits of cane from another project. You can use whatever you want, in whatever colors, and put the clay down in any pattern you like.
Step 4: Time to Roll
When you're clay is laid down in an area of at least several inches, take a rolling pin and flatten it out. Start gently and make sure you have no gaps in the clay. If you do, fill in with more scraps.
If you have a pasta maker, you can pick up the sheet and roll it through now. If you don't have a pasta maker continue rolling with your rolling pin until you have a flat even sheet about 2mm thick.
Step 5: Fine Tune Your Clay Sheet
If you see areas on your sheet that you like, then you are ready to proceed. (You don't have to love the whole sheet. You'll be able to select the best parts.)
If you don't think you have any good patterns yet, you have several options. You can:
1 - tear or cut the clay sheet you have and re-lay down the pieces in another pattern. Then roll it out again.
2 - fold the sheet a couple of times and roll again.
3 - add more bits of clay in other colors and roll again.
4 - combine any of the techniques above.Keep working with your clay sheet until you see some patterns, swirls or areas of color that you really like.
(My sheet has a chunk cut out because I forgot to take a picture before I cut it. Imagine it's solid.)
Step 6: Protect the Hole
Put a toothpick in each end of the bead hole. This will keep the clay from filling up the hole. If clay does get inside, just make sure you get it out before baking.
Step 7: Laminating Method 1
I'll show you two ways to cover your beads in clay.
The first method requires no special cutting tools.
Cut or tear small scraps from your flattened sheet of clay. Gently press the pieces onto your bead one at a time. Try to keep the ends from overlapping. However, the ends should meet up whenever possible and just barely touch.
(I temporarily took out the toothpicks for the photos. It's okay as long as I'm careful)
Step 8: Add More
Add more scraps and gently smooth them onto the bead. Only press hard enough to feel the clay "grab on".
Step 9: Fill and Smooth
(My toothpicks are back in so I don't fill in the hole by mistake.)
When you have most of your bead covered (without any overlapping) it's time to fill in small gaps with tiny bits of clay. Also fill in around the toothpicks if you haven't already done that.
VERY GENTLY smooth the clay with your fingertips. Especially at the seams.
Step 10: Continue Smoothing
I like to gently brush the whole surface with the palm of my hand to buff the clay. This is a very light movement.
Here are the back, front and sides of my unbaked bead.
Step 11: Laminating Method 2
This method is a little faster, but requires cutters the size and shape of your bead. It will give a slightly different look to your finished jewelry.
Step 12: Cut a Circle About the Same Diameter As Your Bead
Step 13: Start Covering
Starting at the middle of the bead VERY GENTLY press on the circle of clay. When you get to the edges gently crimp them all the way around as shown. After you get around once, smooth the clay crimps over the edges. Press and smooth gently.
Step 14: The Back
Next cut a smaller circle for the back.
Step 15: Adjust the Edge
If the back circle reaches to the bead edge, cut off the excess. If there is a gap, fill it in with thin clay strips.
Step 16: Smooth
Smooth as described earlier. The front should be perfect, though the back may be a little uneven.
Step 17: Optional Texture
You can leave your beads perfectly smooth or add more clay for dimension or add texture with stamps.
Step 18: Bake!
Bake your beads according to package directions. If you made your laminate nice and thin, you'll want to bake for 15 - 20 minutes. You might want to test one bead first.
Step 19: Laminate Other Things
I used the same techniques to cover a wooden bangle form. However, the wood base required a polymer bonding agent so the clay wouldn't bubble up.
Step 20: Leave As Is or Shine Them Up
These polymer beads don't need anything else to make durable jewelry. Varnish is only needed if you want a different finish on your beads. I like both looks, though I decided to add a coat or two of embossing powder (clear UTEE) to some of my beads.
Step 21: Embossing Powder Finish
Here's a quick picture tutorial for making the baked beads super shiny with UTEE. I have more detailed instructions in my paper bead bracelet instructable. Check it out if you need more words : )
You'll need clear UTEE, an embossing stamp pad and a heat gun. Only use 1-2 coats.
Step 23: Beautiful Laminated Polymer Clay Beads That Feel Like Stone.
Step 24: Make Jewelry
Use these beads exactly like you would use any other gemstone beads. String them together and make a necklace or bracelet. Wire wrap them into gorgeous pendants. Use smaller sizes for rings and earrings. There's no limit to the variations you can come up with, so have fun!
If you need help with basic jewelry assembly and design ideas, here are links for some of my tutorials to guide you along: