Grab all of those beautiful pieces of sea glass you've picked up (or bought) over the years and get ready to make them into stunning one-of-a-kind necklaces to keep and give away. Learn the "secret" of how to drill your own hole through sea glass! Then, just slip on a jump ring (or make your own bail like I did here), slide it on your favorite chain and...BLAM! Gorgeous! Just in time for summer.
Step 1: Tools & Materials
Dentist drill bit (ask your dentist for a couple of left overs or buy some from a dental supply store)
Round nose pliers
Sea glass (1/4 inch thick or less - the thinner the easier)
Small shallow bowl (not glass or china)
Cup of water
German jewelry wire (for bail), or large jump ring, or small silver paper clip
Place your sea glass in your shallow dish and add just enough water to cover the sea glass by 1/8 to 1/4 inch. The water keeps the glass cool while it is being drilled which helps prevent it from fracturing. Make sure you use a dish that will not be ruined or break itself if you accidentally hit it with the drill when your drill bit makes it all of the way through the glass. I use a small, flat-bottomed, hard-plastic monkey dish. The small size allows me to rest my hand that's holding the glass on the sides to steady them while I'm drilling so my fingers don't slip and get in the way of the drill.
Warning....you must press down on the glass very hard with your fingers, and hold the sea glass VERY FIRMLY so it doesn't move at all while you are drilling it. If it does slip, the glass can fly out and hit you, shatter and hit you, or jerk your finger into the Dremel and...yes, hurt you. I've done all three over the years and so I've learned to use great caution whenever I drill sea glass. Just exercise caution and be sure to wear your safety glasses (rubber finger guards wouldn't be a bad idea either if you have them - I've never used them myself though.
Put your dental drill bit into your high speed Dremel and turn it on high speed. My Dremel is a variable speed that goes up to 35,000 rpm. Choose which end of the glass you want to be the top and decide where you want to drill your hole. You may want to use a black sharpie to place a dot at the desired location so there is no guesswork once you are ready.
Use your left hand (if right handed) to press and hold down your sea glass VERY firmly so it won't move at all, making sure you leave enough room for the drill bit.
Begin drilling the hole by pressing the drill bit firmly (but not forcefully) onto the glass making sure you pull back pressure and pull the bit all the way out every 5 seconds so water can flow back into the hole and the glass can cool off. After a couple of seconds carefully put the drill back into the hole while at full speed and press down again for another few seconds. Continue this pulsing type action (3-5 seconds drilling 2-3 seconds rest) until you make it all of the way through your piece of glass.
If you've been at it a while and not sure how much progress you're making, turn your Dremel off and pull your sea glass out of the water and hold it up to a light. You should be able to see the hole through the side and be able to determine how much farther you have to go (see second picture). It is important that you don't push too hard (especially near the end) because that will cause the glass to break (I've broken several beautiful pieces being impatient and that is very frustrating).
When the drill makes it through the glass, quickly pull back (without letting go of the glass) so you don't drill through your bowl or over drill the glass. Turn your Dremel off and take your newly drill sea glass out of the water and admire your handiwork!
Note: If you plan on drilling multiple pieces of glass you will want to change to a new bit each time. Glass is tough on the bit and if you try to drill with an old bit you are more likely to have to press harder and brake your beautiful sea glass. Rule of thumb, new piece - new bit.
There are numerous ways you can incorporate your drilled sea glass into a finished piece of jewelry. If you like using jump rings, you can open and thread a large jump ring through the drilled hole of the glass and then through a hoop on a chain before closing it. Or, thread it through the hole in the sea glass and close it and then slide it onto a chain. I also like making my own bails which I think "class it up" a bit. In this example, I used a small length of 20 gauge German jewelry wire and a pair of round nose pliers to fashion a curly bail that looks like ocean waves. If you don't have any jewelry wire laying around, you can just use a small silver paper clip instead to fashion an attractive bail!
If you do fashion your own bail, make sure that you do the bulk of your wire twisting before you slide it through the hole in the sea glass so you don't put too much stress on the rather thin edge of the glass. If you try to bend a heavy gauge wire using the sea glass as a pivot point, the sea glass may break. I have found that using two pliers for final adjustments once the bail is threaded through the hole works best; one to anchor and hold the bail firmly while the other bends the wire to the desired position - keeping the bulk of the tension/pressure off of the glass. Get creative with your bail - it doesn't have to look like mine. There are countless designs that you could use. Just think about how you want to ultimately attach the sea glass to your necklace and what look would compliment the finished piece of jewelry and go from there.
In my example, after forming the bail I then threaded the big end through the bottom center hoop of a 18' length of chain and finished it off with a lobster claw and jump ring on each end. If you want to make this even simpler, you can buy a finished chain necklace complete with end clasps (such as lobster claw and jump ring or a toggle clasp) at most craft stores or jewelry departments in other stores, and then just add your stunning sea glass pendant to the finished necklace making it a gorgeous new piece of custom jewelry!
I hope you have fun making beautiful sea glass jewelry that you can wear proudly this summer. There's no better way to display and enjoy those rare and precious mementos from the shore!