Welcome to Turquoise Backing 101! :D
If you're a silversmith that wants to take more control of your art, this is a perfect tutorial if you work with turquoise or irregular objects that need flat bottoms. Perhaps you're a lapidary and need a proven method for backing, here it is! Or if you're a stone buyer and want to know the way these stones get backed, and why. :)
I actually mined all of these stones in the pictures. I also have my own turquoise claim in Nevada, and I post a lot of my stuff on instagram - @excavade_rocks . Just in case you wanted to see how this stuff forms in the earth <3 .
The reason to back turquoise is to help give it stability during jewelry making and jewelry wearing. If you were to wear a turquoise ring and accidentally knock your hand into a wall or something, the stone would be less likely to crack if your stone were backed. We do this with the use of an epoxy of some sort. JB Weld is an easily attainable go-to medium to use, and I've been using it for years. Plus, with this technique, you will get *just enough* backing to support the stone, without adding any unnecessary weight to the turquoise.
Another reason for backing is to level things out. If you have a unique piece that requires a flat bottom to set as a cabochon, you can also use JB Weld on that. Same if you wanted to keep the stone looking "raw" or the turquoise in nugget form, but require a flat bottom. :)
Note: the turquoise I am using in the photo is called Royston Ribbon Turquoise. Basically, the turquoise formed in cracks of stone when volcanic and tectonic activity occured. Those voids were perfect roads for the turquoise minerals to wash into, and eventually harden together to form the crystalline structure of turquoise. :) This type of stone/cut is basically a cross-section of that action. Solid colored turquoise is an example of cutting the opposite way, so you're seeing that line of blue across the whole top. And those "veins" of turquoise were thicker and bigger, which lend to those typical cuts. This stuff is like little lightning splotches that have visual appeal but don't have the mass required to be cut the opposite way.
Step 1: Materials
You will need the following:
* Wax Paper and tape to flatten it out (dollar store)
* JB Weld (online or home depot)
* Stones/nuggets/cab slabs (buy from a trusted source!)
* Styrofoam Plate - preferred (dollar store. makes for good squishy scraping)
* Popsicle Stick (dollar store/amazon?)
Step 2: Clean Stones
Make sure your stones are free of any debris, and dry. You can rinse them with water and wait for them to dry. In this case, I was lazy and used my shirt. :D
Decide what the front of your stone will be, and make sure you lay them out properly so you don't mess up. I put the "ugly side up", so I knew to back that side.
Step 3: Mix the JB Weld
Estimate how much you will need to cover those stones. Just remember, equal parts of A and B. or Black and White. Once you mix to grey, it's ready. Cold weather will make this REALLY hard to squeeze out of the tubes and warm weather will make it super runny. So just be mindful of that.
Work quickly because it will start to set. If it turns into a hard paste, you're probably too much time - into it. You want it like icing.
Step 4: Back the Stone!
Now you use the popsicle stick to pick up some backing and ice it on there. You can tell I had warm weather because it is kinda runny. But it's okay. :) Once you have your stone covered on the BACK, haha, then you want to place that flat on the wax paper on a flat surface. Then leave it there. You can give it a little *boop* to press it into the goo and let it settle nicely. Just don't slide it around or press too hard.
Keep using the mixture until it's out. I had to keep adding stones because I mixed too much. You will notice when you have to scrape up the last bits, that the cushion of the styrofoam plate is amazing and helpful!
Step 5: Drying Time
You want to wait overnight before trying to use these stones. The backing will go from glossy to matte to hard. You will notice that the JB Weld is also self-leveling, which is great. In this photo you can see how it's spreading out. But, just work ahead of time, prep everything for cutting the next day. :)
NOTE: if you don't want the edges oozing out, you can slice it off after it's kinda hard, it should be ... hard enough to slice off, but not too hard. :) matter of an hour or 2, maybe? depending on your climate, weather, etc. :)
Step 6: Peel It Off
Once they have sat overnight, they will be dry and easy to peel off the wax paper. If you have some paper that gets shredded and stuck to the back, just get it wet and rub it off with your finger. It all depends on the brand you use. The excess on the sides of the stone --- you can cut them off on your rock saw or just grind them off on your 100 grit wheel. I prefer grinding it off because the saw seems to take longer.
You're all set!!! Now you have turquoise that is ready to cut and be used in jewelry!!!