How to Back Turquoise for Jewelry

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About: I'm a Designer, Creator, Inventor. #1 Hobby - brainstorming. I invented the Unicorn Poop cookie, as published here on instructables. And now I am a metalsmith. <3

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!!!

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    11 Discussions

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    thesnowtheriver

    Question 2 months ago on Step 4

    Can you use JB Weld to glue a stone onto a wood shoji door frame for using as a door handle/pull? or to glue a cabinet pull handle to a cabinet door? what materials can you glue together with this stuff?

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    thesnowtheriver

    2 months ago on Step 6

    I like the way you explained everything. You have nice relaxed style, yet you are precise.

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    Stan1y

    2 months ago

    I read somewhere that backing turquoise was originally a native American technique, I presume they didn't use epoxy, do you know if that is true and if so what the traditional resin would be.

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    kristylynn84Stan1y

    Reply 2 months ago

    native americans used sawdust in the settings to level out and cushion the stone to make it level. but the problem with sawdust is that it expands when it gets wet, and could crack the stone from underneath or pop it out all together. :) traditional backing was records! they would glue the stone to a record and cut it out, filing the record to the size of the stone. :)

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    jessyratfink

    2 months ago

    So awesome to see you here! :D Also super jealous you mined these yourself! We just bought some land with mineral rights so I hope I find some goodies hahah

    1 reply
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    kristylynn84jessyratfink

    Reply 2 months ago

    omg that sounds SOOO fun lol!!! :D that means you can make whatever you want with it! even if it's a rock that isn't popular, you can make it your own and give it your own name :D i have some funky rocks on my claim that are interesting but they aren't something special, but i still cut it for jewelry :D

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    Cat00x

    2 months ago

    If you don’t want the black edge around it, is it possible to cut it off?

    1 reply
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    kristylynn84Cat00x

    Reply 2 months ago

    you can cut it off with a sharp blade.. like 5-8 hours through, i think. depending on the firmness. :) you have to wait until it's slice-able , and before it gets too hard :D