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AliExpress Buying Guide

AliExpress buying guide for memorial jewellers

This AliExpress buying guide is ideal for anyone in anyone in the world to purchase keepsake jewellery supplies. Ideal to make breastmilk and memorial jewellery using UV or epoxy resin. Ordered by category it’s a great way for new starters to get the supplies they need at the lowest prices, so long as you’re happy to wait.

The UK buying guide is here, the USA buying guide is here, the Australia buying guide is here and the Canada version is coming soon. Hopefully I’ll add versions for the rest of Europe when possible.

PPE – Personal Protective Equipment

Probably the most important on the list because most of us are making keepsake jewellery to support our families. A little bit of resin dust now and again might not seem like that much of a bad thing but you have to look towards the future. If you put in place a good code of conduct now and insist on safety, you’ll be thankful later. Coming soon: a blog on keeping yourself and your family safe as you work with multimedia! So here are a few of my favourite safety items and where to find them.

Gloves
Box of 1000 gloves You’ll need to change your gloves often due to the hazardous and super sticky nature of resin. Unfortunately, for reusability and eco friendliness, it’s difficult to keep gloves for more than one session. They gunk up, split and the stickiness can ruin a perfectly de-moulded piece so change them often. There are plenty of other ways of reducing, reusing and recycling plastic. I usually buy my gloves from market stalls and car boot sales, usually around £2 or you can offer a fiver for three boxes which often works. If I’ve run out I find poundshops often have cheap thin gloves but they’re not as good.
Barrier cream
Barrier Cream can help protect your hands and arms so even if your gloves fail, there’s a little protection there from the resin
Zinc oxide cream can also work, or the powder can be mixed with some water but I’ve never tried it. You probably won’t need a barrier cream if you’re working with UV resin but I find epoxy gets everywhere
Respirator and Glasses
Respirator I highly recommend you protect your lungs working with resin dust but I don’t always wear mine
Disposable dust masks should, at the very least, be worn while drilling and filling resin and you should never do this around children and pets – at the time of writing, face masks aren’t available due to the coronavirus pandemic, so I’d highly recommend making your own…
(Use this pattern on Etsy if you want to DIY. Of course I’m unable to take any responsibility as to their effectiveness, but they are better than nothing. I’ve even personally handwashed disposable masks.)
Safety goggles are great too to protect your eyes from dust, especially when milling resin from charms and pearls (they can be fast and lodge in your eyeballs!)
Clothes
A thick waterproof canvas apron and I try to wear denim jeans to protect my legs from any spills and sharps dropping down. Joanna at Isabel Necessary put my logo on some aprons which feels really professional and sets a good image.
Hair
Hair elastics to tie back your hair. Mine disappear so I buy a hundred at a time, half for me and half for the kids. Mine live on the peg board and I grab one before any resin or metalwork
Hair bands to stop the strays falling down

Studio Organisation

Peg boards are great for holding orders that are in cellophane bags, for hanging supplies and keeping your workspace clutter-free. 

peg board organisation using old mobile phone boxes
peg board organisation using old mobile phone boxes

Plastic takeaway tubs are great for organising orders on shelves. There’s no right or wrong way to organise them but these work perfectly for breastmilk drying. You can store them on a shelf, a shoe rack. Great for storing epoxy resin pieces whilst they cure
Shelving units that are open are best for drying, and make sure you use a spirit level to get it all even if you’re curing epoxy. You can keep supplies in nice containers on the shelves too
Rolling caddies are great for storing a small amount of supplies in small spaces
Storage units like this are perfect for keeping the takeaway tubs. I literally found mine outside someone’s house, knocked on their door and asked if it was ok to take it. You don’t need to spend money on everything; try to make do and mend.
Tool storage stand like this for keeping pliers, ring sizers etc
Desk organiser for equipment

Label printer are great for keeping things neat
Regular labels work too if you want to hand write them, and don’t forget to keep all your label backs, the shiny side is perfect for working hair on! 
Highlighters for colour coding labels for the kits you’re sending out or when an order arrives – I’ve always done blue=breastmilk green=ashes orange=hair pink=cord/placenta.  I use the same colours to mark them on spreadsheets on Google Drive which link to the orders on our website, but you could link to the conversation on Facebook with the client, or the Etsy purchase etcSending Kits for Breastmilk/Ashes etc



Small postage boxes are brilliant for posting out your sending kits and we recycle these when they’re not ripped
Some labeled 3ml pots for your clients’ hair, ashes and cord or for a higher-end look that’s plastic-free you can use small aluminium lip balm tins
Heat and freezer-proof plastic tubes for breastmilk, 10ml
Clear sealable bags in 10x15cm are essential for the breastmilk tubes which sometimes leak, and we found we must tell clients to keep the two milk tubes in one bag and the hair pot in another because we’ve received hair soaked in milk before!
Plastic-free cellulose bags are great too if you’re trying to minimise plastic. They don’t work for breastmilk, but are great for the little pots for ashes/hair/cord. We’ll be adding a blog soon on minimising single-use plastic in keepsake jewellery if you’re worried about that. Even ashes and placenta powders sometimes leak so they need bags too to make sure nothing can escape and fall out of the pot into the box
Ultra fine CD pens… I can’t keep enough of these around and they’re essential for marking the breastmilk tubes, ash pots, bags, labels and metalworking.
Cheap ring sizers are perfect if you’re selling rings and clients just send them back with their kits. Every six months or so we invest in a new batch to cover the ones that weren’t returned but in general clients are great (ask them to return it in the instructions). Please note, these are in US sizes but you will find that some of your ring blank suppliers sell in US sizes anyway (such as ZDP on Etsy)
Printer paper for the sending instructions with the kits which the clients return as well (you can reuse them). Sample instructions coming soon!
Printable labels in A4 are great for shipping labels too

Breastmilk Preservation

Heat and freezer-proof plastic tubes for breastmilk, 10ml like this, we would send each client two tubes for their milk marked at 5ml and 7ml for the client to add milk between the lines, with their name and order number written on the sides and lid in waterproof pen. When they arrive we pop them in the freezer and every few weeks we take one tube for each client and preserve a batch.
Storage for the test tubes like this rack
Plastic pipettes to add preservative (you are responsible for testing and purchasing the preservative at your own risk, please use care)
An electric pressure cooker is perfect for heat treating the milk and it’s ideal if you buy one with a steaming rack, which keeps the tubes propped up,
This silicone rack might fit and would help the tubes stay upright. Once each tube is completely cooled we sort the tubes into their order containers and what’s left is kept in a cupboard

Preparation of Elements

Pestle and mortar is perfect for ashes, umbilical cord and breastmilk and you don’t need an expensive brand, just a white one. I sterilise it in between use with a plastic-free antibacterial wipe and recommend buying a different pestle and mortar for each element (you could paint the outside with nail polish such as blue for breastmilk, green for cremation ashes and pink for umbilical cords)

Pestle and mortar (click here)

Moulds

Our moulds are the best (but I’m biased, of course) and when you’re charging clients money to preserve something special, it’s worth investing in some good moulds. Water clear moulds mean you can see exactly where you’re placing elements, and check for air bubbles. When you’re selling high quality keepsakes you have to make sure your moulds are replaced as soon as they begin to cloud so you don’t lose shine
Pendant moulds that don’t need drilling are fun and a great way to show locks of hair and flowers
Little gemstone moulds are great for casting ash and umbilical cord, which can have silver bails attached or be cast in a larger setting of clear resin
Mould dets like this are really fun to try out too

Resin

UV resin by Qiao Qiao, this brand is the best I’ve found. Other UV resins smell awful in comparison (occasionally you can get a bad batch of this but I check them before sending). I now think UV resin is vital for keepsake jewellery because it’s fast, meaning you can concentrate on one client’s order at once, not pour a dozen and wait days for it to cure. It works at low temperatures, I remember winters waiting forever for epoxy resin to cure, now I can finish an order in one sitting even in the British winters



48W LED UV Lamp with a low heat setting like this one is perfect, uses less energy than a bulb lamp and looks nice in my studio
Epoxy resin has its pros and cons too and many artists prefer it. I used to use Axson D150 Rigid exclusively after heartbreak with other brands (EcoResin for one). Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter, weighing is more accurate (sometimes quantities by weight are a little different to volume – ask the company for advice!)

Cocktail Sticks are perfect for removing bubbles. I know some people use a lighter to get them out but that only works on open-back moulds, such as cabochons. The ideal way to remove bubbles is to work in the dark and let a piece sit for a few minutes to allow them to rise, before adding powders and other elements
Mylar flakes (opalescent) we make are blends of ethical mica, plant based glitters and opalescent flakes, holographic and ghost pigments
Resin pigments and mica powders, craft shops like Hobbycraft sell edible shimmers that are perfect with resin. Please be careful because mica can come from dubious sources and there are many reports of young children being forced into labour in the mines in India
Titanium dioxide is a white UV stabiliser which helps with breastmilk preservation but be careful: a tiny little bit goes an awfully long way, and your resin won’t cure if you add too much, even epoxy resin. Because it’s classed as a white pigment, you really tell your clients that your jewellery contains this.
Bullseye spirit level makes sure the space where you’re drying is totally level

Finishing

Needle files will remove a bit of resin at a time and are a great budget option but need a little time to use
A Dremel-style rotary tool is perfect for filing off bits of resin, metalworking, polishing etc. Get one with a flexible driver and a stand so you don’t have to hold the whole machine during use
Carbide burr bits for removing extra resin
Cotton buffing wheels are nice and gentle on plastic and metal, but you should try to make sure your resin pieces don’t need polishing. The best finish comes from a nice shiny mould. You can use your UV resin to apply another coat to any piece or just dome where you’ve drilled
Drillbits for drilling pearls with a rotary tool
Pearl drill for drilling spheres/orbs

Measuring

Digital calipers for measuring everything from moulds to casts, findings and settings, and metalsmithing
Digital scales for weighing parcels and resin

Shipping

Small postage boxes are brilliant for posting out your sending kits and we recycle these when they’re not ripped, but for shipping orders I prefer to use a new box. Once you have established branding you might want to think abut getting some printed
Polishing cloths for your clients to polish silver settings. They offer good prices on AliExpress for branded polishing cloths and jewellery boxes

Thank you so much for reading and don’t forget, if you have any issues with any of the items you purchase from this list I’d love to know so that I can edit it. I can’t take any responsibility for third party retailers/sites such as Etsy, Amazon or AliExpress but at least I can modify the blog. Prices are correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change. Please let me know if you spot any broken links, or you’ve had an issue with any purchase.

Some people prefer not to order from China because of quality concerns, or time it takes to arrive, worries over workers’ conditions and pay, or consumers want to support their local communities. I totally understand this and applaud anyone who buys local. However, a lot of the products you find for sale in local market places and websites will have been imported. So you are paying a little more for speed. That’s totally up to you, this blog is aimed at people who don’t mind Chinese cheapies and don’t mind the wait!

Please note, this blog contains affiliate links meaning we may receive a small income based on your purchases after clicks with no extra cost to yourself.

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