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Set a Resin Sphere

set a resin sphere - breastmilk pearl resin sphere keepsake jewellery

A tutorial to set a resin sphere, also known as a “pearl” or an “orb” with glue-on, partial drilling, full drilling and wire wrapped settings. You’ll learn what each of these terms mean and also how to cover the pouring spout for a beautiful finish on your spheres or pearls. You can create beautiful jewellery for your clients with their breastmilk, cremation ashes, lock of hair or fur, umbilical cord or placenta.

You will struggle to nicely finish a sphere if the pouring spout is too big, if the mould is dull or overused. We recommend you start with a fresh shiny mould from our selection here (click). We have them from 6mm to 20mm and a full set is available here



Preparing To Set a Resin Sphere

When your piece is fully cured, remove it from the mould. If you’ve used UV resin then give it a wipe over with a high proof alcohol on some cotton wool or white cotton fabric scrap (old kids’ vests are perfect!). You may have a little dip round the pouring spout if you under-poured, in which case add a little more resin to make the surface smooth. Even if you’ve used epoxy resin for your main pour, you can use UV resin to fill this dent.

If you’ve got a lip where the spout was where you poured, you can cut, saw or file off the excess. Don’t forget to wear the right PPE when filing resin – a good mask or at least the nail technician style mask. The “holy grail”, for me, in resin work is to just have the tiniest lip on a piece that can be removed with my fingernails. UV resin can be a little bit brittle so if you have too much excess and try to cut it away, you may accidentally lose a chunk of your piece. The safe way to remove it is with a burr drill bit on your rotary tool

rotary tool
rotary tool
burr drill bits
burr drill bits

How to Set a Resin Sphere – The Easiest Ways

1. Pearl Cage Resin Spheres

The easiest way to set a resin pearl is to place it in a ready-made pearl cage. You can get these on various jewellery making websites and there are lots to choose from on Etsy. You need to be careful because they almost all come from China and the price doesn’t necessarily guarantee if it’s solid sterling silver. You can sometimes tell if a British or US seller is reselling by comparing the photos.

This angel wing pearl cage looks like a good option because the seller offers both silver plated and sterling silver (this one is sterling silver).

angel wing pearl cage

angel wing pearl cage

2. Partially Drilled Resin Spheres

As above, you’ll need a nice even sphere, then mark the centre of the pouring hole with a Sharpie and make sure it’s central. I prefer to use a hand drill for drilling just a little bit, for accuracy, like this Archemedes Drill with a 0.8mm drill bit. Again, don’t forget to wear the right PPE when filing resin – a good mask or at least the nail technician style mask.

Archimedes drill
Archimedes Drill

Drill down the length of you need for the setting (you can mark the depth on your drill bit with a bit of washi tape which is also perfect for keeping your metal stamping straight). It’s usually about 4mm deep you’ll need to go to glue on a bail.

Bails are easy to source from most silver suppliers but the difficulty is finding one wide enough to cover your pouring hole to set a resin sphere. A small pearl (6-8mm) will be ok with a small 4mm wide bail, but anything 9mm or larger we recommend a wide bail like this.

glue-on bails
glue-on bails



Use glue to stick on the bail, I like Araldite Jeweller’s Glue, and combine the parts A+B on a little label backing paper (if you don’t regularly use labels, ask at your local Post Office because they have bins full of this stuff they can give you). Apply the glue with the toothpick inside the hole you drilled and around the inside of the bail then push in place. You can wrap the whole thing in a piece of cotton fabric to hold the bail in place whilst it dries.

These are quick and easy to make but the disadvantage is if your client pulls the sphere too hard, it could come apart. Fully drilled spheres are more secure – keep reading to find out how to make them!

breastmilk pearl bunny ears
breastmilk pearl with bunny ears bail

3. Fully Drilled Resin Spheres

Just as with the partially drilled resin sphere, mark the centre of the pouring hole with a Sharpie and make sure it’s central. You can drill the hole by hand/with an Archemedes Drill or with a rotary tool fitted with a 0.8mm drill bit.

For accuracy, especially if you’re working with something irreplaceable like someone’s last lock of their loved one’s hair, you should consider investing in a pearl drill. Whichever method you use, please don’t forget to wear the right PPE when filing resin – a good mask or at least the nail technician style mask.

Wipe the sphere again with some alcohol and cotton wool or white fabric scraps. Then you’ll need a long flat base head pin which will cover some of your pouring area. You can also put the pouring area on the top and add an 8mm bead cap like this one.

Using a pair of bail and looping pliers you can create a beautiful bail to set a resin sphere, through which you can thread a silver necklace chain for your customer. You could alternatively add a 6mm solid silver split ring and a lobster clasp to make a dangle charm for Thomas Sabo style bracelets.

You can purchase silicone sphere moulds from our shop here and by following the links above you can find the right supplies and support our blog at the same time.

This page contains affiliate links meaning we may receive a small amount of commission based on your purchases with no extra cost to yourself.

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Settings for Resin Jewellery: Etsy

crown point heart settings from Etsy



People always ask me the best place to get settings for resin jewellery and the easiest place is most definitely Etsy. It’s a mixture of mass-produced and handmade and if you know where to look, it’s full of gems (in the literal and not-so-literal sense!) My rings and pearls over at Tree of Opals are handmade from scratch, our charm beads and heart necklaces are cast and stamped for us.

1. Quality Findings Market

Quality Findings Market or QFM on Etsy is my absolute favourite. Their solid sterling silver medium heart settings are compatible with our medium heart moulds. Just make sure you keep the edges neat and use a bezel rocker to push down the heart points once you’re happy.

crown point heart settings from Etsy
crown point heart settings from Etsy
breastmilk heart necklace with 18mm medium heart cabochon made with milk powder, pink mica blend and diamond powder
breastmilk heart necklace with 18mm medium heart cabochon made with milk powder, pink mica blend and diamond powder

When I first started using their crown heart setting I was using a China cheapie mould, the pink faceted one with multiple depressions of faceted hearts. The problems with facets are that they’re harder to do another coat on as you lose the definition. Plus opaque moulds are virtually impossible to use with a UV curing resin like this one from the USA or this one in the UK.

2. ZDP Findings

ZDP Findings are another great place in Israel to purchase settings in solid sterling silver, gold-filled and base metal. They’re a family run business and their customer service is second to none! I love
these 14mm round heart point solid sterling silver settings which are perfect for setting 14mm round cabochons. Please have a look at their page for inspiration and remember that crown and heart points are ideal for beginners because they’re easy to push down with your fingers. If you’re using a bezel cup rings like these there are three methods of setting which I’ll cover in more detail in a blog with photos, but you can fill them with resin and cure, you can glue in cabochons, or you can set the cabochons by gluing then rubbing over the bezel with a bezel pusher (I recommend getting a set and finding your favourite to work with, mine is the curved one with the point).

If they have any settings you’d like to work with but can’t find a mould to suit, just give us the link to the setting and we’ll try our best to create a custom mould for you.

3. SilverFindings925

SilverFindings925 are based in the Ukraine and have some lovely, unique and interesting settings ideal for memorial and breastmilk jewellery. Use our 10mm round cabochons made with our 10mm cabochon mould with this
10mm round claw setting silver ring.

solid sterling silver claw ring from SilverFindings925
solid sterling silver claw ring from SilverFindings925

Don’t forget, claw settings aren’t too forgiving so you have to make sure your edges are super-neat! The claws won’t cover up much of the resin, so I find it’s more prone to knocks and scrapes at the edges, but I know a lot of keepsake and DNA artists and their clients love the look. It’s completely up to you, whatever works for your business! SilverFindings925 also sell some pearl dangle earring settings that you could try with our 16mm sphere moulds. Make sure you place the pouring hole at the bottom and dome it carefully, letting the client know the bottoms won’t be perfect.

Setting Problems

I had an issue recently with a solid 14ct gold wishbone setting I’d made where the client complained they could see the doming on the pearl. I refunded them in the end because I should have mentioned this specifically in the T’s and C’s, and it was just before Christmas and I didn’t want to let her ruin my holidays, so don’t forget to keep your business safe by telling clients things like this in advance. Put in your T’s and C’s and product description phrases like “you will see air bubbles in most of our resin work”, and, “pieces are set by hand and you may see small amounts of glue and scratches in the metalwork where this was done”. If the client doesn’t like it, they can order elsewhere but you won’t be losing out on business because these are the people who demand refunds. If they can find someone who can promise perfection, let them go!

You’ll learn which settings work for you, that you’re comfortable working with and which your clients love, but try to keep some back for refunds if you’ve forgotton to mention something like that and the client is being unkind. It’s never worth risking your mental health and joy you find in your work for someone who is just trying it on (and probably expects a refund and to be able to keep it).

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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Coloured Core for European Charm Beads

trio of cat fur charm beads with gold leaf and a painted teal core



When working with resin it’s easy to add a coloured core for European charms beads. There are two methods:
1) adding a core of fabric etc to the mould
2) colouring the core afterwards



For any resin work don’t forget to use correct PPE (personal protective equipment) such as gloves etc and see our list of supplies for UK, list of supplies for the USA and more to follow. Make sure you’re working in a nice clean, organised and relaxed environment away from children and pets (if possible… many a cat will sneak into a studio and, well, cats don’t accept orders!)

umbilical cord charm with a rose pink painted core, Tree of Opals solid silver core
umbilical cord charm with a rose pink painted core, Tree of Opals solid silver core

Why Add a Coloured Core?

You may want to include a sentimental fabric for a client, a special patterened background to a lock of hair or fur charm (or breastmilk if you’re adding opaque milk shapes). You may only have a tiny amount to work with and the client isn’t sure what colour they’d like so you can show them different options before they commit by adding colour afterwards. It gives a nice, deep. layered effect to have a different coloured core and you can still add metal leaf, for example, to the resin charm bead. In fact, you can even use precious metal leaf as the coloured core for a guilded look.

1. Adding a Fabric Core

To prepare a piece of fabric, such as a wrapscrap, you need a piece around the size of a playing card. You can pull a thread through to get a straight line to cut. Mix a little PVA glue (Elmer’s glue) with water 50:50 with a lollipop stick in a little measuring pot. I like the ones with the measurements on the side like this which you can use for resin (although if you’re working with epoxy resin I highly recommend weighing it out for accuracy). Soak the fabric in the mixture well and squeeze out the air bubbles, then lay it on a piece of label backing (the kind I recommend for working with hair), which is the perfect way to recycle the backs of your shipping labels.

Once it’s completely dry, take it off the backing paper and cut out a small rectangle. This takes practice to know the perfect height and width for your mould. It needs to be a little longer than the circumference of the silicone core in your mould plus a little overlap. When you’ve got it right, use a tiny dot of superglue to turn it into a little tube then put it in the mould. I recommend making at least two using interesting bits of the fabric. Add resin in the usual way (don’t forget to add any hair first) and any other elements/inclusions. Cure as normal then be careful when drilling off excess. You’ll find it easier if the fabric cylinder isn’t too tall, but be careful it’s not too short or it won’t cover the whole core. It takes practice!

2. Adding a Coloured Core

Sometimes you’ll take a charm bead out of the mould and think that the colour isn’t deep enough, or you might want to add a different colour layer or even to give the client the choice of colour. You might need to widen the hole first because you’re adding another layer, you want it to still fit your client’s Pandora bracelet! Removing some of the existing core of the charm bead gives you a “tooth”, something for the glue to adhere to. Use a good rotary tool and a large tooth cutting bit from the set you use to finish the charms. I like these wood cutting bits because they cut away the resin rather than sanding it, meaning the piece doesn’t get too hot. They work very quickly though so you might want to use the pink sandstone cylinder which comes with your rotary tool (you can buy more sandstone bits here) or a diamond bit like this.

I love to use EcoGlitter like this one, because I don’t want to increase microplastic waste to the environment. You can use mica, which is totally environmentally friendly, but there are so many worrying reports of mica being mined by children that it’s safer to stick with lab-produced mica (harder to find). I’m hoping to come out with some blends soon of ethical, plastic-free sparkle mixes! You can also use acrylic paint for a strong pigment and mix a little sparkle in. Mix your colour/glitter with a small amount of UV resin or epoxy jewellery glue on label paper with a cocktail stick. Carefully paint inside the charm bead in thin, even layers. You can even use two or more colours. To test a colour, just mix with a tiny bit of water and paint it on, take a picture and send to your client. Once you’re happy, go ahead with the resin or glue. Add your core or inserts like usual and your charm bead is ready.





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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Making Umbilical Cord Jewellery



How To Make Umbilical Cord Jewellery and Placenta Keepsakes

The first piece of keepsake jewellery I ever made was with the placenta from my son Bastian. I added a little epoxy resin from a Pebeo kit (like this one) to a small flat heart shape in a silicone letter mould I’d bought at the Poundshop (Dollar Store).


I took the finished heart and stuck it on some wide clear packing tape and placed a bronze open bezel around it. I covered it in resin and waited several days for it to dry. It’s still perfect and I like to wear it on a simple waxed cotton cord choker, sometimes with a charm bead either side. I took it on live national TV in April 2017…
placenta and umbilical cord jewellery on This Morning in March 2017 placenta and umbilical cord jewellery on This Morning in March 2017

As you can see, Philip Schofield doesn’t seem so keen but Holly said the pieces were “really pretty”. In the first photo, the piece on the right was that first one I ever made. I had heard about placenta jewellery in my encapsulation group and people were talking about stirring the ground powder into resin. Someone had asked how to keep it in a heart shape without the grains moving around and sinking but I started watching YouTube videos obsessively.

I considered doing resin-only pieces but thought they looked a bit tacky. I didn’t know where to buy crown settings and cabochon moulds and certainly not how to set a bezel with a rubover like I do now. Use the tools available to you and your skill to make what you think is pleasing and communicates what you intend to with the piece, and customers will find you and love your style. Don’t worry if you don’t have the technical knowledge yet; that’s what the learning process is for!

I put everything on the dining table, much to The Viking’s dismay. Looking back, that probably wasn’t the best of ideas. Ayla was two and Bastian was just three months old. After a few weeks I got some orders through our Facebook page and

If you’re making a lot of resin jewellery in big batches then it’s cost-effective to use epoxy resin. Lots of people ask me what brand to buy but I always found the unbranded rigid casting epoxy like this one to be best.  Sadly EcoResin is a no-go and I nearly lost my business due to dozens of pieces going yellow. Usually you get epoxy resin in two bottles, part A and part B, which you have to mix perfectly in exact ratios and can take several days to cure. It would be perfect for doing big batches of flower jewellery, such as rose bud pearls.


We mostly use UV resin like the Qiao Qiao UV Resin (I can’t find the name for this brand, but it’s the one that works), you can also use the Lisa Pavelka brand but it’s more expensive and you can’t get the big bottles.  My trick is to buy a 60g bottle and a 200g bottle to refill it with. The little bottles are great to pour directly in your moulds. You’ll also need a cheap gel lamp like this. My hack for the gel lamp is to remove the plastic insert and place the lamp on a sheet of aluminum foil! We want the maximum amount of light to hit the jewellery to cure the resin and you work in layers.

With UV resin it’s easier to keep the resin from getting too thick (which happens with epoxy during its pot life).  So long as you keep it away from the gel lamp and the sunshine it will stay liquid and thin enough to work.  If your resin is too thick it gets sticky and the hair won’t move around. To prepare a lock of hair piece I get together what I need so it’s all within reach and make sure I’ve got my protective things on.

example of the ideal amount of hair to send for lock of hair and fur keepsake jewellery from Tree of Opals example of the ideal amount of hair to sendexample of the ideal amount of fur to send for lock of hair and fur keepsake jewellery from Tree of Opals example of the ideal amount of fur to send

Safety Making Lock of Hair Jewellery

1. Make sure you’re not working round kids and pets. Even if a resin has low fume it can still cause a reaction. I’ve heard of people not only having reactions from contact with resin (like me) but having trouble breathing. Even for yourself you need to take care.

2. Wear proper PPE (personal protective equipment).
I like to wear a thick coating of a barrier spray like the 3M Cavilon or No More Gloves. Then I know if I’m struggling and have to take off my gloves, my skin’s got some protection. I tried Metanium but it made my work marked and I managed to get some on my silverwork which gave it a nasty coating of dull titanium! Then I double up on nitrile gloves and pop on a face mask.


Resin Lock of Hair Jewellery

Our best selling items are our charm beads. They take a bit of practice and a special mould and knowledge of filing, doming and attaching hardware called inserts, also known as grommets and washers. Pearls are popular, they are spheres made with 10mm moulds but can be bigger or smaller, and need to be drilled and attached to pearl cups. Rings are a little less complicated because you can pour the resin into a ring cup, or make a cabochon (a “stone” with clients’ elements) and fit it into a ring with crown settings. I’ll write more blogs soon on settings and explain the differences between the three main style of setting resin rings, how to drill charm beads and pearls.

To prepare the hair, take an even lock and place it on some shiny paper, like the type labels come on. Pour a little resin on top and make sure it’s soaked in. Sometimes we cut the paper to make each end of the hair even. Then use a toothpick to pick up the hair and place it round the edge of the mould. Make sure there’s enough resin on it or you’ll get microbubbles that leave lines around the edge of the finished piece. I recommend using a water clear mould, or at least translucent

silicone sphere moulds (left to right) blue RTV opaque, platinum cure translucent, water clear silicone sphere moulds (left to right) blue RTV opaque, platinum cure translucent, water clear

If you’re using UV resin, cure this as your first layer then fill the mould with more resin and any colours and additions. Sometimes we leave the resin completely clear and when the piece is cured we add a coloured core or background. You can add colour and shimmer, glitter, precious metal leaf, mica and even natural colourants like beetroot powder (although these tend to fade quickly in the sun). You will find your own style and clients will choose you because they like your work.  

Other Media to Make Lock of Hair Jewellery With

You can fill little glass bottles like these with a lock of hair and dried petals and opalescent flakes, sealed with jewellery glue. You then screw in an eyelet.

Glass vial jewellery, thanks to Colorized for the photo Glass vial jewellery, thanks to Colorized for the photo

cremation ash jewellery part 1 here and part 2 here

how to make breastmilk jewellery part 1 is here, part 2 is here and part 3 is here

I have more tutorials and blogs planned for the future including umbilical cord and placenta jewellery, how to make *trigger* baby loss keepsakes, metal clay jewellery and silversmithing.  Also some blogs on being clean, parenthood, veganism, charity work, travelling and various other interests.  Most of my blogs are written in notes on my phone when I don’t have internet access (the school gates, the car) or when I’m nursing our son Bastian and I love the chance to share my creativity even more.



For classes on resin you may be able to find something local but I learnt all resin and most silversmithing from YouTube tutorials. We’re planning videos showing you how to make and use silicone moulds, open bezels and pour-in bezels as well as some studio safety. You can read about Fairtrade Gemstone Ethics here; if you’re adding precious stones to your work and Nikki is soon to be visiting a friend’s gemstone mine in Tanzania at the same time as delivering menstrual pads with their charity Project Kidogo.

Spellings – this blog is written in the United Kingdom so my spelling is in English. I’ll try to add alternatives after but our spelling of jewellery is correct here.  Mould (UK) mold (US).  

This post contains affiliate links that should work in the USA, Canada and the UK, meaning when if you buy one of our recommended products I receive a small amount of earnings which comes in handy on Amazon for our two children’s books. Aqui hablamos español, on parle français, hier spreken we nederlands, tunasema Kiswahili hapa, and føroyskt, but they love to see all languages.



how to make lock of hair jewellery blog by Nikki Kamminga of Tree of Opals







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Freelance Advice

Freelance advice from Keepsaker Supplies

This Freelance Advice blog was originally posted on our sister site Tree of Opals.

Recently I became friends with Tania through a natural parenting group.  I’d posted about how well things were going with our au pair from France; she had been babywearing and was enabling me to continue breastfeeding.  Tania got in touch asking for a bit more info about having one and we got chatting.  A while later she invited me to speak at a workshop for parents looking to get back into work and she sent me some questions she thought mums might ask of me.

We met up for a coffee in Bristol beforehand and went through the questionnaire.  My face burned with embarrassment as she told me how helpful the answers were and on the day of the workshop I spoke to a handful of new parents.  Here’s some of my advice:

Freelance Advice

What was the trigger for you deciding to become self employed?

I’d been self employed before but failed a few times.  I wanted to make a bit of extra money for the family with a profitable hobby but didn’t really intend on it becoming a big success.  At first I didn’t believe in myself but when I started to I decided to go all in and make my business work

When did you actually start making money?

Straight away in fact, word started to spread throughout my friend network and all of a sudden I was being asked for prices by friends of friends.  I have had to work really hard to catch up ever since and every penny has gone back into the business.  I haven’t borrowed a penny, it’s all come from sales.

How did you know your business idea would work?

I’ve seen a handful of other businesses doing breastmilk jewellery that are really successful.  There are hundreds of thousands of babies born every day and that’s a lot of new breastfeeding mums so my business will always be sustainable.  It was something I wanted for myself but I wasn’t keen on what was being offered already and I prefer to do things myself and I’m creative.

How do you manage childcare when working?

At the start I worked when I could get five minutes which isn’t easy with two under threes!  My mum helped a lot and still does, and my husband got used to looking after our baby when our toddler was in bed.  I was exclusively breastfeeding at that point but as soon as Tiny Boy went onto solids and dropped his daytime feeds down a bit I started thinking of childcare.  My mum lives 90 minutes away so she can’t pop round on a daily basis so we chose to get an au pair. Sleeping arrangements mean we are a bit cramped but it’s temporary until I can sustain full-time childcare.

How much money did you need to set up your business?

A little over £300 from a child tax credit payment (sadly they stopped when I registered as self-employed but we are better off all in all).  I used it to buy the basic equipment and my website domain which was enough to make some example pieces and establish a shop.  Luckily my husband is a web developer who taught me the basics and the rest is self-taught.  We also help other small businesses with websites but for now I’m focussing on jewellery so we only do word of mouth referrals

What are the three things you would say you need to do when starting a business?

  • Trust the power of social media like Facebook and Instagram, you might need and learn to use them properly as a business but there are plenty of blogs about that (I made a Pinterest board with my favourites).  You don’t have to pay but if you do, they make the best advertising platforms (Instagram ads was debuted in November 2015, I’ll let you know how it goes)
  • Register with the HMRC… I’m frightened of that sort of thing so I hired an accountant straight away on a friend’s recommendation; Natasha who owns Busy Books is another local working mum who really understood my needs and has saved me money already
  • Ask friends, family and relatives for their support, ask them to buy from you or recommend clients or engage in your social media posts.  Word of mouth will always be a great tool which is why you should treat every customer and potential customer like a VIP, even the ones who frustrate you… especially the ones who frustrate you!

How do you know how much to pay yourself?

So far, I haven’t taken anything out of the business because all the things I’ve bought have been to support it.  While it means I’m sort of working for free, I know that I’ll be making a real profit next year with a really great workshop and brand.  I love doing what I’m doing and I feel more fulfilled than I did looking after the little ones every day

How do you say no to business

Last week I had an email asking for a piece that I no longer offer since I stopped doing silver plated.  I’ve refused (politely) and recommended they find something else.  I suppose I could have offered them a custom slot, which I charge for to dissuade time-wasters (a genuine client is happy to pay and will respect you more for your time) but the email caught me off guard.  That was on Monday morning and they placed an order for another piece on the Wednesday evening*.  They will be getting a product that I’m happier to make because it’s a good quality setting and although my profit margin is lower on it, it’s something I’d rather be known for.  Stand your ground

How to use your time effectively

  • I keep my studio neater than I ever thought possible; if I don’t have to hunt for something then it’s much easier.  It seems to double every month, growing from a corner of the dining table to taking up half of the loft room and everything’s labeled or I wouldn’t have a clue!
  • I charge a small amount for custom order enquiries as I found it makes the pieces more desirable and gives people a level of respect for my time and the process involved
  • I’m very strict with clients, insisting they send their orders in labeled with their order number so I can tell at a glance what I need to start next.  I have 18 plastic lidded tubs that are labeled for each client and I only work on one or two at a time.  I’ll choose a couple of pieces to work on that need the same type of resin, mix it up, degas it and add any colours then work on each client’s piece.  I always have a few moulds ready to use up any leftover resin to reduce wastage, save time and invest in the craft fairs I’ll be doing soon
  • I don’t have any time constraints but I find if I’m getting too tired and work slows down, I nap.  If I’m bored I switch to something else.  I have a few different projects going on that I can switch between.  To manage my supplies, I will try to work on a few pieces at once with one lot of resin (which takes up to quarter of an hour to prepare).  Sometimes I’ll go out to a coffee shop to work on my laptop for a change of scenery

Where do you get your inspiration from?

  • I’m lucky to be part of an exclusive group with the top keepsake artists in the world and we support one-another to keep learning and coming up with new ideas
  • Etsy – I look at what other jewellers and artists are doing, but not to copy, only to be inspired.  I’ve just started reading Steal Like An Artist which was recommended by one of my keepsake colleagues and it explains how to do it
  • My clients are always challenging me to make something different, and I encourage that.  This week I’ve done a totally custom design for one of the mums who donated breastmilk to Small Girl two years ago.  It’s involving a lot of work but I taught myself to make blanks for mouldmaking out of modelling clay and I’ve already had an order request for another custom mould
  • I’ve got a list on my phone of ideas that I want to put into plan.  I rarely look back at it because I find they just start happening.  Sometimes I have to tell myself to wait and focus on what needs to be done now.

What keeps you motivated

  • I might prepare the next customer’s box or look at how many orders I’ve taken, or read my reviews
  • If I have no motivation I don’t take it to heart, I think perhaps I’m not meant to be doing that there and then and I do something else.  It might be switching to a different piece, technique, making something for a craft fayre, using a different media or going to the supermarket

How you juggle a house, kids and business as well as maintaining a social life

We all chip in with the housework because my husband has seen that I’m doing well and working full time.  We have just started doing the KonMari method and I’ve given away nine black sacks full of clothes and toys so far; once the house is a bit less cluttered we will be finding someone to help with the cleaning.  I see a bit less of my friends in person except for breastfeeding group and sling library but I’m always online to chat to people.  We’re going on holiday over Christmas and new year so I can regroup.

How to use your time effectively, picking the right work and learning to say no to clients

  • Orders come in automatically so I only put the products I want to make in my shop.  If a client wants a custom order they pay for a slot to discuss it.  If it’s something I can’t do, I refund them out of courtesy.  I put my prices up recently when I realised how valuable my time was and I have had more orders than ever since. I still do some affordable pieces and I love to trade gifts, and I don’t charge mums who have lost a baby, because I want my jewellery to be attainable but luxurious too.
  • Early on I thought discounts would get me more work so I could improve my portfolio but I was wrong.  Now I won’t go over a certain level, and I don’t offer them any more unless I want to make a sale there and then so I might offer some money off as an incentive to buy now.  I find that clients who pay less expect a lower quality product and it devalues you.  That being said, if someone asks for money off, I love a good barter!

How do you retain clients? What techniques do you use?

It’s a bit early for me to have much repeat business yet but I’ve had two clients who have re ordered in the past month. Breastmilk jewellery tends to be quite personal so I don’t expect repeats there unless the client has another baby.

How referrals have worked for you

With cremation ash pieces I’m starting to build a name for myself as someone who is respectful and I have no doubt I will have family members of existing clients contact me when they see the pieces in person. I’m always that confident though, or tell myself to be!  I can’t tell you how important it is to treat every customer well, no matter how much money they spend.  It’s always a personal service

If you’d like to know more please leave me a comment below or email info@treeofopals.com

Nikki x

*Since I published this article, the lady in question read it and recognised herself… Needless to say I was embarassed but she was much happier with the new jewellery than she would’ve been as she hadn’t realised the old one was silver plated.  I still think the saying is true: “the customer is always right”, but it’s your job to make sure they’ve got the right info!

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Making Keepsake Jewellery: Findings and Finishing

When you’re making keepsake jewellery findings and finishings are the final touch. From pouring resin into base metal, like brass, to setting cabochons in 14ct gold bezel cups, we want to help you set your beautiful jewellery.

Finishing

When you pour resin into a sphere or charm mould you will usually have a “pouring spout” when you remove it

charms in a mould with a pouring spout
charms in a mould with a pouring spout

Pearls

. You can drill pearls with this machine

Our best selling items are our charm beads. They take a bit of practice and a special mould and knowledge of filing, doming and attaching hardware called inserts, also known as grommets and washers. Pearls are popular, they are spheres made with 10mm moulds but can be bigger or smaller, and need to be drilled and attached to pearl cups. Rings are a little less complicated because you can pour the resin into a ring cup, or make a cabochon (a “stone” with clients’ elements) and fit it into a ring with crown settings. I’ll write more blogs soon on settings and explain the differences between the three main style of setting resin rings, how to drill charm beads and pearls.

When you take the piece out of the mould make sure it’s well-cured (five minutes for gel, a few days for epoxy). Then if you have any rough edges you’ll need to sand them down and dome the piece. I love this video by <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR4CoSLbub0dk72UEMU5MYg” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Little Surprises</a>; Ayla and I love to watch her videos together 🙂
<iframe src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/bLafxz0nlL8?start=79″ width=”560″ height=”315″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen=”allowfullscreen”></iframe>


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Keepsake Jewelry Supplies: USA




This list is ideal for anyone in the USA looking to purchase keepsake jewelry supplies to make breastmilk and memorial jewelry. Ordered by category it’s almost a one-stop-shop of the things you’ll need to succeed making keepsakes for your growing clientele. Prices are correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

The UK version of this list is here, the Canada version is in progress and we’re working on the Australia, France and Spain versions.

PPE – Personal Protective Equipment

Probably the most important on the list because most of us are making keepsake jewelry 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
You’ll need to change your gloves often due to the hazardous and super sticky nature of resin. As into reusability and eco friendliness, it’s almost impossible 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 and neutralise it in other ways of recycling and reducing plastic. Flea markets might be possible for a supply of gloves but personally, if I’ve run out I buy nitrile disposable non-powdered gloves online here.
No More Gloves
Artguard Barrier Cream by Winsor & Newton is the branded barrier cream or you can go for good old fashioned…
Caladryl made of a zinc oxide solution that provides a barrier on your skin. I like to use it on my hands and lower arms in case they get dirty or I get resin on them. It means stuff doesn’t adhere to my skin.
Zinc oxide powder can be mixed with some water but I’ve never tried it.


Respirator and Glasses
Respirator and glasses set I highly recommend you protect your eyes and lungs with a 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
Clothes
I try to wear denim jeans to protect my legs from any spills and sharps dropping down
A thick cotton apron is perfect. Joanna at Isabel Necessary put my logo on some aprons which feels really professional and sets a good image.



Sending Kits

Bubble mailers are brilliant for posting out your sending kits and we recycle these when they’re not ripped
Some labeled 3ml pots to your clients for hair, ash and cord
Heat and freezer-proof plastic tubes for breastmilk, 10ml


This size clear hygiene bags 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 had back hair soaked in milk before! Even ashes sometimes leak so they need hygiene bags too to make sure nothing can escape and fall out of the box
A ton of fine tip Sharpies… I can’t keep enough of these around and they’re essential for marking the breastmilk tubes, ash pots, bags, labels and metalworking. The ASDA CD pens wash off in the pressure cooker.
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. We send instructions with the kits which the clients return as well.

Organisation

plastic takeout tubs which perfectly. You can store them on a shelf, a shoe rack (Home Bargains and IKEA are great here) or buy a 10 drawer organizer cart like this, which are perfect if you’re colour coding with highlighters.


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. My containers and drawers are all labeled with Brother labels, I got it on eBay second hand and it saves us time, but you can write them out by hand. The Works sells rolls of labels and don’t forget to keep all your label backs, they’re perfect for working hair on!

When a new order arrives in the post I write out a label and print it twice. One for the container and one for the shipping box
I use highlighters to colour code my orders, then use the same colours to mark them on spreadsheets.
I keep a tablet in front of me and we all use Google Drive which is free and super eco friendly. The tablet was a big investment but I think I’ll save much more in the long run in time and effort plus (corny bit sorry) we owe it to the planet to

Breastmilk Preservation

We 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. When they arrive we pop them in the freezer and every few weeks we take one tube for each client to preserve.
Plastic pipettes to add preservative
Optiphen plus is our favourite, which we buy in bulk
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. Once each tube is completely cooled we sort the tubes into their order containers and what’s left is kept in a cupboard

Moulds

Of course we think our moulds are the best but you can pick up cheapies on Amazon to practice resin work. 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
Cheap 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
The rose moulds are super cute and are perfect if you want to glue on some little silver necklace findings (nobody wants silver plated – see Findings below!)

Resin

Qian Qian UV resin is the best I’ve found. Other UV resins smell awful in comparison. I now think UV resin is vital for keepsake jewelry 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)


36w UV Lamp and spare bulbs because if a bulb goes, it means you might demould a piece and find it’s still sticky when it should be ready. They’re not expensive so there’s no reason not to have them on hand
Toothpicks 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 at night with artificial light and let a piece sit for a few minutes to allow them to rise, before adding powders and other elements. The pieces won’t begin to cure until the UV light’s on. If you want to keep a piece liquid while you cure something else, face the UV lamp away from you or even put a cardboard box over it (don’t forget it!)
Synthetic mica powders and other colours. Mica has been shown to often be child-mined, so to stay safe go for plant based and synthetics. Craft shops sell edible shimmers that are perfect with resin
Precious metal leaf looks lovely behind hair, mixed with ashes, cord or placenta, or subtly overlaid on breastmilk jewellery for boobie awards
Titanium dioxide is a white UV stabiliser which helps with breastmilk preservation but be careful: a tiny little bit goes an awfully long way
Art Resin is an option if you want things to cure slowly and it’s more cost effective. I know a lot of artists who swear by it but you would also need lollipop sticks, mixing cup and scales

Finishing

Needle files will remove a bit of resin at a time
A Dremel-style rotary tool is perfect for filing off bits of resin, metalworking, polishing etc. They’re not too expensive, under $30 for one with the stand and flex shaft and a few bits, but they go very fast even on the lowest setting. A more professional option if you’re doing a lot of drilling would be 
A professional adjustable grinder which comes with a foot pedal. The one on this link is the least expensive and you’d still need a stand and all the attachments but you might already have them if you’re upgrading or you can buy them separately
Pearl drill and a power cord for it, for spheres – we ruined so many stunning items by drilling them off-centre with a rotary tool and you can learn from our experience. If you want to fully drill a sphere you’ll need one of these!
0.8mm drill bits can be used for half drilled pearls where you glue in findings
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

Findings

Charm inserts from Amazon, Rio Grande, Halstead Beads etc and we suggest the 5mm inserts. You have to be careful because lots of inserts online say they’re solid sterling silver and are 925 stamped, but are just silver plated base metal. The price should give you an indication. If in doubt and you can afford to lose one, scratch it and put it in water for a few days. If it’s base metal it’ll rust.
Head pins are for fully drilled pearls
Pearl caps mean you can finish a pearl by covering up the mould’s pouring spout (the bit you’ve cut and filed off while wearing a mask!) but also show your own style to clients. I loved this one and would definitely buy it as a customer but look around silver (and gold) suppliers as your confidence grows. Rio Grande do some amazing 14k gold settings that you can attach to your keepsake jewelry when your resin skills are perfected. Use our cost calculator to work out what to charge and try to offer your clients the choice of two, but no more than that or they might become overwhelmed
Rings like this one sell very well, and rings are the second most sought-after setting at Tree of Opals after our charm beads. This solid sterling silver setting is pretty and gives you an idea of what can be done. Just glue a 12mm cabochon made with a matching 12mm mold into it and tell your clients you can replace the resin if it’s damaged. We usually make at least two resin cabochons and choose the best for the piece

Please let me know if you notice any of these links don’t work or need adjusting, or if you’ve got any suggestions. You can comment below or email us on keepsakersupplies@gmail.com
Nikki x

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Keepsake Jewellery Supplies: United Kingdom

resin jewellery supplies in the UK




This list is ideal for anyone in the UK and Europe looking to purchase keepsake jewellery supplies to make breastmilk and memorial jewellery. Ordered by category it’s almost a one-stop-shop (apart from settings) of the things you’ll need to succeed making keepsakes for your growing clientele. Prices are correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

The USA version of this list is here.

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.
No More Gloves
No More Gloves (£5/100ml) is the branded barrier liquid or you can go for good old fashioned…
calamine lotion at just £3.75/100ml or even cheaper at Superdrug! They’re both made of a zinc oxide solution that provides a barrier on your skin. I like to use it on my hands and lower arms in case they get dirty or I get resin on them. It means stuff doesn’t adhere to my skin.
zinc oxide powder can be mixed with some water but I’ve never tried it.
Respirator and Glasses
respirator and glasses set I highly recommend you protect your eyes and lungs with a 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
Clothes
A thick cotton 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 bobbles to tie back your hair. Mine disappear so I buy a hundred at a time, half for me and half for Ayla. Mine live on the magnet board and I grab one before any resin or metalwork
Hair bands to stop the strays falling down

Sending Kits for Breastmilk etc

Large letter 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, ash 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
This size clear hygiene bags 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 had back hair soaked in milk before! Plastic-free cellulose bags are great too if you’re trying to minimise plastic. We’ll be adding a blog soon on 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 box
First class large letter stamps from eBay, one for the outside and one for inside
A ton of fine tip Sharpies… I can’t keep enough of these around and they’re essential for marking the breastmilk tubes, ash pots, bags, labels and metalworking. The ASDA CD pens wash off in the pressure cooker!
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.
A laserjet printer and printer paper for the sending instructions with the kits which the clients return as well (you can reuse them). Sample instructions coming soon!

Organisation

Plastic takeaway tubs are great for organising orders. 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 (Home Bargains and IKEA are great here)
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. My containers and drawers are all labeled with Brother labels, I got it on eBay second hand and it saves us time, but you can write them out by hand. The Works sells rolls of labels and don’t forget to keep all your label backs, the shiny side is perfect for working hair on!

Highlighters for colour coding. When a new order arrives in the post I write out a label and print it twice. One for the container and one for the shipping box. I use the same colours to mark them on spreadsheets. We all use Google Drive which is free and I like to keep it open on .
Tablet in front of me for looking at orders whilst making. I have a Google Drive app on my iPad so I can see the current order sheet, I can rearrange columns etc. Free download templates coming soon! Make sure you get a screen protector because you’ll probably get resin on it. Keep it away from children and pets, it can be your work tablet. I like to listen to audio book whilst working, and Amazon have given me a link for you all to get a free audio book here:

Breastmilk Preservation

Plastic test tubes like this, we 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 Sharpie. When they arrive we pop them in the freezer and every few weeks we take one tube for each client to preserve.
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. Once each tube is completely cooled we sort the tubes into their order containers and what’s left is kept in a cupboard

Moulds

Of course we think our moulds are the best but you can pick up cheapies on Amazon to practice resin work. 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
Cheap 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

Resin

Qian Qian UV resin is the best I’ve found. Other UV resins smell awful in comparison. 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)
36w UV Lamp and spare bulbs because if a bulb goes, it means you might demould a piece and find it’s still sticky when it should be ready. They’re not expensive so there’s no reason not to have them on hand
Toothpicks 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
Mica powders and other colours. Craft shops like Hobbycraft sell edible shimmers that are perfect with resin
Titanium dioxide is a white UV stabiliser which helps with breastmilk preservation but be careful: a tiny little bit goes an awfully long way

Finishing

Needle files will remove a bit of resin at a time
A Dremel-style rotary tool is perfect for filing off bits of resin, metalworking, polishing etc
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

Findings

Charm inserts from Ebay, Cookson Gold or Palmer Metals. You have to be careful because lots of inserts online say they’re solid sterling silver and are 925 stamped, but are just silver plated base metal. The price should give you an indication. If in doubt and you can afford to lose one, scratch it and put it in water for a few days. If it’s base metal it’ll rust.





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