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Working With Pavé Settings for Breastmilk Jewellery

Working With Pavé Settings for Breastmilk Jewellery

Are you considering working with pavé settings for breastmilk jewellery? Viki Rudkin from Cumbria Life Casting is here to give you some pointers.

Pavé set halo settings are a hugely popular and modern design. The accent of extra sparkle works beautifully alongside breastmilk, cremation ashes and hair stones, helping them sparkle and optimise their beauty. If you are considering working with pavé settings there are a few things you should take into consideration as these beautiful designs often need more care and maintenance than other styles.

What Are Pavé Settings?

Pavé settings are when many stones are set closely together in this fashion, roughly 1 millimetre (0.039 in) apart,[7] covering a surface, this is known as a “pavé” setting, from the French for “paved” or “cobblestoned”.

Round Cut Natural Diamond Hand Engraved 18k Yellow Gold Working With Pavé Settings for Breastmilk Jewellery
Round Cut Natural Diamond Hand Engraved 18k Yellow Gold Pavé Setting for Breastmilk Jewellery from 5ineJewels

Working With Pavé Settings for Breastmilk Jewellery

Due to the delicate nature of these settings, it can be quite a common occurrence for clients to lose accent stones. You can replace the stones with some fairly specialised equipment. We do this under a jewellers microscope by redrilling the seat and beads which hold the stone in. Unfortunately, if you use settings that you have taken the original stone out of, then replaces with a resin stone with your client’s breastmilk or cremation ashes, you will always struggle with stones falling out. The large main prongs have the job of keeping all the other tiny beads and therefore stones in position. Once you’ve moved these you’ve then compromised all the accent stones. The metal holding the stones in is not meant to be moved. Best practice is to have your settings cast and to cut the seat into the prongs using burs or files to exactly replicate the shape of your stone.*

Pavé setting with diamamté missing
Pavé setting with diamamté missing, in need of repair

Setting your stone this way means minimal movement of the larger prongs and will ensure your resin stone is safely held in place and protected from damage as best as possible. Some things to take into consideration when offering this style is that resizing rings after they have been made can be extremely tricky and is not recommended. They are not suitable for cleaning in an ultrasonic cleaner either. We do not recommend pavé settings for everyday wear or for those who lead an active lifestyle. The beads of metal that hold the accent stones in place can be damaged by being knocked hard, or if a piece is badly misshapen in an accident repairs can be much harder. We also recommend that clients send their pieces in around every 12 months for maintenance so we can check for any damaged prongs or other issues. Check out some YouTube videos on setting pavé stones, or when restrictions allow there are some amazing courses that can teach you this kind of stone setting. If you are uncomfortable working with pavé settings we specialise in this area and have a huge variety for clients to choose from at www.cumbrialifecasting.com
Viki Rudkin

Working With Pavé Settings for Breastmilk Jewellery

*Please note, at Keepsaker Supplies we don’t recommend working with prong settings as the stone with your client’s elements (such breastmilk or ashes). The stone would need to have a perfect finish around the bottom, which is very hard to achieve. Also, the edges of the stone are prone to damage and chipping as the resin is not as hardwearing as other stones for which prong settings are intended. We find that customers using prong settings will get clients damaging the main stones too!
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How to Deal With Complaints

how to deal with complaints by Nikki Kamminga at Keepsaker Supplies

You can learn how to deal with complaints easily, effectively and without feeling personally harmed. Making memorial or breastmilk jewellery or DNA keepsakes is quite a unique area, somewhere in between breastfeeding counsillor, funeral director and wedding supplier. The wedding and funeral industries receive the most complaints of all industries because tensions are running high, and I believe that passes over to keepsake jewellery. Customers in this industry can be more hurtful than in any other area I’ve worked (from mobile phones to advertising to coffee shop and retail management) and it’s a combination of it being such an emotive thing we’re working with and the fact I feel closer to it because it’s my own business.

How to Deal With Complaints – The Paths

Whether you’re in the right or they are, or both of you, there are several paths you can take together. Please don’t forget that you have the power to guide a customer down a different path no matter how the conversation starts out. I’ll try to give as many examples below from working in this industry over six years.

The Full Refund and Keep The Jewellery
This is the path the most difficult customers often want to go down. It can be incredibly painful to get this kind of message. They’ve received their item and have found something to complain about. They want you to refund them completely but they will almost always refuse to return the jewellery because “it contains something so irreplaceable”.

Example (customer):
“I received a ring from you today after waiting absolutely ages and I’m very angry. It looks unprofessional and the colour is all wrong, it’s too dark! It doesn’t even fit me; I want a full refund but I’m not sending it back because it’s my gran’s ashes”

This is one of the worst case scenario complaints. They’re complaining about quality of the setting, the competence of the artist, the fact that it doesn’t fit and the time it took to arrive. You can apologise and do what they want by refunding without return, but then you’ll be out the cost of the setting and all of your work, plus shipping and overheads. I almost always* try to steer them away from this because I DON’T DESERVE TO WORK FOR FREE and neither do you! 

What to do – start off with an acknowledgement of their complaint and a genuine apology. Look back through any old messages and find some empathy for a client. They’re probably grieving their breastfeeding journey or their loved one. I would say, for example,

Hi Hannah, thank you so much for taking the time to come to me with this. I know it must be difficult to have received something you’re looking forward to for a long time and it’s not what you were hoping for. After your gran passed in March the crematorium have looked after her really well and the ashes were a lovely naturally dark colour. We usually try to let the natural colour of the ashes come through in the jewellery, which can hide some of the pigment we added in the green you chose. I definitely checked the ring size before setting the ashes, but if you feel like it’s not the right size you can take it to a local jeweller (please send me a photo of it on the sizer) or you can buy one here on Amazon. Please forward me your Amazon receipt and a photo of the ring on the sizing stick and I’ll refund the sizer.

Here’s a resolution I would like to offer. I will remake the ring for you in the size you like, please use a sizer exactly like this one to find your correct size. Please post me back the ashes and this ring, we will remove and return the stone, so the ring can be recycled, and make a new one. We can hide the ashes behind the pigment so you can’t see so much (or any) of your gran’s ashes if you’re not keen on their colour. We’ll send you a photo of the cabochons/stones we make to check you’re happy before setting one in the new ring setting. As a goodwill gesture we’ll even ship the remake to you free of charge by Special Delivery. Please let me know if you’re happy to go ahead
Yours Sincerely
Nikki Kamminga
Owner and Artist
Tree of Opals

The Partial Refund and Replacement
If your customer starts off with asking for a partial refund then don’t feel like you necessarily have to give them money back. When I first started out making memorial and breastmilk jewellery I was in need of every penny to pay for childcare, let alone contribute to bills. If I had an order it would either be spent on stock and consumables like moulds and settings or it would go to my girls’ nursery. I didn’t have business savings and I couldn’t afford to refund, so if it was necessary it would have to come out of our personal account.

This isn’t a situation I’d recommend you be in, with good profit margins you should easily be able to cover your overheads, childcare and some put aside. I lost £100 in my first year in business (I started off with £350 of my own money from a child tax credit) then I made a profit after about six months. If you can, put aside 10% to cover any refunds.

Still, you can avoid a refund at all by offering something of equal value. For example, if they want £50 back why not offer a £50 necklace, that may only cost you £10 to make?

How to Prevent Complaints To Begin With

The best way to prvent complaints in the first place is to try to do everything you can to get them to understand the important points about buying jewellery from you. That could be in the form of a phone call or email before you take payment, or an extra box on your checkout to ask them if they definitely read the product description and the FAQ’s. I make my customers write “I promise” in the box on the checkout on Tree of Opals and it does help cut down on complaints in the first place. Customers often won’t read them anyway, but at least you have them there to back you up in case you do get a complaint.

Always let customers know, regarding lead times 1. your maximum lead time (orders can take up to four months from receipt of payment and the milk/ashes etc) and 2. an estimated lead time (most orders take about a month right now but this will be longer during the school holidays). Also let them know if any of your settings are handmade, such as rings from us which are soldered or cast by hand in small batches and look handmade. I like to include a sizing disclaimer in my terms and conditions, along the lines of, “due to different tolerances in ring sizers the ring provided may be up to one whole UK (one half US) ring size larger or smaller than requested”.

I avoid most complaints in the first place with two important tools:

  1. Proof Photos – Prevent them saying they don’t like the colour by sending a proof photo – just make at least two cabochons (stones), on the back, email the client a photo and ask which they prefer.  Let them know that you’ll always return the unused ones free of charge but you can make extra profit here by offering to set the extra in silver for another £20/$30 (over half will say yes). They feel more involved in the process, fewer complaints about time too
  2. Free Ring Sizers – At Tree of Opals our way to remove ring sizing complaints is letting customers know we prefer to send them a free ring sizer with their kit to borrow. You can find kit supplies here in our country specific buying guides, here’s one from Amazon that’s ideal, we just ask for the letter that fits best so they don’t get confused about which number we need. The letter is the UK ring size and they’re a little more accurate than US sizes


How to Deal With Complaints When You’re In The Right

This one’s carefully phrased, the flip side of “you’re in the right” is “you’re not in the wrong”. Or even the possibility that your customer’s in the wrong. Whether that’s true or not, it’s always best to treat the situation like you’re both in the right. Don’t accuse the customer of being wrong, having misread something, having demanded too much, too soon or being cheap. It’s not going to make you or them happy and it’s going to lead to hurt feelings and bad reviews.

Then again, you don’t have to give in to a customer’s unreasonable demands just because you’re scared of a bad review. I like to try to find a middle ground for each situation so I’ve given as examples above. If you have lots of good reviews then don’t give in to demands of a refund if you’re in the right just because you’re afraid – real customers will see through a bad review if the rest are great!

Do you have any tips for dealing with complaints?

 

*The only situation where I’d give a full refund and allow them to keep the piece is where it’s not too expensive in the first place (perhaps £50 and under) and/or the client has my home address and has threatened me. If I’m worried about the safety of my family, I’ll do anything to get rid of them as fast as possible. I had a situation once where a client I think was mentally ill turned up at my home at 9pm and I honestly wish that I had given her a full refund. Preferably before I’d made the piece, when I knew she was a problem. You do need to put your family first and if a customer gives you any sign of being dangerous then please refund in full and block all contact. If they leave you a 1* review anywhere then you can fight it with any evidence of threats you’ve received from them.

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Nikki’s Personal Etsy Favourites

Nikki's Personal Etsy Favourites 13x18mm Silver Pear Tear Drop Bezel Cup Ring blank from ArmoredSupplyCo



Nikki’s personal Etsy favourites, a mix of UK and international findings and settings for breastmilk and memorial jewellery but also my favourite yarn, drawing supplies, kids sewing patterns and fabrics. If you’re into crafting, this blog is for you.

1. Solid Silver Settings

My favourite settings from around Etsy can all be found in one place here on my solid silver settings favourites list! ArmoredSupplyCoCaverswall MineralsQuality Findings Market (QFM)SilverFindings925 and ZDP Findings to name just a few…

13x18mm Silver Pear Tear Drop Bezel Cup Ring blank from ArmoredSupplyCo
13x18mm Silver Pear Tear Drop Bezel Cup Ring blank from ArmoredSupplyCo
18x13mm cufflink setting
Caverswall Minerals 18x13mm cufflink settings
18x13mm teardrop setting from QFM on Etsy
solid silver 18x13mm teardrop settings
4pcs x Round 14mm Quality Hearts Pattern Sterling Silver 925 Cast Bezel Cup For Setting from ZDP on Etsy
Round 14mm Hearts Sterling Silver Setting from ZDP on Etsy



2. Findings

My top-rated findings, such as jumprings and chains from around Etsy can all be found in one place here on my findings favourites list! Huiyitan, StardustAndSilverUK and omnisupply etc

Solid Sterling Silver Chain from huiyitan
Solid Sterling Silver Chain from huiyitan
925 Solid Sterling Silver Star Charm with Closed Jump Ring from StardustAndSilverUK
925 Solid Sterling Silver Star Charm with Closed Jump Ring from StardustAndSilverUK
14k Real Solid Gold Jewelry Making Thin Or Thick Connector Link from omnisupply
14k Real Solid Gold Jewelry Making Thin Or Thick Connector Link from omnisupply

3. Moulds

Although I sell moulds myself (just go to my homepage to see them all), they’re pretty boring if I do say so myself. My moulds are simple cabochons, spheres and beads which are all well and good for making jewellery. I do like to buy myself some fun moulds from time to time though for making resin jewellery for friends as well as for my kids to use – you can see the picks here on my moulds favourites list! 

4. Personal Crafty Faves

I love making rings and jewellery but when something is your job, no matter how much you love it, you need a way to relax. Crafting has always been a way to settle my mind whilst keeping my hands busy. My grandmum taught me how to knit when I was 7 and Mum taught me to crochet, now that I’m a vegan I like to stick to plant based yarns and my next buy is going to be a wholesale bag I can dye myself to give out to crafty friends.  here on my personal craft favourites list! 

Soft and Silky Plant Based Yarn, Hoooked Eucalyptus Yarn, Sustainable Eco Friendly Fibres from moloneymakes
Soft and Silky Eucalyptus Yarn from moloneymakes
Handmade & Personalised Sketch Book for Watercolour and Pencil Drawings from smilelinesjpg
Handmade & Personalised Sketch Book from smilelinesjpg

Settings for resin jewellery Etsy

 



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Types of Solid Silver

types of solid silver. Heart hair ring pink, fairy pink resin sparkle mix, brushed band heart ring setting

There are many types of solid silver, and we have explained the basics below. Sometimes you will receive a complaint and ask us, “Why Is My Customer’s Ring Turning Their Skin Black or Green?” This blog explains the basic metallurgy (metal composition) of various kinds of silver, how or when silver needs to be stamped and hallmarked (and how to advertise it for sale). We’ll also explain how silver reacts to different customers’ skin types and atmospheres, including an explanation of solid silver turning skin black or green.

Types of Silver

    • Silver Plated
      You will notice that the pieces look beautiful at first but the silver will eventually start to wear away or flake off. Silver is applied in a very thin layer on top of a cheaper metal, such as bronze or copper, and when it wears off you’re left with the base metal which will usually discolour a customer’s skin and look like it’s rusting or going pink. When you’re first starting out as a breastmilk jeweller, you’ll find silver plated findings more affordable and some of your customers may not mind receiving it, so long as you’re open and honest about the metal type. The problem is, as clear as you are in your product descriptions, many clients will never bother to read them and will assume you’re using solid silver (even at very low prices). Here at Keepsaker Supplies, we recommend you use base metal findings like these bronze open bezels for your practice and budget pieces. This is the first piece I ever made, a bronze placenta heart necklace, and I took it on national TV and This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby said it was gorgeous! There’s no need to use silver plated findings.

      Nikki's first piece - placenta heart open backed brass pendant, as seen on This Morning and loved by Holly
      Nikki’s first piece – placenta heart open backed brass pendant, as seen on This Morning and loved by Holly

      A word of warning – many cheap findings from China will be “925 stamped”, like these bead inserts, but that doesn’t guarantee they are actually 925 silver! If in doubt, scratch a bit off in an inconspicuous area and leave it in water to see how it reacts, or use a silver testing kit like this one on Amazon

      charm bead insert comparison - fake silver plated and genuine solid sterling silver
      charm bead insert comparison – fake silver plated (left) and genuine solid sterling silver (right)
  • 925 Sterling Silver
    Probably the world’s most common “solid silver” is sterling silver. It’s compromised of 92.5% pure silver, the other 7.5% is usually copper. The copper is added to pure silver to strengthen it (silver is quite a soft metal). It is less expensive than some other kinds of silver but is easy to work with, readily available and strong. The drawbacks include ethical concerns about the way the silver was gathered (we always used EcoSilver, which is recycled, wherever possible), this Guardian Article explains some of the problems of mining silver. Sterling silver is notorious for being prone to firescale (a discolouration that occurs during brazing or soldering) and tarnishing/going black or green on a customer’s skin. Our bead cores and inserts are made with EcoSilver (sterling) and sometimes we need to use sterling silver bezel cups on our 935 rings, depending on availability.
  • 935 Antitarnish Silver (Argentium or White Silver)
    Silver with a purity of at least 93.5% silver mixed with other white metals (not nickel) and some copper is known as 935 silver. The silver we use for our ring shanks and domed headpins is Argentium silver and we are a recognised Argentium partner. Our cast items, such as the 10mm heart bezel cups are cast in a combination of our own Argentium silver scrap and another 935 “white silver” alloy. Our solid silver items are therefore generally more tarnish resistant than sterling silver, but they do still contain copper and can occasionally tarnish depending on the way they are worn (see below) and because we use sterling silver bezel cups and solder paste. We like to use this 935 silver because it’s ethical, brighter and shinier than sterling silver, less prone to tarnish and easier to work with. 

    textured band ring in Argentium silver 3mm wide, 8mm cup
    textured band ring in Argentium silver
    • 999 Pure Silver
      Silver that is 99.9% pure is common to see in some jewellery designs especially from precious metal clay artists. It is quite a soft metal so not ideal for jewellery unless it’s quite thick because of the softness. It doesn’t tend to tarnish but some customers can still be allergic to pure silver. We try to use pure silver for our bezel cups because they are easier for rubbing over cabochons.

Silver Hallmarks, 925 Stamping and Descriptions

  • Silver Hallmarks
    In the UK, according to the Hallmarking Act 1973, individual items made of solid silver must be hallmarked if they are equal to or above 7.78g in weight. If you have a 7g pendant and a 5g chain then neither need to be hallmarked so long as they can be separated without the use of tools. None of the items available for sale on Keepsaker Supplies at the time of writing are 7.78g in weight or higher, so are not required to be hallmarked. You may find the weights in other countries lower, so please double check with your country’s assay office. Our items are sold wholesale, so it is your responsibility to have them hallmarked if necessary! Our parent company, Tree of Opals has been a registered sponsor with the Birmingham Assay Office since 12th October 2016 and here is our dealer’s notice.
  • 925 and 935 Stamping
    Solid silver items can be stamped as a guide to the metal purity, this is not a required! A 925 or 935 stamp is optional and different to a hallmark. As we’ve noted above, a 925 stamp is not a guarantee that an item is solid silver! Any item that is 92.5% silver or higher can be stamped 925 as a guide to the purity of the metal. We prefer to stamp our antitarnish silver items, when possible, with a 935 stamp, as a guide to the purity, but they can equally be stamped 925
  • Descriptions
    In the UK, for an item to be advertised as silver, you should include the fineness of the silver as advised by The British Hallmarking Council here, even if the item is light enough not to need hallmarking (see below). You should be on the safe side and call your solid silver pieces 925 silver but explain that sometimes they will be stamped 935 to show they are mostly antitarnish silver. Other countries’ rules differ, the silver we sell here at Keepsaker Supplies is sold as “partially finished”, so for non-UK customers you should enquire about restrictions for selling silver in your country. 

Solid Silver Turning Skin Black or Green

You probably should cover this question in your jewellery care instructions and your terms and conditions, you could even write your own blog to go into depth. One of the first things you need to do as a breastmilk jeweller is educate yourself about the basics of jewellery care, both for resin jewellery and precious metals. We’re covering resin jewellery care in another blog. 

For silver (whether sterling or antitarnish) you should always be aware that some customers will be more prone to their silver causing discolouration, especially on rings. A simple Google search will show you that solid silver can turn black or green and that doesn’t mean it’s “fake” or “low quality” or “silver plated”. Even 935 antitarnish silver can tarnish, especially as we use sterling solder paste and bezel cups from time to time. There are various factors that can exacerbate tarnish and copper transfer, such as the heat and humidity, how much the customer sweats (and the pH/composition of their sweat!), whether they use hand lotion or alcohol gel, how much they wash their hands and the soap they use. Tarnish is more of a problem in 2020 than ever before with people handwashing more frequently and using alcohol gel because of the coronavirus.

Reducing and Resolving Tarnish

Customers can reduce the risk of their silver tarnishing by keeping their hands dry, removing their rings if they need to be using alcohol gel, removing them for showering, bathing, swimming, saunas. These things are necessary for keeping resin from yellowing too quickly as well. If they sweat lots, they can try using powder. Some foods can cause tarnish, especially eggs and oily foods.

If your customer has experienced this kind of tarnish, they can polish the piece regularly with a silver polishing cloth like the ones we sell here, or you can provide little cloths with your own branding like these, this company supplies them for Tree of Opals. They can try coating the inside of their ring with clear nail varnish as recommended in this blog, or for a longer lasting fix they can buy Jewelry Shield here on Amazon

Customers might say, “I’ve worn silver jewellery before” or even “my other silver rings don’t do this” but please remember that they may be wearing silver rings that are rhodium plated, which is popular amongst mass-produced jewellery companies like Pandora, or they may have worn silver in the past but have recently been sweating more or using alcohol gel. A tarnishing silver ring is not a fault, but if you do choose to remake your customer’s jewellery as a goodwill gesture, we would recommend finding stainless steel or rhodium plated findings because they will be likely to experience the same reaction with any other handmade silver rings. We are not able to refund used settings due to hygeine! However, if you can remove the cabochon we may be able to refund you as a goodwill gesture if you return the setting (we recycle all of our silver to make new findings).

Continue reading Types of Solid Silver

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Fitting a Bead Core

white hair bead FIMH forever in my heart core. Fitting a Bead Core Tutorial

Fitting a Bead Core for charm bracelets – our bead cores fit perfectly on Pandora bracelet* and will probably be your biggest seller. You’ll need one of our one of our bead cores here or one of our charm bead DIY kits here and a small lightweight hammer to make this charm bead.

Our bead cores are compatible with the medium, medium plus, faceted and honeycomb moulds. You can use them with our large bead moulds but you won’t be able to flare the back using the method below – you can glue them in though (thanks Mikayla at Stuffed With Love for this tip, I hadn’t thought of trying it!) Sorry, but our bead cores aren’t compatible with the slim or super slim moulds unless you’re able to file part A of the core down. For those beads, we’d recommend using our nice wide heart-stamped glue-in inserts here.

Fitting a Bead Core

You’ll need the following supplies

This video shows you the process of fitting a bead core when on a charm bead with a very tiny amount of white hair and unicorn white sparkle mix. Please subscribe and get notifications to hear about our latest videos first, and I’ll post a tutorial on making a charm like this soon.

PREPARING THE CHARM BEAD

If you’re working with resin then completely cure and cool your charm bead, and check it for imperfections and air bubbles
You might be able to repair some small air bubble but it’s usually easier to make a fresh one especially if you’re working with UV resin
Make sure your client is happy with the bead you’ve made by sending them a proof photo
Carefully use side cutting pliers to remove the excess resin
Use your carbide burr bit in a rotary tool like this to remove the rest of the resin
You can buy a Dremel brand rotary tool or invest in a really good quality pendant motor that comes with a foot pedal and different heads
Clean the bead with a little rubbing alcohol to remove the dust

For lampwork glass beads, make sure your bead is completely annealed and cooled
Use a bead reamer to clean inside the charm bead and completely remove the bead release

FITTING THE CORE

Check the core fits nicely in your bead and covers any sanding area
I prefer to put part A (the mushroom shaped bit) through the front of the bead, what was at the bottom of the mould
That means that if any ashes or flakes have sunk in the resin during the curing process, they’ll be at the front of the charm bead
Push part B onto the back
It will be more than enough to cover the sanding area if you’re using one of our moulds
However, if you’ve cracked the area when removing the resin or slipped with the rotary tool you can cover it with a little bit of resin before adding part B

charm bead back, solid sterling silver S925 stamped. Part A and part B, core rising above
charm bead back, solid sterling silver S925 stamped. Part A and part B, core rising above

FLARING A BEAD CORE

Put your bead on a cloth with part A face down
Part A should be slightly proud of the surface or just level with part B
If it’s too short, you won’t be able to flare it to secure it over part B, in that case just drill off a little more resin from around the pouring spout
If it’s much too long, check you’re not using a mould that’s too thin such as the slim or super slim mould
Your bead needs to be around 7 or 8mm in height for the cores to fit nicely

If you’re working withe the ball bearing, place this over the top of part A and really gently hit it with a hammer
Don’t hit it too hard or try using a coring press or you’ll warp the core (a sad and expensive mistake I’ve made too many times to count)
Check that it’s secured and doesn’t twist by trying to get a fingernail or something flat underneath it
If it’s loose or you can still pull part B off, hit the ball bearing again to secure the core

You will find it easier to fit cores if you use a doming punch. I like to use a 5mm punch and gently press it down from above
Widen the core gradually by increasing the size of the punch and you will get perfectly even results
I like to use a 5mm and an 8mm punch and the set cost me about £15 pound sterling, you can find the link below to buy a set

Now you have finished Fitting a Bead Core and you can send your bead to your client. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and hit the notifications bell because my next video will show you how to preserve breastmilk using Milky Mama Magic Dust™ from my friend Amy “The Breastmilk Queen”. I’m also going to be doing some videos with do’s and don’ts for those of you who want to investigate your own breastmilk preservation methods. My own baby is coming in a few weeks so I’ll be putting a hold on orders for a short while but back up and running as soon as I can. 

If you’re a customer of mine at Keepsaker Supplies, you can join our Facebook group, the Breastmilk and Memorial Jewellery Group here.

Now relax and do some crafting

white resin sparkle mix and dark cat fur charm bead for Pandora bracelets, unicorn white resin sparkle mix. forever in my heart core
white resin sparkle mix and dark cat fur charm bead for Pandora bracelets, unicorn white resin sparkle mix. forever in my heart core

*Fitting a Bead Core “for Pandora Bracelets”

*This blog and video tutorial are not called “Bead Cores for Pandora Bracelets” because they are not made by Pandora! We have never sold our pieces as “for Pandora”, through either Tree of Opals (where we’ve sold charm beads for over five years) or here on Keepsaker Supplies, and I highly recommend you do the same! Although it’s tempting to do so, as customers certainly do search for “hair Pandora bead” on a regular basis, it can potentially lead to a cease and desist from the company or even legal action. Plus, it’s not a very nice thing to do morally as the company have worked hard for decades to build the level of fame and customer loyalty. We’ll be covering how to do SEO and improve your Google rankings for breastmilk jewellery search terms soon, but try to resist offering anything to do with “Pandora beads with hair” especially in product titles.

A good way of showing that they fit after fitting a bead core, is ask your own customers to post pics themselves and give you permission to share. This review from the_muddy_mummy on Instagram shows how much people treasure these charms and you can embed posts just like I’m doing here pretty easily on your own website. You don’t technically need permission to embed but I always do as it’s polite

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Thought I would share something that is precious to me, my Mummy Pandora. Currently it has 5 charms on it and they all mean so much to me. My Memory Makers @memorymakersuk charm of Ava’s fingernail from when she was a month old (from Mothercare), my “It’s a Girl” charm from my work colleagues when I went on Mat leave, my @treeofopals handmade charm with a lock of Ava’s hair in, an Owl and her owlet from my Brother and his gf on my first birthday as a Mummy, and my Lace stopper to make sure they all stay on safely. On the Moments silver bracelet with Pandora Rose clasp. 💚 #themuddymummyblog #mummy #pandora #treeofopals #mothercare #makingmemories #memorymakers #motherhood #bracelet #special

A post shared by The_Muddy_Mummy (@the_muddy_mummy) on

Please note, this Fitting a Bead Core blog contains affiliate links meaning I receive a small income based on your purchases from Amazon and Etsy etc. This affiliate income is really helpful to me to support my family, especially when I can’t ship orders with my new baby, and if you’d like to know how I set it all up please get in touch (blogs coming soon!). You can even be an affiliate for this website, just visit the affiliate page here to earn 10% of orders you referred here!
Nikki x

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Making A Hair Ring

Making A Hair Ring from start to finish using UV resin like ours here and one of our custom ring kits. You can use any rubover ring setting, such as these from ZDP on Etsy, or you could fill a bezel setting like this with resin but please see our blog on Filling V’s Rubover settings to find out why we recommend you use a mould!

This vlog is similar to our Making A Cremation Ashes Ring Vlog but I’ll be showing you how to set the hair in an 8mm cabochon. If you’re making a charm bead or a sphere setting then watch our making a hair charm bead tutorial here.

You can read more about working with hair in our How To Make Lock Of Hair Jewellery blog here (click). Remember: every customer’s hair or fur will come a different colour or texture. Let them know before accepting an order that the results will vary and some hair isn’t going to be visible. White and light blonde hair/fur is notorious for going clear, “white” hair is often translucent rather than truly white and is a huge reason for complaints. Include this in your terms and conditions (even if they don’t bother to read them, you’re covered) and make sure to send proof photos.

Making A Lock of Hair Ring

You’ll need the following supplies:
one of our ring settings kits in your client’s size (the kits contain a ring setting, a single 8mm round cabochon mouldlabel backing paper, 25g UV resin3 cocktail sticks and a random sample of resin sparkle mix, vinyl gloves, a dust mask and some sandpaper)

You might also need:
your client’s lock of hair or fur
hairdressing scissors
silver polishing cloth
a ring sizing mandrel
a ring clamp (cruelty-free ones coming soon)
a diamond file (coming soon)
a burnishing tool (coming soon)

I like to use an LED UV lamp to save energy and make sure the pieces don’t get too hot. This one has a 99 second low heat setting

Please note we have specific supplies lists for the UK, USA, Australia and Canada (more countries coming soon). Some of the supplies in this Making a hair ring blog are optional, such as the diamond file and ring clamp.

PREPARING THE MOULD

As usual, inspect the mould any dust, dirt, lines and imperfections
Don’t forget to replace your moulds regularly to prevent your pieces being dull
You could make this ring without a mould, but please see our Filled V’s Rubover Cabochon Setting blog before deciding 

PREPARING THE HAIR

Double check your client’s name and order number against what they’ve ordered
Inspect the hair and decide how much you want to use and how you want to lay it out
Carefully put a very small line of resin along a piece of label backing paper, this is to hold the hair in place and stop it blowing away
This is essential if you’re working with a teeny tiny lock of hair, such as from a baby
Cut the lock a little longer than you’ll need and place it on the resin
I recommend you buy a double mould and make two at once to give your client the choice, so use double the length of hair
Coat the hair in resin and use a cocktail stick to make sure it’s well-soaked and remove any bubbles

PLACING HAIR IN THE MOULD

Cut the hair to the length needed
You need each length of resin-soaked hair to be around a third longer than the width of your mould
For an 8mm mould, you could cut the hair around 11mm wide

for an 8mm mould, you could cut the hair around 11mm wide
for an 8mm mould, you could cut the hair around 11mm wide

If your client sent plenty of hair, you could cut some slightly different length sections and use trial and error to find your ideal length
Each lock of hair and fur will act differently in the resin, cat fur is (in my opinion) the most difficult to work with
Use the cocktail stick to carefully nudge the hair on top of the empty mould
Push the hair down so it sits how you want and be careful not to poke your mould at this stage
Nudge out any air bubbles, which will look like silvery dots or lines
Translucent moulds are vital here because you can check the placement from underneath!

You can place it under your UV lamp for 30 seconds at this stage to set the hair in place
I prefer not to, because sometimes the colour can get underneath the cured hair if you do

COLOUR LAYERS

Check you have the right colours then work in thin layers to build up colour gradually until the cabochon is opaque
That means you need to make sure you can no longer see any light through it from the back
Another good reason to use water-clear moulds!
Today I’m using the Aegean blue resin sparkle mix blend exclusive to Keepsaker Supplies
For a more detailed tutorial on working in layers see my cremation ashes ring video

After you’ve fully cured the cabochons at the end, remove from the UV lamp and leave to cool completely
Remove the cabochons from the mould, trying not to touch the shiny top
Cure for a final 99 seconds and leave to completely cool again

PROOF PHOTO

Use the cooling time to clear up your workstation, put your client’s hair back into their bag and wash your work area
I like to send my client a proof photo of the cabochons to make sure they’re happy with the colour and choose their favourite stone
Please make sure you make it clear to them you will always return the unused cabochon to them free of charge!
It can be heartbreaking for a client to think you’d dispose of their loved one’s hair or ashes, and with hair I even try to cure and return the extra from the label backing paper

SETTING

Check and prepare the cabochon
If it’s still sticky you may not have cured or cooled for long enough, if so, give it a thin coat of clear resin on the top and cure and cool completely

PREPARING THE SETTING

You can use a ring sizing mandrel to check that your ring setting is the correct size
If you like, give it all a quick polish with a silver polishing cloth
Clamp it in a ring mandrel if you have one, and place the stone inside and check it sits nicely

SETTING THE STONE

Use a curved burnishing tool to very gently push down the silver around the edges
Work around as if it’s a clock, 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 9 o’clock
Don’t push too hard or you could end up with ridges in the silver
Once it’s all pushed down you can start to apply a little force
Make a tight seal by rubbing the silver over. That’s why it’s called a rubover setting

hair ring blue bubble, Aegean blue resin sparkle mix and bubble wire band
hair ring blue bubble, Aegean blue resin sparkle mix and bubble wire band

Making a Hair Ring

Now you have finished Making A Hair Ring to send to your client you can photograph it as usual. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and hit the notifications bell because my next series of videos will be breastmilk jewellery tutorials. I’ll be using Milky Mama Magic Dust™ from my friend Amy “The Breastmilk Queen”. I’m also going to be doing some videos with do’s and don’ts for those of you who want to investigate your own breastmilk preservation methods.

Now relax and do some crafting

Please note, this Making a hair ring blog contains affiliate links meaning I receive a small income based on your purchases from Amazon and Etsy etc. This affiliate income is really helpful to me to support my family and if you’d like to know how I set it all up please get in touch (blogs coming soon!)
Nikki x

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Making A Cremation Bead

Tutorial for making a cremation bead for Pandora style bracelets from start to finish using UV resin like ours here and one of our Forever In My Heart ♡ core. I’m working with real cremation ashes in this video so if you find this upsetting please do not watch. The charm bead part of this is very similar to our How to Make a Hair Charm Bead video here but this project is our easiest! You don’t need to glue in the inserts, and everything is done in a single pour!

You can read more about working with ashes in our How To Make Cremation Ashes Jewellery blog here (click) and you might also enjoy the How To Make A Cremation Ashes Heart Necklace here. This technique can be used for working with placenta powder or ground umbilical cord too!

Making A Cremation Bead

You’ll need the following supplies:
a heavy duty safety mask or nail tech masks
vinyl gloves
one of our Forever In My Heart ♡ core sets (A+B)
our medium bead mould*
cremation ashes (you can request some horse ashes here to practice with)
cremation ashes spoon (coming soon)
small pestle and mortar (coming soon)
UV resin
cocktail stick
(optional) your client’s choice in colour of resin sparkle mix

you’ll also need:
mini side cutting pliers 
a carbide burr bit (coming soon) 
a rotary tool (Dremel style) with flexshaft 
4mm doming punch
(optional) wooden doming block 

I like to use an LED UV lamp to save energy and make sure the pieces don’t get too hot. This one has a 99 second low heat setting

PREPARING THE MOULD

Make sure you’ve done a test cast with any new mould to check it’s ok
Inspect your mould and check for any dust or dirt, or lines and imperfections
Bead moulds don’t usually get dirty inside, but you can clean the top with a little rubbing alcohol if needed
It’s always better to replace a mould when it’s starting to get dull than spend hours trying to get a perfect shine back on your finished piece

PREPARING YOUR SUPPLIES

Check you have everything you need before you start
Double check your client’s name and order number against what they’ve ordered!
You can take a tiny spoonful of ashes and grind them a little finer, if you need to, then clean the spoon
I’d recommend making two charm beads at the same time to give your client the choice

FILLING WITH RESIN

Very slowly fill your charm bead mould with resin
Make sure the whole mould is full and you have no air bubbles
Don’t fill the pouring spout, this will need to be removed later
The pouring spout allows space for bubbles to rise
If you end up with lots of bubbles at this stage, it’s easiest to cure it now, then remove and discard the resin, and start again

ADDING CREMATION ASHES

Add a tiny spoonful of your resin sparkle mix, then your cremation ashes
Don’t use too much colour or it won’t cure
Use a cocktail stick to carefully poke them into the centre
Focus on the area around the core
If you have too much excess resin in the spout it will be more work to remove later, so take some out if needed

If you want lots of depth to your bead, then don’t bring the colour to the edges

CURING AND COOLING

Cure for 99 seconds before the ashes have a chance to sink
Allow to cool completely then flip over and cure again for another 99 seconds
Give it time to cool again before you touch it!
A good way to help it cool quickly is by placing the mould on a cold tile
When the top feels cold, carefully remove the bead without touching the shiny part
Allow it to cool completely 

PROOF PHOTO

Send your client a photo of the charm beads to make sure they’re happy with the colour and choose their favourite charm bead 
This removes any complaints of “I don’t like the colour” after you set the core and posted it
Pro tip: if the client doesn’t like the colour and the ashes are dark, remake the piece just using the tiniest bit of ashes
Make sure you tell them you will return any spares free of charge
You can offer to set the other bead with a core for a small extra fee
Around half of our clients at Tree of Opals decide to go for the extra piece and we charge £25, which is about $32 US Dollars

Clear up
Use the cooling time to clear up your workstation, put your client’s ashes back and wash your pestle and mortar

SETTING

Preparing the bead
Make sure you wear a mask doing this part
Use a pair of mini side cutting pliers to remove the excess from the pouring spout
Sometimes this is enough but usually you will then need to use a carbide burr bit to flatten the top
This area will be covered by your charm core
Double check the bead for imperfections
You can wipe it with rubbing alcohol to remove any dust and stickiness

Setting the core
I like to use a wooden doming block as a secure base, but you can place it on a folded rag instead
Put the stamped part A (what I call the mushroom) through the front of the bead
Slot part B over it at the back
If part B won’t fit, use the drill bit to remove a little more resin
Put the 4mm doming punch in the centre of the core at the back and press gently until it flares
I don’t recommend using a bead corer or press here because they can warp the core out of shape
If you don’t have the strength, you can use a hammer but you must be very gentle

Now you have a finished cremation ashes charm bead for your client! Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see more videos like this and don’t forget I’ve linked to the blog and all the supplies you need down below

Now relax and do some crafting

**contains sponsored content meaning I may receive a small income based on purchases you make on my recommendations. Some of the products mentioned and linked to are ones my own items for sale

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Filled v’s Rubover Cabochon Settings

cremtion ashes ring twisted band, 8mm cabochon with ashes stone containing orchid purple resin sparkle mix



Filled v’s Rubover Cabochon Settings pros and cons, filling a setting is much easier and a rubover setting gives more scope for error and is more durable. You might enjoy reading my blog on Etsy Settings here and my own settings are here, some are suitable for filling and rubover setting using a mould. You can read my blog series on making breastmilk jewellery here, making cremation ashes jewellery here and making lock of hair and fur jewellery. Working with ashes is similar to working with sand, or dried crushed umbilical cord or placenta so the advice is pretty much the same for those.

Filled Settings or Direct Pour

Filling a jewellery setting with resin is very easy if you can find the correct setting – our settings here can be poured directly. You just drip a little resin into the setting at a time, curing in between layers. You can use a two-part epoxy resin kit like this and 3ml pipettes. You can work in a single layer but you won’t achieve any depth to the piece. Here are our blogs on direct pours

This video by Mona at CraftKlatch (oh my goodness, I love her videos – definitely worth subscribing!) she’s working with ashes from her fireplace, I believe, and two part epoxy resin. Personally I prefer to always work with UV resin like ours here, because I’m a) impatient and b) allergic to epoxy. It cures in seconds so you can fill a setting in minutes working in thin layers. Always finish with a clear layer (known as “doming” the piece) to give it a nice shine and magnify the colours, and to round off the piece.

You can also use an “open backed” setting and the first piece I ever made was an open backed round bronze bezel with my baby’s placenta, which I’d already cured in a flat heart shape. I placed some packing tape on the back of the bezel, stuck the heart on then covered in resin. Once it cured, I removed the tape and domed the side where the tape had been. I was on national TV in 2017 on a programme called This Morning, and one of the presenters Holly Willoughby said how much she loved that piece!

Back in 2015 when I first started Tree of Opals, I worked with China Cheapies like these on AliExpress – you can get them here on Amazon or here on Etsy in the USA for example from local suppliers. It’s much quicker, but buying direct from China is much less expensive! I’d recommend using bronze, copper or stainless steel, and avoid silver plated settings like the plague. After a few months selling “silver tone” or “silvery” pieces, and even including the fact that they were silver plated in the product description, I found out that customers had still expected solid silver having not bothered reading the description. Many customers just don’t! A few wanted remakes, but were happy to pay for materials.

Filled v’s Rubover Cabochon Settings

I wished I had used solid silver from the very beginning but base metals are great for practice. If you’re looking for solid silver settings, Caverswall Minerals here on Etsy are absolutely gorgeous and I started out with these, plus you can also use our rings for filling (click here).

fillable heart setting from Caverswall Minerals here on Etsy

Rubover Settings

These days I only use rubover settings for cabochon stones like the ones I sell here. I prefer the look of the pieces and I think you have more variety in available settings (see below). You can make as many cabochons (stones) as you need to to give the client the choice… please always return the unused ones to them unset free of charge! You can offer to set the extra cabochons in metal for a little extra income though, around half of my clients at Tree of Opals choose to take me up on that. If you’re making 8mm cabochon rings, for example,  The stone is completely secured and can’t pop out. Here’s a video showing how to make a cremation ashes cabochon then set it in a ring with a rubover technique. Here are our blogs on rubover setting techniques

You can use rubover bezel settings like our ring settings, crown point settings like our heart and teardrop necklace settings, claw settings like these beautiful dainty handmade twig ring settings on Etsy (claw settings won’t give you quite so much protection as a rubover bezel, but are more adaptable to different shapes).

beautiful dainty handmade twig ring settings on Etsy

Finally, you can use a pre-made cabochon in closed and open-backed settings from Caverswall Minerals (here on Etsy)  like these ones, but you can’t rub over the edges as they are too heavy. The advantage is that you can still make several cabochons and choose the best two with your client, then glue them in. You can add a little extra resin from behind to then secure the cabochons more thoroughly.

18x13mm open cufflink setting from Caverswall Minerals here
18x13mm open cufflink setting from Caverswall Minerals here

Filled v’s Rubover Cabochon Settings

Filled setting

Rubover Setting

pros Easy and quick to fill for beginners You can make multiple cabochons and check your client’s happy with the colour
pros No need to find a compatible mould Return the extra cabochons free of charge as replacements if they lose the piece
pros If you dome it nicely, you should always have a perfectly shiny finish Upsell extra pieces made from the spare cabochons
pros You can still fill rubover settings like ours here  There is less pressure for you making a cabochon than there is filling a setting
pros Caverswall Minerals (here on Etsy)  sell a nice selection of classic
fillable settings
A more professional finish with very secure cabochon that can’t just pop out
cons Can’t easily be removed once cured to remake. You may need to
drill out the resin or try to heat the setting to get it to pop out
You need a rubover setting, which can be harder to find
We sell some here and have links to more here on Etsy
cons You can’t make check the design with your client first. You will feel
pressure to get it right first time
You will need to use a curved burnisher (easy to learn) or bezel pusher
cons The resin can pop out even when you’ve scored the  inside the setting,
heartbreaking for your clients if it’s sentimental!
You need a compatible mould, we sell them here though!

In conclusion, although there are benefits to filling a setting with resin, I much prefer using a mould to produce cabochons (stones) which we then set in a rubover bezel setting. I make and sell the moulds and compatible settings, and I’m working on more all the time. If you have a request for a certain shape and would like to work with me on that style of setting and compatible mould please get in touch. We can make the setting available to everyone, or custom only to your business (exclusivity) for an extra fee. We work with a fantastic production company in Israel, a casting company here in the UK and I love to make settings by hand. Filled v’s rubover cabochon settings is a topic that comes up in our breastmilk and memorial jewellery group regularly!
Continue reading Filled v’s Rubover Cabochon Settings

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How To Make A Cremation Ashes Ring

cremtion ashes ring twisted band, 8mm cabochon with ashes stone containing orchid purple resin sparkle mix

This video will show you how to make this resin cremation ashes ring from start to finish using UV resin like ours here and one of our custom ring settings. I’m working with human ashes in this video so if you find this upsetting please do not watch. The resin part of this is very similar to our How to Make a Cremation Ashes Heart Necklace blog, but this setting will take a little more practice

You can read more about working with ashes in our How To Make Cremation Ashes Jewellery blog here (click).

This video is dedicated to Liz Williams, whose granddaughter Courtney has kindly let me use Liz’s ashes in this video, Courtney and is a loyal client of mine over at Tree of Opals. If you would like me to make you something please get in touch on the Tree of Opals website and although I do own both businesses, I try to keep the messages for each business separate.

How To Make A Cremation Ashes Ring

You’ll need the following supplies:
a heavy duty safety mask or nail tech masks
vinyl gloves
one of our ring settings in your client’s size
our 8mm cabochon duo mould (or the our 8mm the faceted version
rubbing alcohol or gel nail cleanser solution
a rag
cremation ashes (you can request some horse ashes here to practice with)
cremation ashes spoon
small pestle and mortar (coming soon)
UV resin
cocktail stick
your client’s choice in colour of resin sparkle mix

you’ll also need:
a ring sizing mandrel
silver polishing cloth (coming soon)
a ring clamp (cruelty-free ones coming soon)
a diamond file (coming soon)
a burnishing tool (coming soon)

I like to use an LED UV lamp to save energy and make sure the pieces don’t get too hot. This one has a 99 second low heat setting

Please note we have specific supplies lists for the UK, USA, Australia (Canada coming very soon). We will soon be adding the option to order each of our ring and necklace settings as a DIY kit. Some of the supplies are optional, such as the pestle and mortar, ring clamp and the polishing cloth.

PREPARING THE MOULD

Firstly, inspect your mould and check for any dust or dirt, or lines and imperfections
You could make this ring without a mould, but I’ll cover the reasons why we don’t recommend this in another video
Prepare the mould if it’s a little dusty by one of two methods

  1. The first is by wiping it with rubbing alcohol or nail cleanser solution with a rag
  2. The second is by applying a thin layer of UV resin, then curing. The dust will come off when you remove the resin

It’s always better to replace a mould when it’s starting to get dull than spend hours trying to get a perfect shine back on your finished piece

CURE FOR 99 SECONDS
Then, you can remove the cleaning layer

Clear Layer
Carefully put a very small dot of resin in the centre of each of the mould depressions
Gently use a cocktail stick to move the resin to the edges and remove any bubbles
Be careful not to poke your mould at this stage
Place it under your UV lamp for 30 seconds
This will give you a clear top layer on your finished piece, make sure you work in very thin layers

ADDING CREMATION ASHES

Check you have the right colours and double check your client’s name and order number against what they’ve ordered
You can take a tiny spoonful of ashes and grind them a little finer
Put them to one side, where you can’t knock them over

Pour another layer of resin in, about half of the way up
Dip a cocktail stick in the resin, then in the colour (today I’m using the orchid purple resin sparkle mix again)
This will pick up a tiny bit of the colour which you then place in the resin in a controlled way
Then dip the same end in the finely ground ashes, and place that in the resin too
Gently swirl everything around to cover the first layer

If you want lots of depth to your piece, then don’t add too much of anything in the first colour layer
Keep it nice and translucent

cure for 30 seconds

Second Colour Layer
Repeat with another thin layer of resin and use the other end of the cocktail stick to avoid dipping ashes in your colour
Keep this second colour layer fairly translucent too

Cure for another 30 seconds

Third Colour Layer
Repeat with another thin layer of resin, and use a new cocktail stick
This layer can be fairly opaque, but if you add too much colour it won’t cure!

Cure for another 30 second

Finally add a thin layer of clear resin to bring it level with the side of the mould
Cure for 99 seconds
Remove from the UV lamp and leave to cool
Remove the cabochons from the mould, trying not to touch the shiny top
Cure for a final 99 seconds and leave to completely cool
A way to help them cool quickly is by placing them on a cold tile
You can send your client a photo of the cabochons to make sure they’re happy with the colour and choose their favourite stone

Clear up
Use the cooling time to clear up your workstation, put your client’s ashes back into their bag and wash your pestle and mortar

SETTING

Preparing the cabochon
Double check the cabochon for imperfections
You might need to remove a little excess resin with a flat diamond file
Don’t forget to wear a mask doing this
Then wipe it with rubbing alcohol to remove any dust and stickiness

Preparing The Setting
Use a ring sizing mandrel to check that your ring setting is the correct size
If you like, give it all a quick polish with a silver polishing cloth
Clamp it in a ring mandrel if you have one
Place the stone inside and check it sits nicely

Setting the stone
Use a curved burnishing tool to very gently push down the silver around the edges
Work around as if it’s a clock, 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 9 o’clock
Don’t push too hard or you could end up with ridges in the silver
Once it’s all pushed down you can start to apply a little force
Make a tight seal by rubbing the silver over. That’s why it’s called a rubover setting

Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see more videos like this and don’t forget I’ve linked to the blog and all the supplies you need down below
Now relax and do some crafting

**contains sponsored content meaning I may receive a small income based on purchases you make on my recommendations. Some of the products mentioned and linked to are ones my own items for sale

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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!

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