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.
nitrile disposable non-powdered 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 them from hairdressing supplies stores
Artguard Barrier Cream or Gloves In A Bottle are branded barrier creams that can help protect your hands in addition to gloves, or you can go for good old fashioned…
Calamine lotion is made of a zinc oxide solution that provides a barrier on your skin. I used to use it on my hands and lower arms in case they get dirty or I get resin on them, when I used epoxy resin, as I’m allergic to it and this helps. Now, I only work with UV resin. If you develop an allergy to epoxy resin, please stop using it at once and switch to UV resin
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. At the time of writing, face masks aren’t available due to the coronavirus pandemic, so I’d highly recommend making your own using this pattern on Etsy. 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.
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.
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!
Cellophane bags are a better option for hair and cremation ashes as they’re plastic-free and really inexpensive. You need around 4×4″ to 4×6″ to contain your clients’ pot with the ashes or hair etc. They aren’t suitable for breastmilk as they would leak, but we use them at Tree of Opals in our kits for everything else
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.
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
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
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)
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!)
Qiao Qiao 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)
I bought one 60g bottle three years ago and just refill it from 200g bottles now. You’ll see in the videos the label has long since disappeared. I’m often asked if you should be concerned about yellowing and I have only ever had one bad batch of this resin, it smelt really strong and I think it was a fake. It shouldn’t smell at all, and don’t forget you mustn’t let it get too hot or cure it for too long. A maxumum of five minutes total on any visible layer, on a low heat UV setting. If it’s still sticky, it needs to be wiped over…
48W LED UV lamp is a perfect piece of equipment for working with UV resin. It’s cooler than regular UV bulbs but stronger so it cures better, cooler and faster. The LED lights save so much energy compared to bulbs for everyone who is energy conscious
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org