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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.

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Making Moulds: Charm Beads

making moulds charm beads for European bracelets like Pandora, charms to be made with resin

Making Moulds: Charm Beads for European Bracelets

Charm Bead Mould Making Tools

Making charm bead moulds is very similar to making spheres (you can read about those here) but a little more complicated. It’s really important to get the right size and shape for the plasticine dots to avoid the pouring spout being too big, too small or too fragile.

Below is a chart of silicone types and you can see we recommend water-clear silicone for charm bead moulds:

silicone mould making chart free from Nikki Kamminga at Tree of Opals
silicone mould making chart free from Nikki Kamminga at Tree of Opals. Click to open then Pin or right click (Windows)/Ctrl+click (Mac) to save.

To prepare your mould masters (the bit you pour the silicone into) you need a few supplies. I use a specific size for our Tree of Opals Charm Beads that fit our solid brandstamped cores, but you can use any size you like. I recommend you buy at least 30 mould masters; glass charm beads, you can use whichever shape you like but try to stick to it for customer continuity.

I recommend getting a digital calliper for high end jewellery for mould making so you can tell clients the exact dimensions of the charm beads.

You can skip a lot of the work here by cutting out little circles of double sided tape and popping the sphere directly on top but the trouble is they tend to move around, and because the silicone around the hole is very thin it can tear easily, no matter how tear resistant your silicone. I like to secure the masters on a little platform that’s the right width and height. It’s a bit fiddly but worth the effort for a decent mould for high quality jewellery.

Silicone mould with too-thin pouring spout
Silicone mould with too-thin pouring spout
placenta umbilical cord charm bead with crystal clear resin and Tree of Opals signature charm core
placenta umbilical cord charm bead with crystal clear resin and Tree of Opals signature charm core

I find any bubbles in my resin come up into the pouring spout with a little persuasion (more on resin another day). For this you’ll need plasticine! Raid your kids’ craft stash or buy some but trust me, Playdoh won’t work. It dries out and the same goes for other mould making clay. Blu Tack is too hard to work. You could try an oven bake polymer clay like Sculpey if you have it, because it won’t dry out, but I think plasticine is a little less expensive.

Using Plasticine in Making Moulds

I take a piece of label backing, because we get through tons of it with our shipping labels and order notes. It’s totally non-stick which helps when transferring the little “dots”. Roll a piece of plasticine out about as thick as 6 playing cards. Precious metal clay artists probably have those already taped up, everyone else don’t worry about buying cards, you’ll find the perfect thickness as you go or you can just get a cheap adjustable rolling pin.

For charm beads you need the dot to be ever so slightly bigger than the opening of the charm. The openings are normally 5mm so I use a 6mm stainless steel hole punch to cut out the dots and put them aside. Cut out as many as you need then prepare your 20ml plastic shot glasses (it’s really important to get the 2cl or 20ml plastic ones, especially if you’re using the expensive water clear silicone, because a 30ml container will need 10ml more resin. If you’re making 20 moulds, that would be an extra 200ml or 7oz or silicone. I prefer not to have too much silicone in my moulds because it gives me a clearer view of my silicone cast and the finished piece is easier to remove.

I used to use an additional single dot on the inside of my own donut shaped charm moulds and letters for other shapes (SL, S, M, L). Now I don’t worry because they’re the only kind I make, but we’ve just started using 11mm spheres as standard instead of 9mm and my new 11mm ones I’ve made for the Mould Making Spheres blog I used a pair of pinking shears to cut the bottom so they look different to my 9mm moulds. Pinking shears are great for making cloth baby wipes and family cloth from rags and have saved me a fortune over the years…

Transferring Charm Bead Masters

Give your charm bead master a good polish with a lint-free polishing cloth like these then use a cheap paint brush to fit inside the master’s core and push it up.  Put the round end of the paint brush into the dot enough to pick it up and transfer it to the shot glass.  Press the dot right down onto the base of the glass and then gently push the master on top of it, without squashing it down too hard.

Please see our blog about silicone to learn how to calculate the silicone volume, weigh, mix, de-gas and pour, and how to finish the moulds off.

Using Moulds To Make Charm Beads

You can see my own charm bead designs here and I spend a lot of money on my brandstamped cores. I’m planning a blog about finishing and setting resin jewellery soon but I just quickly want to say that even if a charm insert/grommet is 925 stamped that doesn’t guarantee it’s solid sterling silver! If you’re getting 50 inserts for $5 they just aren’t, sorry. The charm bead cores you need are 5mm hole ones, which have a lip that’s 1.2mm. Sadly that’s not very thick so you need to be careful. I used to sell inserts with a 3mm lip with a heart on but had to stop due to my chronic fatigue. If you want lots of practice, instead of buying silver plated (it peels off and clients rarely buy it on purpose) you could try brass inserts.

I’m currently writing a series on making keepsake jewellery:
How to Make Breastmilk Jewellery
How to Make Cremation Ash Jewellery
How to Make Lock of Hair Jewellery

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mould (UK) = mold (US) thanks for the heads up Robin! Mwahhh x
calliper (UK) = caliper (US)
jewellery (UK) = jewelry (US)

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