How to make your own shell jewelry

Creating beautiful jewelry from shells is an easy way to make a wonderful gift, crafts to sell, or just something for yourself to wear. The first step in creating a piece of jewelry from shells is selecting the type of shell to use. Most can be found on any beach, or you may purchase shells by the bag at most craft stores. Some common shells that are used are abalone (for a beautiful shiny blue color), cowrie shells, clamshell, sand dollar, or small sea snail or hermit crab shells.

Before creating your jewelry, you want to make sure that you select shells that are mostly uniform in size. Otherwise, you may end up with a lopsided necklace or pair of earrings. The next step is to thoroughly clean all shells to remove any debris, sand, and salt water from the shell. Cleaning can be done with a mild soap and water combination. Be sure not to soak the shells for a long period of time, or they can become brittle. Not only will cleaning make the shell look better, it will remove any dirt or germs and smell and give a smooth surface.

If creating earrings, decide whether or not you’d like to use post or wire (dangling) earrings, and for necklaces, decide upon thread or wire (choker-style). You will need to drill a small hole in both sides of every shell you are using with a 1/16 inch drill bit. You can find these small drills and bits in most craft stores, or as part of a jewelry making kit. Drill the hole into each side, wiping away any excess dust.

If making post earrings, simply use a hot glue gun to apply the shell to the post blank. A Post blank is the term for the post used for an earring before anything decorative is attached. If making dangling earrings, you will need to place the shell on the wire by pushing the wire through the holes on each end, then adding the jump rings to the end, and glue the jump ring to the end of the post blank. Allow the glue to dry, and your earrings are ready to wear!

For necklaces, follow the cleaning and drilling steps above first. Second, decide whether you would like a pendant necklace or a necklace with several shells (a string necklace). For pendants, you will need a bail hook and a jump ring. Insert the jump ring through the hole at the top of the shell, and attach the jump ring to the bail hook.

Add a chain, and your pendant necklace is complete. For more ornate shell necklaces, you will need to decide whether or not you want a consistent shell pattern, or you may add jump beads between shells to give space between each shell. Be sure to attach one jump ring on one end of your chain or thread (nylon thread is best because it is most durable), and be sure you have enough length.

It is always better to use more length to start, as you can always cut the other end to adjust as necessary. String your shells and/or beads onto the necklace, and attach a jump ring on the other end, trimming any excess string. The final step is to add a clasp to each jump ring (a clasp consists of two pieces), and your lovely necklace is ready to wear!

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