EnchantedHen

Making Ostrich Eggshell Jewelry

Making eggshell jewelry is a long process, and difficult to explain, so during my last “batch” I shot a few pictures while I was working so you get an idea of what all goes into creating these little pieces of wearable art.

First I start with a clean ostrich shell. I can use broken shells instead of whole ones, which saves me a bit in materials cost. By the way – I purchase my ostrich shells locally from Floeck’s Country Ranch, an ostrich farm in Tucumcari New Mexico. They have nice healthy birds that produce wonderful strong shelled eggs.

But OK, on with the tut . . .

Ostrich egg shell with jewelry template

Ostrich egg shell with jewelry template

Using a plastic drafting template, I draw the outline of the jewelry piece directly on to the shell with a pencil. I try and fit in as many pieces as I can, while avoiding fractures in the shell, and any defects on the surface.

After I have the shell mapped out, I cut the pieces out with a diamond cutting wheel attached to a Dremel Rotary Tool, being careful to leave cutting room around each piece. Note: If you are going to try this – be sure and wear face and eye protection. Meaning safety goggles and a good particle (dust) mask while you are cutting the shells. You don’t want to breathe in the eggshell dust, or get any flying pieces in your eyes.

design drawn and waxed

design drawn and waxed

Next, I start the design process. Drawing lightly with a pencil, I sketch out the basic design. Then, with a wax pen (kistka) I draw the edge of the jewelry piece, and any part of the design that is to remain white.

I continue with the wax and dye design – dipping the shell piece in dye, and then waxing over the area where I want that color. More dye, more wax, layer on layer, until the design is finished. And I have multicolored fingers.

I can then remove the wax by soaking it in a jar of naphtha until the wax is dissolved, rubbing the excess wax off with a tissue until the design underneath is revealed.

Giving the front side a light coat of varnish (rubbed on with my finger) to protect the color, it is now ready for epoxy fill.

Mixing small batches of two-part tabletop epoxy, I drop a small amount on to the back of the shell piece, and spread it around with a clean popsicle stick (or something similar) until the epoxy coats the back surface, and pools in the cup.

Jewelry in process, front and back

Jewelry in process, front and back

I set them on a rack, as shown, and tip the shell piece to center the epoxy so it cures nice and level in the shell. I place the rack in a warm spot and place a plastic bin over it, to keep in the heat and prevent dust from adhering to the epoxy. This particular epoxy has to cure for two days. Short-time cure epoxy’s are not as hard and I want a glass-like surface.

I picked a clear tabletop epoxy for optimum hardness, and so my signature shows through. They should cure for about 2 days.

Next, finish and shape the edges with your Dremel rotary tool  fixed with the sander attachment.

Edged to shape

Edged to shape

Clean the pieces thoroughly (the sander dust will cause inclusions) and spread the final coat of epoxy on the front side. I put a blob of paraffin wax into the cup of a golf-tee, and plant the shell piece on top. It works as a holder, and after you spread the epoxy on, you can spike the tee into a holder (styrofoam block works great too), cover them with a clear storage bin to keep the dust off, and let them sit for another couple days until the surface is hard and glassy.

Curing rack

Curing rack

When finished – add findings to create beautiful jewelry! I purchase most of my sterling silver findings at RioGrande.com