how to make jewelry

8 Tools You Need to Have for Successful Open Resin Jewelry

When it comes to making open back, or open bezel, resin jewelry there’s 8 tools that I’ve found help create success.

All crafts have tools that make things easier, and fortunately these are all pretty common tools. You might already have things like jewelry pliers and a utility lighter—and some items are even more common items.

And if you don’t have an item, it won’t be too hard to find at your local department store.

These are the tools I use to create open resin jewelry. I’m writing another blog post on the supplies I use and why I use them, but today let’s talk tools.

There’s alternatives to what’s on my list, but I use these for a reason. After lots of mishaps and learning through trial-and-error, I've narrowed down my essential tool list to these 8 items.

(In a rush? You can get a short, 1-page PDF printable of all 8 must-have tools here.)

1. Jewelry pliers

These are a staple for any jewelry crafter, helpful for cutting wire and chain, opening jump rings and links, and getting into tiny spaces. 3-in-1 usually has the regular jewelry pliers on top, capable of created loops and holding objects on the needle nose, plus wire cutters.

I use a 3-in-1 pair as well as a pair with a curved nose. Using two pliers at once is the most effective way to open and close jump rings and easily line them up after they're closed. And a curved nose can get into places and hold onto objects differently than the standard jewelry pliers.

2. A drill

Open bezel jewelry isn't impossible to find, but you can really open up your options if you can also use open links and connectors.

To attach them to bracelets, earrings, and necklaces you can drill a hole. Technically, you can use whatever kind of drill you would like.

I personally use a Spring Drill from Little Windows made specifically for resin. I use a brand of resin that's a little soft, which is great because it means it's flexible but also has it's downsides.

Plus, I'm also impatient and like to put together my jewelry as soon as I can, so sometimes I don't let the resin harden long enough to withstand the pressure of a drill. So, to ensure that I'm using as little pressure as possible so that the resin isn't strained (which creates cloudiness and white streaks) I just twist the drill and apply a light amount of pressure with my hand.

Yeah, I don't actually use he spring. But, it's a great option for a faster drill. My resin jewelry is thin because I don't like chunky jewelry, which also means this process of doing it by hand isn't painstakingly long. If a resin charm is super thick, a spring drill or electric drill would make the process a lot easier.

Definitely always have practice pieces you don't care about, especially if you haven't used a drill much in your life and aren't confident you can do it well.

Size-wise, I recommend using 1 to 1.5 millimeter drill bits. At this size, they can get delicate. Particularly 1 millimeter bits can break pretty easy, especially if it's drilling through a thick resin charm.

Of course, if you don't use open link or connectors and your open bezel charms already have jump rings soldered on to the charms--no holes needed!

3. Utility lighter

This one has so many names, BBQ lighter, candle flame lighter, etc. Even if you don’t have one at home—they come in handy for so much more than making resin crafts.

But, when it comes to resin it’s one of the most important tools. Alternatively, you could use a straw and blow on the surface of resin--but I have this weird, irrational fear of accidentally sucking in (plus, not matter how mild the resin smells, I like to wear a respirator for safety and smell reasons).

The heat of a flame pops bubbles in curing resin that are near the surface (curing is the state when the resin and the hardener are mixed together and begin the hardening process).

Heat in general is helpful for resin crafts—summer being the best climate to work in. The heat causes the resin to mix better, the resin to de-gas more quickly (resulting in less bubbles), and doesn’t slow the curing process like cold does (which is a good or bad thing depending on the situation).

As a jewelry maker and seller, I don’t always have the choice of only working when it’s warm—sometimes I have to create resin jewelry in the middle of winter. A heater helps, and using my utility lighter creates an even more noticeable affect on the bubbles in the resin because in the cold, there's more bubbles.

4. Short, wooden craft sticks

Short wooden craft sticks are perfect for mixing resin and hardener inside a plastic measuring cup, or medicine cup. Why short? With resin jewelry, a pretty small amount of resin is used. So the measuring cups the resin and hardener is mixed in are pretty tiny themselves.

A large wooden craft stick might tip out and fling curing resin everywhere (not a good situation to be in).

The short ones are the perfect size. They also work as the tool to add resin to your crafts and to spread the resin around. Make sure to use clean ones. 

5. Toothpicks

A really common household item I’ve found essential for making resin jewelry. It lets you get into small corners, it can pop bubbles, or it can even be used to twirl bubbles out of resin.

Have you wanted to make open back resin jewelry but don't have the time to wade through endless YouTube videos and Pinterest articles? Do you not have time to learn through trial-and-error?

For really tiny charms, I use toothpicks to pick up resin from the measuring up and drop the resin, literally drop by drop, onto the charm. An overflow is fixable, but it is a pain in the butt that we would all do best to avoid.

6. Cotton swabs

Cotton swabs are super helpful, when used carefully, to pick up little resin spills and messes. I mainly use them to stop resin from going over the side of a bezel.

Even if the resin dome on a charm isn't overflowing, if even a drop of resin falls on the edge of the charm, the resin will begin flowing down off the top, following the new pathway that was made for it.

To stop the resin from flowing downward on it's new pathway, I quickly grab a cotton swab and swipe along the sides.Even if the cotton swab doesn't grab all of the resin on the side of the bezel, once it cures it can easily be scraped off the sides.

But, be careful using cotton swabs, because the cotton fibers can get in the resin. Especially when you’re using tape for your open bezel charms, the cotton fibers can get pulled off by the sticky surface and get in the resin.

There last two coming up aren't must-haves, but they can make your life easier.

7. Small, sharp scissors

Specifically, I use cuticle scissors. Now, this tool isn't necessary but I find it really, really handy.

If an open charm was pressed flush against the tape and it has flowed out the bottom, or if during the hardening process the resin has flowed off from the top layer of the charm, I use cuticle scissors.

Once the messed up piece hardens, I use the sharp tip and curved edges to gently goad the overflow off of the charm. A nail or scrapper comes in handy, too.

8. Tweezers

Another non-essential, I keep tweezers handy because the make it easier to pick up small pieces of flowers, leaves, or small findings I want to embed in the resin.

I sometimes get resin on the tweezers, but you can wipe off the resin before it hardens (after it hardens, you can still get the resin off, but it isn't as easy).


There you have it! 8 tools to succeed at making open resin jewelry. To keep this list handy, you can get a printable PDF version of the list below.


To review, the eight must-have tools I use to make resin jewelry are: jewelry pliers, a drill, utility lighter, short & wooden craft sticks, toothpicks, cotton swabs, small scissors, and tweezers.

The last two are not necessary--but they are super helpful and easy to buy if you don't already have them.

Keep in mind that it's recommended to dedicate these tools to resin-jewelry. But, let's be honest, when I need to light a candle I use the same utility lighter I use for resin jewelry making.

However, this rule should be STRICT when it comes to food. Even though many epoxy resins are food-safe when cured, or hardened, when working with epoxy resin before it is cured it's recommended to not cross-contaminate with food.

So be sure not to use your tools for food just to be safe.

Is High Priced Jewelry Really Worth Your Money?

Jewelry, at times, comes at a higher price. Whether your buying materials for your next jewelry making project or you just enjoy buying finished jewelry—in this blog I am honest and upfront about what I’ve learned about the jewelry industry and the importance of what going into making jewelry.

But how can you tell when the "expensive" jewelry is worth it? When do you opt for the inexpensive option? And as a jeweler how do you decide what materials to work with?

I won't be covering much about stones or diamonds because that's not my area of expertise, but when it comes to quality and metal choice--I think everyone should know how to pick quality jewelry. In this article I cover in-depth knowledge on how to choose your jewelry based on your needs and wants.

The first clarification to make is the difference between fine and costume jewelry. It's not always easy to know the difference.

Fine Jewelry

Fine jewelry is any piece with precious metals, often with naturally occurring gemstones (as well as pearls or diamonds). 

What does "precious metal" mean?

  • gold
  • silver
  • and platinum

And the precious metal must be in at least a certain karat to be considered fine jewelry (at least 10 for gold). Karat measures the purity of a precious metal, such as gold. 100%, or 24 karat solid gold is usually too soft for jewelry-making.

So gold is often mixed with other metals to strengthen it so it's suitable for jewelry. The less it is mixed with other metals, the more pure. The more it is mixed with other metals--the less pure. So if the gold is 18 karat, it is 18 parts gold and 6 parts of another kind of metal. The lower the karat, the less shine and depth of gold.

Fine jewelry lasts long than costume jewelry, and can often be handed down through generations as a family heirloom. That's why they're considered investments.

Costume or Fashion Jewelry

Costume jewelry, otherwise called fashion jewelry, is made with non-precious metals, plated metals (silver plated, gold plated, etc) and/or man-made gemstones. A piece may have natural gemstones but plated metal, and it is still classified as fashion jewelry. And vice versa--if a piece has precious metal but man-made gemstones, pearls, or diamonds it is still costume jewelry.

Plating is a very thin layer of precious or non-precious metal over a base metal (this is usually an alloy of many types of metal). With time, all jewelry tarnishes and layers come off through wear and tear or oxidation. But when this plating comes off, underneath is a different color and tone--the base metal.

These differences aren't always discernible to the eye. Gold-plating, when new, can look like gold-filled* or solid gold. Always almost, the jeweler describes the materials of the pieces--if not, it's assumed to be non-precious, man-made costume jewelry without any special aspects. If there's something special about it, a jeweler will probably point it out.

*Gold-filled can be any karat, but it means that there are about 100 layers of plating. So while a solid karat of gold is often more pricey than, say, 92.5% solid silver, it's more economic to go with gold-fill. It last 100x longer than plating, but doesn't cost the same as it would if it were gold all the way through.

Overpriced vs. Underpriced

So, with that knowledge, how do we understand how jewelry becomes overpriced and underpriced? In reality, this is difficult to distinguish. There are many factors that go into the price of jewelry, besides being fine or costume jewelry. To name a few:

  • how much time the jewelry took to make (aka, handmade takes more time and often costs more or is underpriced and the jeweler makes less than their time is worth)
  • where it was made (sweatshops in China paying 13 cents an hour will be able to have lower retail prices than a one-woman--crafting, sourcing, marketing, everything--shop in the USA, for example)
  • the positioning of the brand (designer = the prices might be higher simply because of the name and how popular it is)
  •  the cost of materials, supplies, and tools needed to create the jewelry (not to mention “overhead” which means the cost of a studio, electricity, gas in the car to get to the post office)
  • whether or not the item is also sold in bulk at a discount to retail stores (if it is, that means the base price to allow for profit from sales needs to be doubled at the least)
  • the uniqueness of the piece (just like an artwork, originals are worth more, especially when they can’t be replicated easily or often)

Lots of variables. That means that aside from metal quality and the use of precious stones or metals—the price of any given piece of jewelry can vary greatly. Sometimes it can be overpriced, but sometimes it can also be underpriced.

When it comes to handmade jewelry, more often than not it is underpriced to keep up with competitors who often don’t understand how to structure prices and charge enough to keep the business alive. Some handmade jewelers simply enjoy their work and charge the bare minimum to cover the costs of what they deem a “hobby business”.

But this can be damaging to other sellers who price to stay in business and to grow the business to bigger and better things, because lower prices from other handmade sellers cheapen the value the average consumer puts on handmade jewelry (though it is not all created equal, since there are so many variable at play).

As a jeweler myself who has come to deeply understand the difference between metals and how to price to cover costs and overhead, to make enough per hour to stay in business—after nearly three years of doing this, I’ve come to a point where I understand the value of moderately priced jewelry (which may be “expensive” to some).

After all, "expensive" is a very opinionated word. Is $100 expensive? Is it only expensive for certain products? Is $1,000 the base level price for expensive jewelry? Or maybe just $500?

It comes down to what you want out of your jewelry; your personal preference. What matters to you? What do you value in your jewelry? Do you value diversity in your collection over high-quality? Do you value hypo-allergenic options?

Allergy-friendly Options

If you have sensitive skin or allergies, there are precious and non-precious metal options for you. 18 karat gold and .925 sterling silver (92.5% only silver, with 7.5% of other metals to strengthen the silver for jewelry use) are great options that often don't cause reactions. There's also silver-filled, which is the same concept as gold-filled.

However, white gold, which is often touted as allergy-friendly, is not a great option. White gold is made white by usually mixing in nickel. Sometimes, palladium is used instead of nickel, but this should be inquired about. Nickel is one of the most wide-spread allergies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 10 to 20% of people have an allergy to nickel.

Platinum is consider hypoallergenic because it doesn't need to be mixed with other metals to be strengthened--so you can use 100% platinum for jewelry. One kind of metal significantly decreases the likelihood of a reaction, and very few people have been known to react to platinum itself.

Palladium is similar to platinum, and is also considered hypoallergenic, but is a rarer metal that is harder to come by.

If you aren't looking for precious metal, any pure metal is your best bet. They aren't as shiny, but they can be cheaper. Popular pure metals great for sensitive skin--especially in piercings--are titanium and niobium. Titanium is dark, dull gray color, but like platinum it doesn't need anything to strengthen it. Niobium is the same, and can be colored through anodization.

Avoid plated metals and metals that aren't identified by the jeweler or shop (they're likely amalgams of many types of metals, increasing the likelihood of a reaction).

High Priced Jewelry Is Often Worth the Money

ESPECIALLY if the jeweler discloses that the metal is precious and high-quality, and that any gemstones, pearls, or diamonds are natural, not manufactured. Or, if the jeweler creates unique work that is time-consuming and requires skill--often, they also use quality materials for their work--it's worth it.

I want my jewelry to last. The jewelry I buy and the jewelry I make. I want it to look good forever—not just for a month. When it comes to stones and diamonds, I’m not an expert—but when it comes to metals like sterling silver and gold, I can’t recommend precious metals enough. They have a sparkle and shine that jewelry is known for—almost a glow that catches the eye.

And if you can’t splurge on sterling silver or gold-fill than opt for some sort of solid metal, such as copper or brass. You can always brighten these metals up, so long as they're solid copper or solid brass. And if you're wondering if there are metals that never tarnish--they don't exist. Over time, all metals tarnish and lose layers. You want to make sure that underneath it looks the same, so that as layers come off your jewelry will remain as you bought it (with proper care and cleaning, of course).

Again, at the end of the day, it's about what you want out of your jewelry and how long you want it last. Are you looking for something to go with a costume that you're not likely to wear 10 years from now, or are you wanting an heirloom you'll be passing on to your granddaughter?

I buy fashion jewelry somestimes. I think it's still worth it if I really love it, and besides--it typically doesn't cost as much. But, I also have fine jewelry pieces that are staples in my own personal jewelry collection, while costume jewelry comes and goes, they stay.

But, a word for the makers . . . 

In an economy where everyone seems to be feeling like there's less and less room in their budget--quality jewelry is worth it, but it may sell slower. If you sell your work, I recommend a mix to widen your price range. I offer antiqued brass sometimes, and other times 18 karat gold-fill. Sometimes I do use silver-plated, but I also offer .925 sterling silver. 

This offers diversity in price, so if someone wants some of my handmade jewelry they aren't forced to choose fine jewelry at the moment--they can go with fashion jewelry options.

Of course, if you're business is high-end and you refuse to have lower priced options because of branding and marketing reasons--stick with your gut. If your work is quality, charge what it's worth. The people who value quality and hard work will know it's more than worth the price.

8 Ways to Get Rid of Bubbles in Epoxy Resin

So you’re super excited to get into making crafts with resin.

You mix the resin with the hardener, stir them together, and are left with a ton of bubbles. You hope they disappear by the time you finish your work.

But they don’t.

There’s nothing more frustrating than huge bubbles in your finished work, or so many micro-sized bubbles that it appears cloudy.

When it comes to epoxy resin, the type most often used to make resin jewelry, the one problem I see again and again, is bubbles in resin.

And with some brands, this can be unavoidable. Some brands are better than others—and some brands just need to be done in thin layers to achieve less bubbles.

There’s a lot of variables at play, but I have 8 tips to address it no matter what brand of epoxy resin you use (other kinds of resin that are not epoxy won't benefit from all the same tips).

howtogetridofbubblesinresin

Regardless, you’ll probably have some micro-sized bubbles in your finished product—and most likely, no one will notice but you.

But if you’re getting big bubbles, are just starting with resin, or are just doing some research to get started, these 8 tips will help.

#1 – Using a UTility lighter, quickly go over the surface of the resin.

(This is the fastest and most effective, so be sure to start with this tip. You might not even need the others!)

But, you have to be careful with a flame near resin.

Don’t keep the flame on the resin for too long. Make sure to do it quickly. That means 1-3 seconds of heat exposure at a time. I recommend doing it 1 to 3 times as needed, with several minutes wait time in-between to allow the resin to cool.

If you over-heat the resin using the flame too much, it may not completely harden for months (speaking from experience here!).

And it will keep a soft, malleable surface even when it's cured after 24 hours (and who wants to wait 3 months for that to go away? Especially when there’s no guarantee it will ever completely cure.) Epoxy resin is generally soft, but there is a notifiable-yet-subtle difference when it is over-heated. 

Usually, if you do over-use the flame, the cured product with have a grainy, almost sticky texture on the surface instead of a smooth, slick surface.

Now, if it is really sticky or tacky--and even sticks to your fingers--then the resin didn’t cure correctly and the problem may not have been the flame.

#2 – Warm your resin.

To warm the resin you can submerge it into a bowl full of warm, not hot, water. Or place it a couple feet from a heater on low for a couple minutes.

"But what about the hardener?" you ask? The general recommendation is NO, but I say . . . yeah, you totally can. I use ArtResin (click here to read about why I do), and I warm both bottles in front of a space heater.

 I’ve also noticed from experience, a warmer room results in less bubbles, too (which makes summer a great time to make resin jewelry). It probably helps the resin mixture to be more viscous, which makes the de-gassing process more effective.

De-gassing is simply when the air bubbles rise to the top and begin to pop on their own.

#3 – Mix the resin and hardener slowly.

Okay, so you're keeping things pretty warm, what next?

Next up, you gotta take your time mixing the resin and hardener together. Don’t rush. Take the full 3 to 5 minutes to carefully and slowly mix them together.

Stirring too fast can cause a lot of air bubbles to occur, and they can be hard to get out. And if the bottles and room are cold, then the amount of bubbles will be a LOT.

#4 – Wait for 5 minutes after you’ve completed mixing the resin and hardener together.

3-5 minutes, depending on the resin. This allows the resin to begin de-gassing (popping on it’s own).

Do remember that this does cut into the pot time (the working time you have before the resin hardens too much to work with). The length of the pot time depends on the brand of resin you're using, so be sure to read up on it.

#5 – Once you come back to it, try to slowly stir upwards and bring some of the larger air bubbles to the surface, if there are any, to make it easier for them to pop.

Blowing on the surface as you do this can help, too, which brings us to the next tip. 


If you want to learn even more about making resin jewelry, I have a free basics course. Learn important foundational knowledge and get your questions answered. You in?


 

#6 – Blow on the surface of the resin, and you can use a straw to target specific bubbles.

Especially in thin layers, this is effective. Epoxy resin is best used in thin layers in almost all cases.

 But blowing on the surface is not always necessary (none of these tips are necessary, but using a few or all of them will aid you in getting less bubbles).

Since I prefer to wear a mask and don't want to take it on and off, I don't use this method and rely more on the next tip.

#7 - If you’re using bezels, bubbles can sometimes get stuck in corners.

Blowing on the surface and using the flame don’t typically come in handy popping corner bubbles.

You need to physically move them toward the center of the bezel or mold.

Using a toothpick, you can try to pop the bubble or coax it away from the edge, and then you can blow on the surface or use your hand torch and the bubbles will be able to pop.

Toothpicks are your friend. I often use toothpicks to swirl noticeable bubbles out of the resin (swirling the bubble onto the toothpick and quickly wiping it off on a paper towel).

#8 Work in thin layers.

Epoxy resin especially (the kind often used for resin jewelry) works best in thin layers, and develops less bubbles. Thicker layers are more difficult to work with, and the bubbles are harder to get out.

Again, you don't have to use all these tips (some things I make require thicker layers, so sometimes I ignore that tip).

 

If you're asking, "What about vacuum/compression chambers?"

Well, I don't have an answer. I've never used one for a several reasons:

  • It's not really a necessary expense (typically $200, which isn't accessible for a lot of my students. I use methods that almost anyone can replicate at home without a bunch of expensive supplies)

  • The pressurized chamber can pose some safety issues

  • They're geared more toward casting resin

  • And because, at the end of the day . . .

a minor amount of micro-sized bubbles is normal and won’t take away from your piece. Likely, it won’t be noticeable to anyone but you.

And, like I said above—there are a lot of variables at play. The problem could be humidity. Room temperature. The brand of resin.

Getting into resin jewelry can be overwhelming, especially when you’re already busy and don’t have time to scour the internet forums for answers.

It takes time to go through all the trial and error, let alone come to the point where you can make something people will find beautiful.

I’m self-taught. I won’t lie to you and say it’s not possible—it is. There’s information is out there, but I mostly learned from two cold, harsh teachers: failure and experience.

But I don’t have another job—this is my job. Not everyone has the time I did to go through a year of failures and lucky successes and more failures, searching the web for hours coming up empty handed, and piecing everything together during their free time (if you have any free time--and if you do, you probably want to spend it in other ways).

If you don’t have time for that, but you Want to create beautiful resin jewelry--well, that's why I'm here.

I created my Resin Jewelry Making video course just for you. To save you time --you can watch all the lessons in a day--and money (when you don't know what you're doing you might end up dumping a batch. It happened to me in the beginning, and it was money in the trash).

If you're totally new to epoxy resin crafts, below you can join my free email course, Resin Jewelry Basics.

Each of the five lessons take about 5 minutes. You'll learn:

  • Common mistakes and how to avoid them

  • What supplies I recommend

  • How to set up your crafting area

  • Printable PDFs from my in-depth course

  • PLUS during the course you'll get access to a recorded webinar Getting Started with Resin Jewelry

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Enroll for free right here:

But if you're ready to learn all the refined methods from a teacher with years of experience (hint: it's me!) and you need structure and video instruction--then hop on over and become a student of the in-depth video e-course right now.