Jewelry Inlay Techniques With Crushed Stone

By Shannon M. Beck

Trying to decide how to jazz up that recessed area on a piece of jewelry? Perhaps you have made the piece with inlay in mind. Perhaps you have a flea market find with missing inlay that you wish to make beautiful again. Regardless of where the piece comes from, any jewelry with a recessed area can be easily inlaid with crushed stone.

Choosing the Stone and Jewelry Piece

To achieve the dazzling results you are looking for, it is important to begin your inlay project with careful planning and selection of the components. The main issue is the depth of the recessed area that you will be inlaying. The recessed area needs to be at least 1/16-inch deep to hold a proper amount of crushed stone and resin filler.
When choosing the stone, consider color, chip size and price. Color is strictly an artistic consideration, and price a personal choice, but chip size will affect your project both artistically and constructively.
Chip sizes range from a fine powder to 1/2-inch pieces. Be sure your chip will fit into the recess, but also note that the size will affect the appearance of the final product. The smaller the pieces, the smoother the inlay will appear and the more even the color will be. Crushed stone in various colors and sizes can be found at many large craft stores, but can also be purchased online.

Filling the Inlay

To fill the inlay with the stone and resin, place the jewelry piece on a flat working surface and fill approximately 3/4 of the recess with the crushed stone. If you are working with a powder, you may find a small paint brush helpful in evenly distributing the powder for a smooth finish.
When the stone is in place, mix your resin filler according to package directions. Any resin filler will work for jewelry inlay, but most jewelry makers and artists use a clear epoxy resin, unless they are looking for a specific artistic look that another choice may give.
For small spaces it is helpful to place the epoxy onto waxed paper and then transfer it to the recess with a craft stick or toothpick. Use the toothpick to pop any air bubbles that may form. The resin should be filled just above the lip of the recess. This process takes a steady hand and a good eye because, while you want the resin to bubble just slightly past the top of the recess, you do not want it to spill onto the remaining portion of the jewelry piece.

Finishing

Finish your inlay piece by sanding and, if desired, polishing. For best results, sand the piece in two phases The first phase is to take away the bulk of the epoxy that floats above the lip of the recess. Do this by using 220 grit sandpaper to sand down to within a millimeter of the top of the recess. For the second phase switch to a much finer 400 grit sandpaper and sand all the way down to the lip of the jewelry. The epoxy should sit even with the lip of the jewelry recess, and the jewelry piece itself should be free of resin. If you wish to polish the resin over your inlay, use a buffing stick and plastic polishing rouge, both of which can be found at your local hardware store.