As a broke college student, precious metals and gemstones are slightly out of my league. So when a friend celebrates a birthday, I try to make a gift that is just as special. They may not be weighed in karats and they may cost pennies apiece, but these pretty, shiny things, can work wonders in the right setting.
Pins, nails, screws, buttons, rhinestones, paillettes, sequins, furniture tacks, washers, and even feathers can be preserved and protected by encasing them in plastic. After that, it’s only a matter of time before you have a beautiful chunky statement necklace.
What you’ll need to get started (photo 1 in the slideshow below):
o casting resin (Tap Plastics on South Van Ness has what you need)
o hardening catalyst
o resin dye, optional
o stirring utensil
o casting mold(s) (I used nifty “On the Rocks” ice trays from The Container Store, I would not recommend using anything that cannot be easily replaced as the plastic may damage the mold)
o rubber gloves
o graduated measuring cup
o items to be encased (i.e. anything that will fit into the mold)
o necklace chain
o non-stick foil
o hairdryer (optional)
Begin by cleaning any residue or dust from the molds that will be used. After that, put on the rubber gloves because you are about to work with some resin.
In the measuring cup, mix the casting resin and catalyst per the instructions on the resin can. Place your fingertip over the small end of the funnel, and fill the funnel with the casting mixture.
Using your finger as the on/off switch, fill the bottom of each mold to about half the desired thickness of the final pieces. Allow this layer to harden enough so that soon-to-be-encased items will rest on top of it (photo 2). This may take several hours. While waiting for the first layer to set, glue any items together that you wish, trim feathers, bend pins, etc.
Test the surface tension of the first layer with lighter items like feathers, or flat items that will not disrupt the surface tension like buttons or paillettes. Then, build to the heavier things as time passes.
Once the pretty things are resting neatly on the first layer, mix another batch of plastic, according to the instructions on the can, and submerge the sundries in plastic. Repeat the process for additional layers if desired. Allow the molds to set for 24 hours.
When the molds are only slightly tacky to the touch, pop them out of the molds and onto the non-stick side of the aluminum foil (photo 3). Use the hairdryer to speed up the end of the setting process if you’d like, then remove any fingerprints with a warm, moist towel (photo 4).
Using the drill, bore a hole through each gem to make beads from your molds. Be careful with them. The smaller ones may crack under too much pressure or if the drill is turning too quickly (photo 5).
All that is left to be done is to string the beads onto the necklace in the desired order, and admire your handiwork.
Depending on the amount of beads you make, the number of necklace arrangements is endless – and they can match any look (photo 6). It all depends on what you string up.