Making Shell Jewelry

August 10, 2010

I recently collected some interesting oyster shells that I wanted to cut into organic-like shapes. They reflect light so beautifully when their layers are exposed. Ultimately I want to shine them and wrap with silver wire to wear as a pendent. Does anybody know what kind of tool I could use to cut a shape out of the shell? My specimens are thick and are very white. Thanks.


By Carolyn from Columbus, OH


August 11, 20100 found this helpful

You can use a high speed Dremel tool, but be very careful. When working with Oyster shells or abalone shells it is very important to have a lot of ventilation. The dust that is created is poisonous to your lungs. If you breath it in it can kill you. Work outside with a fan blowing away from you. That will take care of the problem. Have fun.

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August 11, 20100 found this helpful

Wear a mask and goggles. How about a simple fish shape? Have fun!

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February 8, 20110 found this helpful

I don't want to get on you for it, since I'm a bit of a hypocrite in this already. Please put the oyster shells back on the beach. Young oysters develop on the shells of older oysters. The less shells found in the water, the less oyster babies there will be to renew the beach. So if you go out to collect them on vacation, admire them there, and return them to the tide. Go ahead and have your bbq, just put the granddaddies back.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

I have many shells that I would like to make into necklaces but I don't know how to drill a hole in them?

Lynette from Michigan


Use A Dremel

A Dremel tool works well also because it's higher speed than your regular drill. Especially good for delicate shells; use a very small bit.

By Tina

Ceramic Drill Bits

Hardware stores carry ceramic drill bits; for drilling holes in ceramic tile; special hardened steel. I just used one with my regular drill-driver to put holes in about half a dozen shells for my daughter. Might not last as long as a diamond bit; but lots cheaper. I dipped the bit in a bowl of water before and during use, just to avoid dust and keep bit from getting too hot. If the shell is slick, it's a little hard to get it started in one spot, it keeps drifting until it gets a good start; but otherwise it was very simple. Not too much pressure, you can crack the shell; but I didn't have any problem.

By Loneshtar

Use Masking Tape

How about some masking tape down first and mark the spot where you want to drill. You can drill holes in glass using a normal bit, just keep the speed down and using some turpentine on the tip for lubrication so drilling a shell shouldn't be a problem. The tape will stop the drill bit from wandering and should take some of the vibration away so the shell doesn't break. Perspex, being difficult to cut, has adhesive backing which does the same thing as the masking tape. To be sure that the shell doesnt break, start with a small bit and work up. Don't use pressure on the shell, allow the drill to do the work. Use some turpentine to lubricate the bit. I am sure that you will find the best method, hope those tips help.

By Brent

Do you have any ideas for drilling holes in sea shells? Post them below.


By (Guest Post)
October 17, 20070 found this helpful

How do you cut sea shells?

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By Caroline (Guest Post)
June 13, 20080 found this helpful

When drilling seashells it can be difficult to hold the shell in place. I use a lump of my son's plastacine. It's cheap, simple to use and very effective at holding the shell steady while you drill. I was delighted when I read this handy tip in another forum so decided to share. I hope it helps others too !

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By Giulia (Guest Post)
August 28, 20080 found this helpful

Where can you find a dremel tool?

Editor's Note: Dremels should be available at any large hardware or home improvement section. They would be located with the drills and sanders.

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By Robert of Dog Walk (Guest Post)
January 21, 20090 found this helpful

Follow the good advice in the other postings. I used diamond points to drill. You can find cheap diamond points, both in price and of fair quality from They offer both 1/8 inch (Drimmel size) sets on their own and a set of 3/16 inch (dental lathe size) as part of a little 12VDC small hand "dremmel" type tool. Buy the set with the 3/16inch diamond tip points and toss the cheap little tool they come with if you have a 3/16" (dental) lathe / tool or 3/16" adapter for a real Drimmel tool.

When you drill with diamomd points, ALWAYS use water to cool the points or they will fail quickly. This also keeps the dust down, but wear a good quality filter mask or use a vacuume to catch any dust/spray. A small wax or plastic modeling clay dam around your drilling area helps to hold the water. As stated before, be cool, let the tool do the work, Luke.
REMEMBER, with 110 Volt tools. You do not want to mix water and the tool~~~~ZAP!

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November 25, 20160 found this helpful

Hi Linn. Thanks for the how to on how to make shell jewelry. I haven't cracked that nut yet, but I have made some oyster shell Christma's ornaments. I used a Drexel tool and a diamond bit. I drilled approximately 100 before the bit wore down so much that it wasn't functional.

I made a small mistake early on...for about fifteen minutes I drilled without mouth and nose protection. It dawned in me that the fine particulates would be irritating to my asthematic lungs, so I found a suitable barrier (a bandana).

I hadn't heard that oyster shell dust was poisonous until reading your article. After a call to poison control, it was determined that any exposure to calcium silicate dust can be irritating to some, but it is not poisonous in the drop dead sense (I'm very happy to report this-haha!). But a dose of prevention...we'll you know the old saying.

Your tutorial is motivating me to take the next step to jewelry designing. In the meanwhile, I'll post Instagram pics at @paintedshovel with the hash tag #oystershellornaments, if you'd like a visual of today's craft project. Thanks again!

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November 8, 2014

What do I need to do to the oyster shells in order to make it into jewelry? Do I need to put anything on it?

By Brokyn


December 5, 20170 found this helpful

Usually they are run through a rock tumbler to polish them up.

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May 3, 20200 found this helpful

Forget tumbling! You need to buy Muriatic Acid (get any hardware store - used to whiten cement and masonry). Mix 1part acid to 2 parts water in a plastic or glass container (no metal! it will etch/damage it). Have a second container full of water for rinsing. Wear HEAVY rubber gloves and use cheap plastic tongs or a small plastic collander on a long handle to remove shells from from the acid solution. Start with a scrap shell and submerge for about 5 seconds, then rinse well. You can dip again, if the shell needs more cleaning. There are videos on YouTube showing how this is done, and it is amazing to see how the shells literally transform to colourful shiny beauties!

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December 15, 2013

How do I carve shells or make into cameos without breaking them? How do I put a hole into them for pendants and what is the best way to make them shiny or polished?

By Emily

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I had fun creating this necklace set made with shell beads and tiny glass accent beads.

Necklace and earrings.

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Crafts JewelryDecember 17, 2013
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