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Floating bubbles resin pendant

How to use two-part epoxy resin in an open-backed bezel to give the illusion of bubbles suspended in air

My jewelry must have color as the focal point and a design that allows the wearer to become part of the piece. Resin is a medium that meets both of these requirements; you can easily enhance resin with pigment, and its transparency/translucence allows clothing or skin tone to impart another layer of color to the work.

The resin in this pendant does even more; it also holds the decorative circle pattern (tubing) in place. The tubes appear to float, whether you see the pendant from the front or back. You’ll use basic metalworking skills to make the bezel and the circle pattern within it. I’ll show you a trick that keeps the two-part epoxy resin from leaking out of the frame, plus I’ll give you tips on how to give the cured resin a smooth, translucent finish. 

 
SUPPLIES

  • Sterling silver wire: 8-gauge (3.2 mm), half-round, 4 1⁄2 in. (11.4 cm)
  • Sterling silver tubing: various diameters, approximately 4 in. (10.2 cm)
  • 2 sterling silver jump rings: to fit tubing 
  • Two-part epoxy resin and hardener: low-viscosity formula
  • Resin colorant: eye shadow, acrylic paint, mica powders, alcohol-based inks, gold foil, etc.
  • Chain
  • Clasp
  • Miter-cutting jig vise, ring clamp, or bench vise
  • Bezel-forming tool (choose from):
    • Pliers: large half-round
    • Mandrel, rawhide mallet
  • Tube-cutting jig
  • Lacquer spray: clear
  • Acetate sheet or overhead projector transparency sheet
  • Two-part epoxy resin adhesive
  • Paintbrushes: disposable
  • Silly Putty
  • Carpenter’s level (optional)
  • Pliers: chainnose

TOOLBOXES

INSTRUCTIONS

Floating bubbles resin pendant 1b
Photo 1

 

Floating bubbles resin pendant 2
Photo 2

Part 1: Bezel

Wire

Cut the bezel wire. Use a jeweler’s saw with a 2/0 blade to cut a 4 1⁄2-in. (11.4 cm) piece of 8-gauge (3.2 mm) half-round sterling silver wire [PHOTO 1]. Use a medium-cut hand file to file the ends flat. (I secure my wire in a miter-cutting jig vise when I file it [PHOTO 2], but you could secure the wire in a ring clamp or bench vise instead.)

Smooth the ends of the bezel wire with 320-grit sandpaper. 

Prepare the bezel for soldering. Keeping the flat side of the bezel wire on the inside, bring the ends of the wire together. Push one end slightly past the other to create some tension. Then gently pull the wire ends until they snap tightly against each other. 

Check the fit by holding the seam up against the light; you have a good fit if there is no visible light at the seam. File and sand the ends as necessary to achieve a good seam.

 
Tip!
Jig vises are typically made of hardened steel, so don’t use your best files with this tool.
Floating bubbles resin pendant 3b
Photo 3
Floating bubbles resin pendant 4
Photo 4

Solder and shape the bezel. Solder the bezel seam, using hard solder [PHOTO 3]. Quench, pickle, rinse, and dry the bezel. With large half-round pliers, or a mandrel and a rawhide hammer, shape the bezel into an oval [PHOTO 4].

NOTE: If you are using a tapered mandrel, flip the bezel as you hammer it to maintain a uniform oval shape.

Refine the bezel. Use sandpaper to remove excess solder from the interior of the bezel. Use a clean soft cloth to wipe the interior of the bezel.

Tubing

You’ll use pieces of tubing to create the pattern of circles within the bezel. The tubing is also structural, because it strengthens the bezel wall.

Floating bubbles resin pendant 5
Photo 5

Cut silver tubing. Select three pieces of tubing, each with a different diameter. Using a tube-cutting jig and a jeweler’s saw with a 2/0 blade, cut the tubing into pieces about 1 mm longer than the height of the bezel wall [PHOTO 5]. 

Apply lacquer to the bezel and tubing components. Lay the bezel and tubing components (stand them upright but not touching one another) on a piece of cardboard. In a well-ventilated area, spray them with a coat of clear lacquer.

NOTE: The lacquer helps prevent the metal from oxidizing. It’s important to minimize the discoloration of the metal, because the resin will act like a magnifier, making imperfections more prominent.

Place a box or other container over the cardboard to prevent dust from settling on the bezel and tubing components. Allow the lacquer to dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Lay out the tubing design. Place a sheet of acetate over a sheet of cardboard. Lay the bezel on the acetate. Using tweezers, stand the tubing components within the bezel wall in an attractive design that spans the diameter of the bezel. 

NOTE: The tubing components must be close together and touch at least two points of the bezel wall. Consider the placement of those two points; you’ll use jump rings at these points to connect the pendant to your chain, so their position will determine the way your pendant will hang. 

Assembly
Floating bubbles resin pendant 6
Photo 6

Mix epoxy resin adhesive. Wearing latex or nitrile gloves, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to mix a small batch of epoxy resin adhesive. 

Glue the bezel to the acetate. Leaving the tubing in place, carefully lift the bezel wall. Use a disposable paintbrush to apply the epoxy resin adhesive to the bottom of the bezel. Avoid getting adhesive on the interior of the bezel wall. Use a clean disposable paintbrush to remove any excess adhesive. 

Place the bezel adhesive-side down in its original position on the acetate. Allow the adhesive to dry completely.

Glue the tubing components to the acetate. Use tweezers to carefully lift one piece of tubing from your design. Apply adhesive to the bottom edge of the tubing, and return the tubing to its original position, gluing it to the acetate. Repeat to glue the remaining tubing components to the acetate. 

NOTE: Because the adhesive cures quickly, you may have to mix more than one small batch, gluing only a few pieces of tubing at a time. 

Allow the adhesive to dry completely.

Secure the bezel. Press Silly Putty around the outside of the bezel [PHOTO 6].

NOTE: Surrounding an open-back bezel with Silly Putty prevents the resin from leaking outside the bezel wall.

Be sure the bezel assembly is on a level surface. If you don’t have a carpenter’s level, use a glass of water as a gauge to determine if your table or work surface is level.

For complete project instructions, click here to download & print this PDF

Click here to learn how to use two-part epoxy resins 

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