Our Favorite DIY Seashell Jewelry Making Tips and Tricks

rose petals basket seashells

Summer is around the corner, so if you are heading to the beach, you may be on the lookout for seashells to add into your collection. Seashells are beautiful materials to work with when jewelry making, and they provide some gorgeous natural patterns and colors to your designs. To get the best out of your seashells, here are our favorite tips and tricks for DIY seashell jewelry making.

1. Go Au Naturel

Use the natural holes and openings created by the tiny creatures that once lived inside the shells for an easy way to string the shells onto links, wire or line. This helps you to avoid the hassle of drilling your own holes, which could potentially damage the delicate shells.


2. Diamonds Are Not a Shell's Best Friend

If you do decide to drill your own holes in the shells, then you need to choose the right drill bit. Most jewelry making uses diamond drill bits to cuts through glass beads and other harder gemstones. However, diamond drills won't cut it with your seashells, which can occasionally be tougher to cut than glass.

Titanium oxide drill bits are as tough as you can get, and they will cut through even the toughest shells cleanly and quickly.


3. Go Slow and Steady

Shaky hands send drill bits flying and may damage your shells or misplace your drill holes. A stationary drill is the best option for drilling seashells (or any jewelry making stones), so you come out with clean holes and minimal damage.

You should also consider a drill with low revolutions for seashells. A drill press set at around 1100 rpm should do the trick. Start slow, applying very little pressure to work your way through the shell gradually. Jewelry makers use various drilling techniques, but for shells, you need to drill underwater to keep the shell intact.

marine style necklace seashells

4. Get Sticky

If you aren't confident yet with the drill, or your shells are too small, keep some Krazy glue on hand. The cyanoacrylate is a super-strong bonding agent that will hold your tiny seashells in place and dries quickly to avoid shifting and slipping.

Don't use regular craft glue, as the bond isn't strong enough to keep the shells in place for the long term. Try using the glue to stick small shells inside a bezel setting, and then cover the shells with resin for a beautiful sea-themed pendant.

5. Wrap It Up

Another way to avoid drilling into your shells is to wire wrap the shell to create a pendant or shell bead for a statement ring. This is also a great method if you have a large or pattered shell that you want to keep intact. It works best with rounded shells, such as conch, cowrie or miter, rather than flattened clam or scallop shells.


6. Nail Polish Is Not Just for Nails

Though natural-colored seashells with their soft, muted tones can look beautiful, if you want to create a piece that is a little more vibrant and bold, you can paint your shells any color you like. Several gloss enamel paints are suitable for painting shells, but there is something you can use that you probably already have at home.

Nail polish is an excellent option for painting shells, as it hardens to a high gloss for a professional-looking finish, plus it comes in a huge variety of colors, including dazzling metallic shades. It also already has its own tiny brush that works perfectly for getting into the nooks and crannies of tiny shells.


7. Find a Good Gemstone Match

With such variety in pattern, color and shape, seashells are naturally beautiful materials to be used on their own in jewelry making. However, when paired with the right gemstone beads or metallic elements, they can make for a striking statement piece.

Freshwater pearls create a natural pairing for seashells due to their beautiful luster and nautical theme. Other great matches are opaque or solid-colored gemstones, such as turquoise, lapis lazuli or milky quartz, which keep the coastal theme and enhance the delicate colors in the shell.


8. Add Metallic Accents

Although adding gemstone beads can be a great way to use your shells to create stunning statement jewelry, you can also use metallic accents to give your seashell jewelry pieces a modern edge.

Use a combination of natural seashells and metallic seashell charms to create a sweet nautical charm bracelet. Or, add a metallic spacer between the tiny seashell beads to give your seashell necklace some edge.

bracelet made seashells

9. Don't Throw Away Damaged Shells

With all the cleaning, drilling and polishing, you are bound the have a few accidents that result in damaged shells. But don't throw out your damaged shells along with your design plans. Use the shell’s shard to create a new statement necklace by drilling into the corner of each shard and using a jump ring to attach it to a chain in an overlapping pattern.


Final Thoughts

Seashells are a fun, natural material to work with when jewelry making, and with so many different varieties of shells, there are endless possibilities for design. Try some of these tips and tricks when you are making your DIY seashell jewelry for easier crafting and better results.