Design an Abalone Shell Brooch

Julie Kirby shows how to create a handmade sterling silver and abalone shell brooch with a hibiscus motif.


Julie Kirby is an adventurous and energetic artist who finds inspiration in the beautiful nature of Hawaii. She thinks she became a jewelry artist by fate. When she was in her junior year in college she went to Mexico for her spring break. While her friends were soaking in the sun, she was making friends with the locals, intrigued by their silver jewelry. Since then, she has moved to Hawaii to catch up on her surf and is a favorite local artist.

Materials and Tools:

fine silver bezel strip
26-gauge sterling sheet
30-gauge sterling sheet
20-gauge sterling silver wire
medium silver solder
30mm x 22mm abalone cabochon
tin snips
metal snips
oxygen acetylene torch and lighter
acid solution
bowl of water
jeweler's file
flat-nose pliers
curved-nose pliers
disc cutter
curved chisel
straight stamp chisel
dapping block and dapping tools (large and small)
flexible shaft drill
electric tumbler
soldering pad
burnishing compound
burnishing tool
scribing tool
dark safety glasses


1. Wrap the bezel strip around the abalone stone and cut it to size.

2. Put the abalone cabochon to one side and set up the bezel on a soldering pad, brush the seam with flux and solder it with an oxygen and acetylene torch. Quench the bezel in an acid bath (pickle) to remove any fire scale and dip it in water to rinse.

3. Place the soldered bezel around the abalone cabochon and trace that shape on the 26-gauge sterling sheet. Cut this shape out with metal snips, place it on an anvil and stamp it with a sterling hallmark.


4. Place this piece of sterling sheet back on the soldering pad, put the bezel (without the stone) on top of the sheet, brush the seam with flux and solder the bezel and sheet together to form the bezel cup. Quench the bezel cup in the pickle and rinse in water. File the edges smooth. Set this aside.


5. To make the decorative hibiscus component, use a disc cutter to cut out a round shape from a 30-gauge sterling sheet.

6. Form the petal shapes on the edge of the disc with a curved stamping tool. File the edges to smooth and shape the flower.

7. Define and detail each petal with a straight stamping tool.


8. Put the flat flower shape, front side down, on a dapping block and use dapping tools with a mallet to dome the flower to provide a 3-D appearance.

9. Turn the flower over and hammer a dapping tool in the middle.

10. Drill a small hole in the center of the flower.


11. Heat the end of a piece of 20-gauge wire with the torch until it melts and forms a small ball on its end. This forms the flowers stamen.

12. Put the stamen through the hole of the flower shape and solder it in place from the back. The hibiscus is now complete.


13. Form the filigree waves from 20-gauge silver wire. File one end flat and curl it inward with needle-nose pliers, curve the other end to frame the bezel cup, form a shorter curl and solder this frame together.

14. Solder the bezel cup to this filigree wave frame. Solder on the hibiscus.

15. Turn the piece over and solder on the brooch finding.


16. Soak the brooch in the acid bath for a few minutes.

17. Place it in a polishing tumbler with steel shot and burnishing compound for about eight hours. The brooch comes out of the tumbler very shiny.

18. Sprinkle sawdust into the bezel cup to act as a cushion for the stone and place the abalone cabochon into the bezel cup.


19. Carefully push and smooth the bezel over the edge of the stone with a burnishing tool. The stone is now securely set in its setting.

20. Turn the brooch over and, using a pair of curved-nose pliers, snap the pin portion of the brooch finding into place.

21. Polish the abalone shell brooch with a polishing cloth to complete.


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