You've seen cabochons mounted in all kinds of pendant, ring and other settings, but are the design powers of the versatile cabochon being overlooked? While premade settings are a lovely and easy way to display cabochons, find inspiration and widen the spectrum of what cabs can do. Since cabochons don't have a drill hole, they can seem a challenge to work with. These flat-backed creations, however, lend themselves beautifully to jewelry and accessories. Use as focals, eyes in jewelry and décor, accents on clothing and much more.
Using soutache cord to capture beads and stones is continually growing in jewelry-designer popularity. Straight off the fashion runways, soutache is a combination of sewing and beading that stands out as an elegant way to display your favorite cabochons.
Consider making your own settings out of lots of materials. You'll never have to worry about a cabochon fitting into a premade setting again.
The small but mighty seed bead is one of the most popular ways to secure cabochons in jewelry. Embroider around or on top of cabs in any desired shape to keep them in place. Renowned bead embroidery designer Sherry Serafini is known worldwide for this type of technique and offers expert advice on the subject in her books.
Make a sparkly frame for cabochons with cupchain available in multiple metal tones and glass colors to match or contrast with cabochons. Use a sturdy backing such as Lacy's Stiff Stuff™, leather or metal sheet, and high-strength glue or Apoxie® Sculpt to set the cabochon and cupchain. This border is fun to mix with seed bead embroidery and soutache.
Polymer clay and Precious Metal Clay offer a whole world of opportunities. Mold your preferred compound on and around cabochons then bake--it's that easy. It is important to make sure the cabochons chosen will withstand the type of heat source being used. Gemstone cabochons stand up well to the lower temperatures of polymer clay baking, except for opal and amber. Glass cabochons are also a safe bet. Plastic and similar materials might melt or scorch, so are advised against. Metal clays require a much higher temperature range and it's important to determine which stones can be safely used with the ''Firing Gemstones and Natural Stones in Art Clay®'' chart.
Note: When using metal clays, reference packaging for shrinkage rate to accommodate for change in size after firing.
Of course, if you want to use cabochons guaranteed to explode in a kiln, there is a trick. Make a setting in the clay around the cabochon and then remove the cabochon from the clay. Bake the clay and allow to cool. Using a high-strength adhesive, glue in the desired cabochons and voila, you have successfully made a unique setting for a cabochon that couldn't be kiln fired. Apoxie Sculpt is another no-bake option to secure cabochons and beads in designs simply by air drying.
Note: For safety reasons, do not place stones in direct heat such as a torch or kiln if they have fractures or heavy inclusions.
Continuing with hot ways to use cabochons, soldering directly along the outside of cabs creates a perfect and custom fit. A stellar example is the
planetary pendant created by renowned jewelry-making expert Tammy Honaman. Complete instructions explain how this technique works, providing you with the tool knowledge and inspiration to solder cabochons into your own designs.
Curl, twist, bend, coil and otherwise have fun playing with wire to surround cabochons. This technique requires no backing and the result is as intricate or stylishly simple as you create. While any shape is used, square wire is often used for the main frame since it lies flush against other wire and makes a solid surface for cabochons to rest. Half-round wire is recommended for wrapping around the main wire frame to stabilize construction.
Make sure the frame is complete before adding decoration. An expert tip from jewelry-production specialist Jude Wroblewski is to use painter's tape while wrapping to keep everything together without leaving any kind of sticky residue. The preferred size tends to be 20 gauge. Mix and match size, shape and even color to display cabochons in all their splendor.
Now that you have a plethora of ways to display cabs, try techniques to alter or capitalize on cabochon types for unique designs.
Clear glass cabochons magnify images placed underneath. Put any image or vintage photograph beneath glass cabs for a timeless look or create a mythical-looking eye staring out at the world. Gemstones such as onyx also work well for eyes. This is also a popular way to customize cuff links for personalized men's accessories.
Depending on the material type, the surface of cabochons can be carved, etched and scrimshawed. Bone is a common material used to scrimshaw since it has a Mohs hardness of 2-1/2. Usually a stone with Mohs hardness of 6 or below is able to be carved. The harder the stone, the harder it is to scratch the surface and instead of shaving off pieces, stones run the risk of cracking. Use rotary hand tools such as the Foredom® flex shaft and steel cutting burs Bone is also a great material for dyes. Learn how to dye bone in the article ''Dyed Bone Components and Beads''
Not Just Jewelry
Use any number of described techniques to incorporate cabochons as eye-catching additions to accessories, clothing,
costumes or home décor. Make a large cabochon the center of beading on a
purse, add cabochon accents to belts and headwear or decorate clothing with the shine of polished cabs.
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