Jewelry and accessories can be made out of a slew of materials, but there isn’t one that is quite as versatile as resin. With or without a mold, the pliable material can be shaped and formed into just about anything your imagination can create.
So how do you make resin jewelry without molds? If you’re not using silicone molds, you’ll need something to contain the resin, such as pre-made bezels. Bezels are actually easier to work with than molds, so these instructions are easy enough for anyone to do at home.
Keep reading for the step-by-step instructions on making beautiful resin jewelry at home!
Everything You Need to Know About Jewelry Resin
Resin can be used all on its own for a luminous crystal-clear design or combined with other materials for unusual and unique pieces like none other in the world. Gems, pearls, glitter, stones, flowers or just about any material can be incorporated into your resin to create a one of a kind piece of art.
Jewelry resin comes in two basic types:
- Epoxy resin plus hardener that you mix as needed,
- The pre-mixed type that you pour as is right from the bottle. You have to be careful when mixing resin because if you don’t get the ratios just right it might not set properly. It easier to get the one-to-one ratio type. It’s virtually fail-proof.
Questions to ask yourself when choosing a resin to work with include:
- How long does it take to cure? You can get quick setting resin and slow setting resin.
- How clear will it be when it’s fully cured? Does it yellow?
- Will it dome or is it self-leveling?
- Is it prone to bubbling? Do you want bubbles in your design?
- Will the resin cure hard and shiny or stay tacky?
- Does it contain harmful fumes? Most resins are virtually fume-free and non-toxic, but it’s good to know if the one you chose is one of the toxic kinds.
When mixing resin and hardener, always follow the instructions on the package. The amounts are usually unequal and have to be very precise in order for it set properly. Having measuring instruments to the nearest millimeter is very important.
Some epoxy resins have a ratio of one-to-one. This type is the best choice for beginners.
Getting Comfortable with Resin
As you know by now, not all resins are the same. It’s important to understand how the resin you choose is supposed to work, such as cure time, pot time, mixing ratio, the minimum amounts you can mix in one batch and the safety requirements.
But, in general, epoxies are quite easy to work with because they are so forgiving. And you usually have plenty of pot time to mix and cast the resin before it begins to gel. For best results, use polyurethane casting resin instead of polyester casting resin.
Polyester resin is more toxic and often retains an odor even after the pieces are cured. The mixing process is easier when the resin is at a one-to-one ratio with the hardener.
Resin tends to drip and splash, so protect your table and floor by covering your entire workspace with a drop cloth or newspaper. You should also protect yourself with rubber gloves and safety goggles. Although most epoxy resin is non-toxic, it’s advisable to work in a well-ventilated area.
Step 2: Gather your supplies
Place the bottles of resin and hardener in a bowl of hot water. This helps the resin mix together better and avoid bubbles.
While the bottles warm up a bit, gather the rest of your supplies, such as flowers, glitter and sprinkles.
We are making resin jewelry without molds, but you still need some type of shape to keep the resin in place until it cures. Bezels or pieces of old, broken jewelry work great.
Bezels are actually easier to work with than molds because you don’t have to remove the finished piece after it cures. Plus, molds need to be treated before you can fill them with resin.
Bezels are open-ended and empty. Once you pour in the resin and let it set, your jewelry piece is done and ready to be attached to a chain, pin or ring. Or, if you can’t find a bezel you like, you can create your own with a gold or rhinestone chain.
Molds only shape the resin. Afterwards you still have to add jump loops or other things to turn it into a necklace or charm
Step 3: Prepare your embellishments
Trim and seal all of your embellishments. If you are adding porous embellishments to the jewelry piece, they have to be sealed before you can add them to the resin.
Mod Podge is a very popular choice because it dries clear, dries quickly, allowing you to apply several coats if needed. It cleans up easily with soap and water.
Unless you are an experienced jewelry maker and have worked with resin before, you can’t be sure how long it takes for the resin to begin to gel. No matter what it says on the bottle, variances such as room temperature, humidity in the air and other factors could affect how the resin reacts.
You don’t want the resin to gel before you have added all of your cool embellishments. That is why you want to have everything trimmed and sealed before you start mixing and pouring the resin.
Some objects don’t work too well. For example, facets of loose gems or crystals can get obscured in the resin after it sets and will completely disappear. Other than that, get creative. Use flat or fat pieces, small or large. Just make sure that your design will fit into the bezel.
Step 4: Prepare your bezel
Since bezels are open-ended and empty, you have to put something on the back, otherwise, the resin will run out the other side.
However, some bezels (or pendant trays) are designed with a back. The biggest difference between bezels and molds is that bezels are finished once the resin sets. The finished resin piece has to be removed from the mold after it sets, which can be a big hassle.
To give the bezel a backing, all you need is a strong piece of packing tape or duct tape. Carefully stick the tape to one side of the bezel. Make sure that the tape is secure and that there are no gaps between the side of the bezel and the tape.
Step 5: Mix the resin
Follow the instructions on the bottle on how to properly measure and mix the resin and hardener. Combine the two in a clean, small plastic cup. Stir continuously for about two minutes with a wooden stick. Read the directions carefully. Some products need more or less stirring for the mixtures to blend properly.
Only mix as much as you will be using at this time. Resin doesn’t stay in its liquid form for long. Anything you can’t use right away will go to waste. You can’t save it for later.
Pour the resin into the cup first and then add the right amount (equal amount if bought the one-to-one ratio type) of the catalyst. A graduated measuring cup or clean cough syrup measuring cup works great for this because you can measure both components directly into the cup.
Note: the cup you use can not be used for food or medicine after this. Make sure to use something you dedicate just for this purpose. It can be reused for other resin projects, but that’s all.
Keep your stirring slow ans steady to prevent air bubbles from building up. And scrape the edges and bottom frequently to ensure the mixture is thoroughly combined.
Step 6: Pour, pop, and cure your resin
Slowly pour the resin mixture into your bezels. Pouring slowly prevents spillage, but more importantly, prevents air bubbles. Pop any air bubbles as quickly as possible.
Add your embellishments. If you are creating a layered designe, pur some resin between each layer. Otherwise the object will just sink to the bottom. This step needs to be done quie quickly because the resin gels so fast.
Place your object on the first layer of resin, add a bit more resin and keep going until all of your layers are complete.
Once your design is complete and your bezel is full, the resin needs to set or cure. Place a box over your creation to prevent dirt and dust from floating onto thee finished piece. Many resins can harden in as little as 24 hours.
However, when placed under a UV light, UV resins can cure even faster than that. It only takes a few minutes for them to cure. It takes a bit longer when placed in sunlight because the UV light directly hits the resin more than the sun does.
Once you have these basic resin jewelry-making techniques down pat, you can let out your wild side. With each piece you make new ideas will pop into your head making every subsequent project more and more elaborate.
You can buff the surface of the resin or sand it for a matte finish. These options can also help to hide bubbles or other imperfections. Another option is to paint or draw on the finished piece.
For something a little different, this video from Sandrartes on YouTube shows you how to make a resin mold with a balloon!