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Rock jewelry is fun, unique, and can remind you of a favorite place or experience. This is a great way to make an artistic statement without having to go buy an expensive gemstone or a necklace that was not made by hand. Rock necklaces are relatively easy to make if you know the proper steps and preparation to ensure good results.
What Kinds of Rocks Can You Use for Your Necklace?
While some rocks might be beautiful, they could be hard on your tools or they might not be able to withstand being drilled into. The hardness of a rock can affect how easy it is to drill into it to make a necklace. The best rocks for drilling through are:
You may also be able to work with more fragile materials like granite, but this can be difficult as it is prone to breaking apart under the pressure of the drill bit.
You should always also consider the size of the rock. Make sure that you select something that will be comfortable to wear around your neck all day, not a rock that is too big and will be uncomfortable to wear.
Drilling a Hole in a Rock
Now that you have your rock, you are ready to move on to drilling a hole into the rock for your necklace. These steps require patience and care, so make sure you are not in a hurry when you begin this part of the work.
1. What Drill Bit to Use
Because many rocks are quite hard, you will likely need a diamond tipped bur or a hole saw that is quite small in size. These do not need to be any specific brand, and you can use a rotary tool like a Dremel, or a standard cordless or corded drill for make the holes.
Do not use woodworking drill bits, or other dull-tipped bit styles. Make sure your drill bits are sharp. You will not be able to get the hole started with these, and the shape of the drill bit may cause internal stress to the rock that can lead to it breaking apart.
Always make sure that you check the size of the drill bit before you drill. You may think that the drill bit that you have picked is the right size but then when you start to drill it’s too big! You can make a mark that is the same size as your drill bit if you want to verify that the size will be correct for your rock.
If you are using a drill press, you will probably get a much better result overall, but you will need to be careful that you pick a small enough bit for the task. The best size is typically 1.2mm to 1.5mm. You can always start small and work your way up, but you can’t make the hole smaller if you have started with too large of a bit.
2. Wear Protective Glasses
This cannot be overstated enough! Rocks can create sharp dust and they can explode! You will always want to wear safety goggles when drilling into rocks off any kind. It is a good rule of thumb never to drill anything without goggles on, but rocks are volatile enough that this is a must.
Protective glasses are affordable and are a simple way to make sure that you do not get hurt when you are working on your project. Add them to the protection you are wearing, like your dust mask, before you do any kind of drilling work. If you think that your rock might break apart, you can put plastic or a tarp under your drilling surface to catch the debris that might occur.
3. Add Lubricant
This is an important part of the process. You will want to use lubricant or your rock will more than likely break apart. You can use water for this, and it is easy to apply water by dipping the rock into a bucket nearby when it starts to heat up.
If you have made a mark on your rock to keep track of the hole, you can keep it in place on the rock with a small swipe of stick deodorant. This will keep the mark from washing off as you drill through the set spot that you want your thread hold to be.
Some people swear by drilling inside of a bucket of water, but this can be messy and difficult to manage. It is usually far easier to just dip the rock as you work and keep it moist so that it does not overheat.
4. Start Drilling Slowly
It is always a good rule of thumb to start slowly. This way you can tell that you are on the right track as far as drill bit, drill hole size, and stability of the rock itself.
This is a good rule of thumb no matter what you are drilling through. Sometimes materials can behave differently than we expect, or you might find that the drill bit that you have selected is not the right size for your needs.
After you drill the first bit, pour some water over the rock, or dip it quickly into water. Drill slowly again and lift up slightly occasionally as you work. You will want to work through the stone gradually so that you do not overheat it or break it.
Being patient is key at this stage. There are not many rocks that you can drill through with speed, so you will need to be prepared to be patient and take your time as you do this process. Do not be afraid to take a break if your hand is cramping, or if you feel like you are never going to get the stone drilled through.
5. Refine the Hole
When drilling through hard materials, its common for the hole to look rough and abrasive once you’re done drilling. You still need to clean up the hole.
Add a longer, thinner drill bit to the mix and work this bit through the hole a few times with care. You will deburr the hole in this manner, and any rough spots should be smoothed out as you carefully refine the hole.
You can hold the rock up to the light at this point to verify that you have drilled through the stone correctly and to make sure that you do not see bumps or bulges in the interior of the hole.
Be aware that some stones will not drill as smoothly as others, so you might find that you cannot completely remove rough patches inside the hole.
6. Attach The Cord or String
You are almost done! Now you just need to thread through the leather cord or the string that you are planning to use for the DIY necklace itself.
If you find that the hole in the rock is not quite big enough for your selected necklace material, you can choose to make it bigger at this point. Always remember, however, that if you are trying to thread a thick cord through a small rock, you might break the rock when you attempt to make the hole big enough for the cord.
Always consider changing your mind about the thickness of the necklace material if you are not sure that the rock will hold up to repeated drilling.
Should I Polish My Rock?
Polishing can make a rock shiny, glossy and more noticeable, but not all rocks will be improved with polishing. Some materials look better with a dull finish rather than a shiny appearance.
However, if your rock has dull or uneven surfaces, polishing can make it a much prettier and much more comfortable jewelry item.
If you are going to polish you rock, you can choose between a polisher to do it for you, or you have hand polish it yourself with a grinder. If you are going to use a grinder, always grind wet and go slowly. Also make sure that you wear a mask as the dust from some stones can be very harmful to your lungs.
Be mindful that heavy polishing can actually affect the integrity of the stone, so you may want to avoid this process if you think that the stone is brittle, or if it is a very small rock. Sometimes rocks cannot survive being polished and also being drilled into. Rocks can be surprisingly soft, despite their outward appearance and texture!
Drilling rocks for necklaces and other jewelry is not a difficult process if you are willing to be patient and take your time. Planning ahead is key, and making sure that you protect your eyes and your lungs from dust and debris is essential.
With some planning and a little patience, you can create beautiful rock jewelry that will commemorate locations that you have visited. Or you can make special unique stones you have discovered when you were out hiking.