Tips on Drilling, Gluing and Setting Translucent Stones

For over 17 years my wife and I have built “Designs by Shirl” into a shop where designers can find rare and scarce designer cabochons that will enhance their creations and customers would be able to buy beautiful wire wrapped jewelry by Shirl. Also available, fine hand made jewelry using precious metals and ancient Greek and Roman coins. If you purchase, we know you will not want to send anything back but if you do there is a 100% money back guarantee. Designers and customers who expect the best will enjoy what we have to offer and with the 100% money back guarantee, how can you lose.

Pleasing our customers is what keeps us going. After 3 years of running a shop on Etsy we have over 1200 positive reviews and never a return on a designer cabochon, ancient coin jewelry or wire wrapped stone. Click on this link to see them, it will open in a new window so you can easily get back to this site      REVIEWS

DRILLING – My technique for drilling holes in stone cabochons:

Drilling is not all that difficult if you have the right tools and your patient (don’t rush the drilling) you will have success.

– A battery operated Dremel drill, which can be purchased at hardware stores along with a pin vice that will fit in the dremmel, it will hold the smaller pin size bits.
– Drill bits, which can be purchased from for 3/4 mm bits, and for a complete inexpensive set of bits that start with 1 mm.
– A Pyrex plate. Water to cover the stone.


– Mark the stone where you want the hole, not to close to the edge.

– Start with a small drill bit (3/4 to 1 mm), use the drill on slow speed and lightly touch the stone until the hole is started. Use a little pressure but not enough to bend the shaft of the bit. Don’t drill to fast or force the bit, these small bits can break easily. If it breaks off in the hole you may not get it back out. As you drill, move the bit in and out of the hole in order to fill the hole with water (keeps it cool). Getting it hot and using large bits first could cause breakage, also drilling on a fracture line or where 2 minerals intersect may also cause the stone to break.

– Increase to a larger diamond drill bit. Use the smallest in the set first. You are going to gradually increase the hole by using different size drill bits.

– After the hole is finished, use the small ball bit and round out the edges of the hole.


– The Pyrex plate is used because you can super glue your stone to the bottom and after pour a small amount of acetone to cover the stone and let set until the stone is free.

– As your drilling you can feel the bit stop when it touches the glass, sometimes I turn the stone over and see where the drill is going to come out, I then finish the drilling from the back of the cab, this makes for a smooth hole. If you do this, be careful, you don’t want to drill a hole in your finger.

– Just go slowly and you shouldn’t have a problem.”


GLUING – My technique for attaching bails to cabochons:

Supplies needed:

– A battery operated Dremel drill, which can be purchased at hardware stores.

– Diamond drill bits, these can can be purchased from or or Harbor Frieght has a complete inexpensive set of bits that start with 1 mm.

– A glue on bail, these can be purchased at just about any wholesale or retail lapidary supply shop. has a nice varied supply.

– 2 part quick drying Epoxy, I use the HFT epoxy from Harbor Freight.

– And of course a cabochon, if you don’t have one click on the below link to see what we have.

Click here to see my cabochons

How to start:

Start by roughing up the back of the bail.  I use a Dremel with a diamond pointed bit.

The area on the back of the cab where the bail will be attached also has to roughed up. My technique for doing this is to place a small price sticker on the back and then position the bail so it shows up centered on the cab, turn the cab over holding the bail in place and take an extra fine pointed pen and outline the bail as best as you can.  Now take the Dremel and a pointed bit and run it over the outline hard enough to go through the sticker to mark the cab.  Remove the sticker and continue to rough up the cab where the bail will be glued

Glue on the bail:

Mix a 2 part quick drying epoxy, use equal drops and mix well for 1 minute (this is extremely important, 1 minute, it has to be well mixed).

Apply small amount to the bail, position it on the cab and press and hold it for a minute.

Give it several minutes to set then clean the excess glue off (use nail polish remover or acetone).  Within 2 minutes of placing the bail on the cab you can re-position the bail if it has moved, this is the last chance to do this before it hardens.

My final step, leave the piece set for 24 hours for maximum strength.

After a 24 hour drying period you can clean away any excess glue, use a razor blade to carefully cut it away.

I find when using the above procedure it is very hard to remove the bail once dried.  You can experiment by trying to force the bail off with a thumb, pushing on the bail.  I have broken cabs doing this and I have removed bails with a lot of force.  If they come off easy, you didn’t mix the glue properly, the glue was old or you didn’t press on the bail for at least 1 minute after gluing it on.  I think that dropping the cab on a hard surface may shock the cab enough to separate it from the bail, I haven’t tried this.

Experiment and make several pendants and you will or should become an expert. 

A tip on the glue.  Throw away any glue that has been open for some time. I discard my tubes after several months.  During that time if I want to use them I squeeze out several drops before using the glue.

If you find that you can improve on this procedure, please send me a note.

Good luck.




If your going to bezel set a translucent designer cabochon in SS or Gold and you want the light to flash back through your stone you might want to follow this technique. Give the inside of the bezel a super high polish, before setting the stone put a very small bead of epoxy all around the inside edge to keep out any moisture that could cloud the look over time. A strong light or the sun hitting your designer piece will reflect back and bring out its inner beauty.

The below picture is a Montana agate pendant I created. Look how bright the Montana Agate shines back. See more pictures of this pendant in the Handmade Jewelry section of our shop.

Montana Agate and Fire Agate Designer Cabochon from Designs by Shirl



An article written for Ezine, Selecting Rough for Designer Cabochons, click this to read it. It will open in a new window so you can get back to this website easily: Selecting Rough for Designer Cabochons


An article written for ArticleBase, Creating Designer Cabochons and Wire Wrapped Jewelry From Rough, click this to read it. It will open in a new window so you can get back to this website easily: Creating Designer Cabochons and Wire Wrapped Jewelry From Rough

I hope to add a lot more articles when time permits. Each article will have a link in this blog.

As Featured On EzineArticles