It’s been One of those weeks here in the Pearlescence Workshop. We’ve had a real masterclass week of everything which could go wrong has gone wrong. From things being dropped and lost while in plain sight to loose rattly nucleuses – five in one strand of south sea pearls. Plus silk stuck in a necklace in for its triennial re-string…plus even a tahitian pearl with (apparently) the hiccups.
So it seemed a good plan to sit back and write up how to deal with these things for those of our customers who are starting out as makers themselves.
This happens when the nucleus of a bead nucleated pearl comes loose – when the nacre, for some reason, isn’t stuck to it at all and the bead inside the pearl can rattle around freely. It’s a total pain because it means that that pearl cannot be strung as it is, because the drill hole through the nucleus will invariably have spun out of line from the drill holes in the nacre. The first you usually know of it is when you are sitting there, knotting away in a sort of knotting fugue and suddenly you’re poking at the hole with your beading needle and nothing is happening.
First thought is that something is jamming the drill hole, a remnant of silk from the previous knotting or from the temporary strand but the clue is that the needle only goes in a short way from either side. If it’s a bit of silk then the distances will be unequal and one side will go in much further than the other.
I’ve heard of people willing to sit and fiddle and poke with the pearl until they ‘catch’ the inside drill hole but life is a bit too short and I am far too impatient to do that. I just slap a 0.7mm drill bit into the workshop hand held drill and drill a new hole. The cunning bit comes from keeping the bit in the hole so it doesn’t just spin off again immediately, then plug the holes with a headpin or bit of wire until you can get that needle in and through. It’s definitely one of those times when three hands are useful.
Not only have I had the mega south sea rattly strand but also a freshwater bead nuked and an akoya, one of the baroque blue strands we found in Hong Kong last month and which sold out within twelve hours of listing them!. I think that is probably my quota for the whole year
Knot or silk stuck in drill hole
However much we’re careful when taking a necklace apart for re-stringing it sometimes happens that a remnant of a knot manages to get itself pulled into the drill hole and then jam. Or some really cheap temporary silk shreds and a snarl ends up inside the pearl.
Sometimes a firm application of a head pin into the drill hole will shift something. The best way to do this is to insert the pin then hold it with a pair of pliers just about one mm away from the nacre at the hole and firmly shove. Holding it just outside usually stops the silver from bending and sometimes this is enough to dislodge the obstruction.
If that doesn’t work then the easiest way to clear to blockage is to use an 0.7 drill bit and simply drill out the silk.
We switched from two part epoxy glue to gel superglue about six months ago and it’s working very well so far..with the added bliss that there is a release fluid.
The gel superglue is very controllable and easy to use…more so than the usual liquid which can go everywhere. But sometimes things go wrong
I was making up some tahitian pendants last thing yesterday and left them to set really well overnight. When I came to check them one was like this:
Tahitian pearl with glue hiccups
Every other pendant was fine. What had happened was that a pocket of air had been trapped at the bottom of the drill hole (It’s half drilled) and when I put the finding and glue into the drill hole the air was compressed.
Then when I let go and set it down the compressed air pushed the finding back out again. Usually when that happens it isn’t quite as spectacular as that, it will just move by a mm or so. This one was very nearly out altogether.
Thank the gods of pearls that there is magical unglue liquid. A quick dab and a wriggle and the finding is out…drill the hole clean again, make sure any glue is off the finding and re-do