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Author Topic: Drilling natural agates  (Read 12682 times)

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« on: June 24, 2004, 06:27:56 pm »

I have a ready source of natural agates.  I've never made jewelry.   So:

I would like to use these agates to create agate beads or charms, or dangly bits for earrings, etc.

They are on average the size of a thumbnail, but range down to large bead size, and up to the size of a plumb.  They range from white to smoke to yellow, to red, some with very interesting banding(I doubt I have to tell you these are found on a glacial beach).

What would be an appropriate drill?  And hanging attachment?  In other words, if I wished to turn an agate into a charm, what is the proper method for gluing or otherwise fastening a clasp or hook to a stone, either by drilling it, or not?

And what is the best way to turn small agates into beads?  (I've googled instructions that said to use an inexpensive diamond drill in water, with plywood underneath the agate).

Is a diamond drill bit attached to a regular power drill?  Or does it come with a separate machine.

There.  I'd better start with those questions.   '<img'>
Russ Nobbs
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2004, 06:32:02 pm »

Agates are quartz. Very hard material. Methods for drilling are similar to those for drilling sea glass. Google drilling sea glass to see even more articles that would relate to your questions.

Drilling with a diamond bit in a small hand drill like a Dremel or a flex shaft drill like a foredom is typical for small amounts. They need to be drilled wet, submerged in water or with a good drip of water. If it gets too hot the diamonds wear off the bit and the stone cracks or both.Sad   For production drilling an ultrasonic drill ($700 and up) or a laser is used. Not something most folks have at home.

Making into a bead can be done one by one with a wet diamond grinder or carving type bits on a flex shaft.  Larger chunks are roughed with trim or slab saws into squares, octogons, etc and run in a bead mill. This has seveal rotating cups that hold and grind the sphere in progressivly finer diamond grits. When polished it is drilled. Again for production many similar sized cubes are put between 2 diamond sintered disks with grooves. The disks rotate in a medium of water and cutting compound to produce 100's or even 1000's of beads at a time.

Your stones may already be polished somewhat by the action of water. Otherwise you can tumble polish them in a rock tumbler with progressively finer charges of diamond  grinding and polishing compounds. Simpelest way to mount a tumble polished stone is to glue them onto a setting or hang them from a "beaver tail" bail or a 3 or 4 leg bail.  We sell all these parts.

If there is a rockhound club or a lapidary store in your area I'd check if anyone is already doing this and see if they will give you a few hands on pointers.  The lapidary store would have tumblers, polishing compound, drill bits, etc and probably lots of advice.  We cajn special order these kinds of tools but it's easier to see them in person and ask hands on questions.

There's a start to answering your questions.  Hope it gets you going in the right direction.

Russ Nobbs
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« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2005, 12:07:39 pm »

Hi Russ,

I have a ton of small/medium semi precious stones and I've been wanting to make my own jewelry out of it.  I've never made my own jewelry before.  I knew I had to drill holes in the stones, but I never know how.  Now I know!  However, I feel apprehensive about buying and using the equipment you mentioned in your response to Dbarr.  If I understood correctly, you are suggesting that the stones can be made into beads freehand.  Considering how their size, wouldn't it be risky/difficult?  Would a drill press be necessary?

I apologize for asking additional questions.  However, I am very keen on putting these beautiful stones to good use and would appreciate any advice from an expert like yourself.  

By the way, I saw your advice to someone else on a different website/forum that lead me to your website.  Thanks (in advance) for your words of wisdom.
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