Favorite Project of the Week: Floating Opal and Sterling Pendant

The other day as I sat in my backyard, I watched the little girl next door doing one of my favorite summertime activities, blowing bubbles. The joy on her face and the excitement in her face was wonderful to behold. She was entranced by the colors and the shapes, and she kept shouting to me and her mother, “Catch them! Catch them!” She was absolutely amazed that she was actually creating these magical objects. I think I enjoyed it just as much as she did.

ABOVE: Photo credit: Getty Images

Julie Sanfords floating opal pendant

Photo: Jim Lawson

Julie Sanford’s Floating Opal and Sterling Pendant, from the January/February 2017 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, captures the feeling of blowing bubbles by suspending opal “bubbles” in glycerin and hanging it from a sterling silver frame. But there’s more! The opal chips are actually enclosed in a recycled clear mini Christmas tree light bulb.

  • It uses fairly basic techniques to create a design that is pure magic.
  • Opal is one of the most popular stones and lends itself perfectly to the floating design. But other translucent stones would work beautifully, too.
  • It’s a great project for practicing and building your soldering and fabrication skills.
  • If you’re into using recycled materials (like I am), it’s a fabulous way to use old mini light bulbs.
  • Everyone will ask, “How did you do that?!?”

So bubble up — but don’t blow it!

Project Details

Required Materials and Tools:

  • Old mini light strand
  • Tiny opal chips
  • Heavy sterling tubing
  • 24g sterling sheet
  • 19g sterling wire
  • Medium silver solder
  • Glycerin
  • Thick rubbery adhesive
  • Clear epoxy
  • Small trim saw and 220 lapidary wheel (or similar)
  • Jeweler’s saw
  • 04 blades
  • Beeswax
  • Bench pin
  • Calipers or dividers
  • Metal files
  • Wire cutters
  • Round nose pliers
  • Solder brick
  • Tweezers
  • Solder pick
  • Medium silver solder
  • Torch
  • Quench bowl
  • Pickle
  • Sandpaper or abrasive wheels
  • Polishing wheels and compounds for final finishing


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