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Recycled Glass Earring Tutorial

Updated on April 11, 2017
Gayle Dowell profile image

Gayle Dowell is a jewelry and watercolor artist. She currently teaches art to a homeschool co-op highschool class.

How to Make Recycled Glass Earrings

New ideas seem to come in strange ways. I've been working in partnership with a glass artist friend on some pieces of my metal clay work. We've been running some glass / metal clay experiments. I've learned a few things about glass from her as she does fused glass art.

I've been moving away from my beaded jewelry to other levels of jewelry making, specifically metalsmithing and metal clay. I've been drooling over some gemstone cabochons from a few stone cutters and would love to do some more bezel setting. (I've done two). But I'm not yet comfortable in setting these stones quite yet.

So I get this idea to recycle my glass beads and make them into glass cabochons by putting them in my kiln. I consult my friend as to the desired firing schedule and after the first batch of beads, I was hooked. I've still not bezel set these cabochons, but I've been having fun making them into earrings. The following information is what I did to recycle my glass beads into glass cabochons.

All photos by Gayle Dowell

Paragon Caldera Kiln
Paragon Caldera Kiln

Setting Up My Kiln

I have a Paragon Caldera digital kiln that I use for my metal clay. I chose this kiln because it is a great size for small items such as jewelry, it is programmable, and can be used for my metal clay as well as glass and ceramics. Very versatile for the price. It is a top loading brick kiln. For about $40 more, I can get a lid with a high temperature window, or if I want to anneal glass beads I can add on a bead annealing collar, or an enameling collar if I want to get into enameling. A very versatile kiln that grows along with your art. Clicking the following link will take you to the website, Clay-King.com, where I purchased my kiln.

First of all, I coated my kiln shelf with kiln wash. I also kiln washed the bottom of my kiln so that if any glass melted off the shelf, the bottom of the kiln would be protected. Kiln wash keeps the glass from sticking to the surface of the kiln shelf. Kiln wash can damage heating elements and care should be taken that no kiln powder or kiln wash comes in contact with the heating elements.

I then set the kiln shelf on top of kiln shelf supports to elevate the shelf and allow air to circulate around the shelf. I then put my assortment of glass beads on the shelf about 1/2" - 1" apart depending on the size of the beads. The larger the bead, the more space I allowed between beads. It is best to make sure that your beads are very clean before firing. I use alcohol to clean finger prints or any other film that may be on the glass beads. This helps create a very clean surface after firing that is clear and shiny.

Beads on Kiln Shelf

Beads on Kiln Shelf
Beads on Kiln Shelf

Finished Recycled Glass Cabochons

Finished Recycled Glass Cabochons
Finished Recycled Glass Cabochons

Firing Schedule

All kilns are different and not all schedules will work for every kiln. It is best to take notes when you fire so that you can adjust the schedule when necessary to get the effects desired.

Be aware that there are different types of glass with different rates of expansion, or coefficient of expansion (COE). If mixing different glasses that have different COEs, the result can be cracked glass when cooling as the glasses cool at different rates. It is best not to mix glass together unless the COE is known for each piece. As for beads, it is best not to mix them and melt together.

With small items such as beads, the following firing schedule will be sufficient. Note that degrees are in Fahrenheit.

Firing Schedule

Segment One

Rate: 300 degrees

Temperature: 1450 degrees

Hold: 10 minutes

Segment Two

Rate: Full

Temperature: 1000 degrees

Hold: 1 hour

Segment Three

Rate: 200 degrees

Temperature: 100 degrees

Hold: 0

The whole firing process and cooling takes about 12 hours to complete.

If the bead cabochons are not completely round, fire again. The more you fire the glass the rounder the cabochons will become. Some beads didn't work as well as others. The beauty of using beads is to see the surprises that happens after firing. I found that many of my Czech glass beads did well as well as many of the Austrian crystal bicone beads. Any beads that are lamp work and have the bead release still in the hole do not do well.

Earring Posts
Earring Posts

Making Earrings

After the cabochons are cooled, I clean the kiln wash off the back of the cabs by scrubbing with soap and water. After I thoroughly dry the cabochons, I then glue surgical steel posts with pads on the backs of the cabochons using Loctite GO2 Glue and let them dry for 24 hours. I experimented with different glues and found Loctite GO2 Glue to be the best for holding the cabochons securely to the posts. I love the no-clog nozzle.

The earring posts come in different pad sizes. It is best to use the largest size possible for more surface area to hold the glue. I usually buy these from suppliers on Etsy.com

Gluing Earring Posts to Cabochons

Gluing Earring Posts to Cabochons
Gluing Earring Posts to Cabochons

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    • Carol Houle profile image

      Carol Houle 3 years ago from Montreal

      Cool. Wish I hadn't thrown out my old (Madonna type) jewelry; most of them were PVC and/or glass . Yet this gave me an idea of how I could have used them to create a piece of art.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      Wish I had a kiln. I've had the urge to get into jewelry-making and other recycled glass art. Thanks for a stimulating tutorial. Love your earrings.

    • AcornOakForest profile image

      Monica Lobenstein 4 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      Very creative, outside the box craft idea... I love it! I wish I had the materials/tools to do it too.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I wish I can try this but we are constantly travelling so it is difficult for me to do.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      What a fabulous idea! I can't wait to try this myself. Blessings!

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