Daily Tip: Wrapping Tiny Cabs

By on June 20, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

I recently acquired a collection of stones from a retiring silversmith. Many of the cabs are beautiful but tiny, including 4mm round, 6 x 8mm ovals, etc. I do have 24-gauge wire, and am comfortable working with it to make pendants and earrings, but these stones are so small that they’re hard to hang onto, let alone design around! What can you suggest that I do for these teeny treasures?

-Jake in Edmonton, Alberta

Answer:

Yes, those are really tiny sizes! Some folks use 26-gauge and smaller round wire to cage items like this, however I am going to give you a different experiment today (one my husband does with opal chips).

First, find a small, bowl-shaped item/container (maybe the top half of a domed metal button) place it on a surface that will keep it level (such as clay) and using a liquid plastic resin, pour a bit into the container. Then place the tiny cabs into the resin (top side up) until you are happy with the design. You could even fill the spaces between the cabs with seed beads, etc. Fill the remaining space with the plastic resin and let it harden completely. Now you can wrap your personally created “gemstone mosaic.”

Other than that, maybe find a jeweler would trade items you can use for those tiny cabs.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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20 Comments

  1. avatar

    Jane Elizabeth

    June 21, 2010 at 8:39 am

    How about putting those stones in snap sets and using 26g square 1/2 hard make some dangling ear rings? I have done this myself and the effect is great with pearls and draping chain. Just a thought!

  2. avatar

    Allyn

    June 21, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Another way to use those cabs would be to put them into settings, with open backs, like Snap-Set, and then wire through the setting to add the stones to your piece. I have used this technique and it works well with either faceted stones or cabs. (I’m jealous).

  3. avatar

    Judy Fritts

    June 21, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I have used prong settings and wired them into my designs. Try to get some snap sets – very easy to use, and also secure. You can run a small wire through the back of the setting to secure it into a ring or pendant and wire-sculpt the rest.

  4. avatar

    Casey Willson

    June 21, 2010 at 11:58 am

    LOVE this idea. I’m hoping to be able to get started with resin casting soon and I have a bunch of tiny treasures from my late lapidarist husband’s left behind stock. I actually made a caged pendant from a 6mm one that sold immediately. Delicate is still “in” with many.

  5. avatar

    Robyn

    June 22, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    The other option would be to grab a torch and some solder, and make bezel settings for them. It’s not difficult, and you can do some pretty spectacular things with tiny stones. There’s plenty of online tutorials and you might even find a local artisan who leads classes, which is where I learned.

  6. avatar

    Lacyblu

    June 23, 2010 at 1:03 am

    I have made small cages [[24-26 gauge]] for tiny gems and cab…While most customers love the larger designs for pendants, a lot of people buy the tiny treasures for their children…The little gems are simplistic, making them perfect for those who like delicate pieces…I am interested in the way dale’s hubby creates mosaics so I might give that a try…Of course, I need to know what kind of liquid plastic to use since I have never used one…

  7. avatar

    valarie

    June 21, 2012 at 5:29 am

    I have done this with bezels, and it’s also a great idea if you tumble your own stones and have a lot of little chips left at the end. If you solder at all you can make a little ring out of pattern wire, solder it shut, and use your resin in it on a piece of plastic treated with mold release. as long as you have a flat surface and pour slowly, the resin will stay inside the ring, and when it cures your piece will be able to get light from both sides.

  8. avatar

    Pam

    June 21, 2012 at 6:18 am

    You could also use epoxy clay (sold under various names) or UTEE (Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel). I’m reluctant to play with Resin, and really hate fire, but am still exploring the possibilities of epoxy clay and UTEE.

  9. avatar

    Judy

    June 21, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Gee, when I want to wrap a tiny cab, I just put a dop stick on the bottom to handle it by, then lay it/them face down and wrap them from that position. Lastly I pick up the dop stick(s), turn the piece over, and pull the front wires last.

    • avatar

      DKendra

      June 21, 2012 at 9:29 am

      I like this idea; the dop stick makes perfect sense to me. Since developing arthritis in my hands, small stones are sometimes difficult for me to hold. (Arthritis or not, I won’t give up my wire working!)

    • avatar

      Judy

      June 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      What is a dop stick?

      • avatar

        beverly

        June 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm

        Hi Judy, a dop stick is a lapidary tool used to hold the slab or cab so you can work on it. A dowel or a long screw is adhered to the back of the cab. It makes it a lot easier to manipulate the cab for grinding or polishing. In this case it makes it easier to hold on to the tiny gem stone a creative use I must say. Bebeaz

  10. avatar

    Traci

    June 21, 2012 at 8:46 am

    So very timely! I was just thinking about this yesterday. I too obtained a large quantity of small faceted gems and was wondering if snap sets were going to be my only option. My first thought was “I need to ask Wire-Sculpture!” 8^D I’m intrigued by Dale’s husband’s method and hope to try it soon. A big thank you to Dale, and all the other artists on this blog, for sharing your techniques and information! I love getting the tip of the day and soak in as much info as I can from it.

  11. avatar

    Sherry

    June 21, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Great idea Judy! I never thought of that!

  12. avatar

    Katherine Schilling

    June 22, 2012 at 6:59 am

    So many great ideas! I have several tiny cabs and CZ’ and gem stones. And I have some steel patterned wire. I’m ready to go to work with all these new tips! Thanks!

  13. avatar

    melissa

    June 28, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    I have used Dale’s husbands technique. I used a product called Judkins diamond glaze and it worked really well.
    http://www.diamondglaze.com/

  14. avatar

    Wilma Hughes

    August 9, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Dale
    Are you meaning to leave the resin in the dome shape or remove it? Would you put the cabs in with their domed shape to the bottom?
    Wilma

  15. avatar

    Tonie Marlow

    May 28, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    I understand the theory behind top sticks – However, is there any way a person could make their own? I’m thinking of using hot glue. Would hot glue hold it long enough to work? Wouldn’t it be fairly easy to take off when you’re done? What else might work? I’m used to thinking outside the box – in fact, I usually say, “What Box?” Thanks for your help!

  16. avatar

    Tonie Marlow

    May 28, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    Sorry! On my comment above, my spell check turned dop stick into top stick. Hopefully, you knew what I meant all along. 8^)

  17. avatar

    Kenna

    July 20, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    I am a lapidary and the resin idea is perfect for all my little scrap pieces of gemstones leftover from cutting. Some are gorgeous, just too small for earrings, so they would look great in a resin mosaic. Thanks for the idea.

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