Enlarging Holes in Gemstones
by Dale Armstrong
Question:

Sometimes the holes in gemstones are too small and I would like to make them larger. I tried a hand reamer but that did not work. Should I use a drill press or something else?

Part 2:

My husband is interested in drilling holes in gemstone beads or slabs that don't have one yet. What's the best way to go about it? What tools will we need?
Instructions
Answer:

There are two basic ways that the holes in most purchased, gemstone beads have been drilled. If you look at your hand reamer bit you will notice that it is graduated as are the drill bits used by manufacturers. A bead is either drilled from one side to the other, so the hole is bigger on one end that it is on the other; or it is drilled from both sides, which may not line up, so although the bead looks like it has a good sized hole all the way through, inside the hole is smaller and may not be aligned straight across the bead!

Using a hand reamer on softer materials like pearls, malachite, fluorite, etc will work better if you ream under water and use a continuous in and out motion. The diamond reamer used is actually grinding the material away, which collects on the reamer and needs to be flushed, both off of the reamer and out of the bead. The water also acts as a cooling agent and a lubricant for both the bit and the material.

On harder materials (agates, quartz, etc) you may find that using a press for a dremel or a flex shaft will work. Again, always work with the bead underwater at slow speeds, in and out, and use quality diamond bits. Be sure to wear safety glasses to avoid accidents if the bead should shatter.
Dale Armstrong's Enlarging Holes in Gemstones - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, How To Punch Holes, Hole Punching, Punch A Hole, Beads, Tools, Bead Reamer
Answer Part 2:

Each lapidary has their favorite tools and procedures for drilling holes in rock material; the following is how we drill holes in slabs in my studio.

We took a round cake pan and cut a piece of wood the same size. We put the wood in the bottom of the pan and filled it about 1/3 of the way with water. (It is imperative that rock be drilled in water to flush out the rock 'mud' as it grinds away and to keep both the material and drill bit cool.) This pan is then placed under a hand-operated drill press fitted with a diamond bit. (Choose a sintered bit that has diamond impregnated throughout the bit whereas a plated bit just has diamond around the outside edges and will wear out very quickly.) Using a constant up and down motion, the drill is continuously and evenly pressed against and into the rock, until a hole goes through it. Depending on both the hardness of the material being drilled and the desired depth of the hole, be prepared to go through several diamond bits before the hole is finished.
Dale Armstrong's Enlarging Holes in Gemstones - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, How To Punch Holes, Hole Punching, Punch A Hole, Beads, Tools, Drill Press

Materials

No materials listed

Tools

Benchtop Drill Press
DRL-300.00
  • DRL-300.00
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $99.97
  • Gold Club Price: $74.98
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Drill Press Vise
VIS-265.00
  • VIS-265.00
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $12.95
  • Gold Club Price: $9.71
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Pearl and Bead Drilling Vise HOL-178.00
HOL-178.00
  • HOL-178.00
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
Deluxe Bead Reamer Set
DIB-275.00
  • DIB-275.00
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $15.57
  • Gold Club Price: $11.68
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Motorized Bead Reamer with Diamond Drill Tip
G16-42
  • G16-42
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $24.97
  • Gold Club Price: $18.73
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Diamond Coated 3/32 Drill Bits - Set of 6
G26-55
  • G26-55
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $38.97
  • Gold Club Price: $29.23
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Cut Lube
BUR-180.00
  • BUR-180.00
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $5.97
  • Gold Club Price: $4.48
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Jett Basic Fixturing Compound - 1LB JET-300.00
Jet-300.00
  • Jet-300.00
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
Flex Shaft System, 1/4 Horsepower Motor
HDP-150.00
  • HDP-150.00
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $123.97
  • Gold Club Price: $92.98
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Flex Shaft Motor Hangers, Bench Clamp Model
HOL-620.00
  • HOL-620.00
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $31.97
  • Gold Club Price: $23.98
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  • Category: Tools
  • Technique(s): Filing / Finishing, Hole Punching, Beading, Tools