How to Make a Crystal Plant Ornament
By Guest Author Skyler Blair aka SkyTheMaker
Natural crystal is very popular and I’m excited to share with you how to easily make some plant ornaments. You don’t have to use them in plants however, they make a cool statement on a desk, in a tray or even mounted as a necklace. People love getting them as gifts!
First things first:
Ok, so the title is a little misleading. This raw material is actually called Selenite or Gibson, a mineral commonly found in desert climates. You can buy Selenite off Amazon or, if you live close to a Gibson mine, you can find all the Selenite you could carry from the old tailings piles. I found this in southern Utah. I would encourage using larger pieces no smaller than 5” long, 1” wide, by ½” thick.
Safety gear. It is essential. While the materials are not toxic, they pulverize and get airborn into a fine powder. NOT good for your eyes or lungs. I’ll list my favorite gear at the end of this article, but here you can see what I usually wear.
Picking the overall shape of your shard is easier than it sounds. Your raw material should already have a sort of form to it, all you need to do is start sanding flat edges into it. If you’re still not sure what shape to pick, just start with a long rectangle and then turn it into an unevenly shaped octagon as you continue sanding. You can even choose to turn one of the ends into a point and leave some of the raw untouched material on the other end, like I have done.
Using a belt sander is sort of the tricky part, but it saves a lot of time and if you can get past the sanding stage, the rest is easy. To get started, I use a small EX Electronix belt sander with a 400 grit belt on it.
This tool is more commonly used for hobby knife making but it seems to work well when sanding Selenite. The trick with sanding Selenite is to be very gentle or it will vibrate the material so much it falls apart in sheets. This is why I don’t use a more common sander from the hardware store.
After the desired shape is created the rest of the sanding is done by hand. Start with 800 grit sandpaper working on the flat areas, usually about 60 seconds per side. Then, finish off the shard with 1000 grit sandpaper and repeat the process. Brush off your selenite with an old stiff paint brush or dry wash cloth.
Now you’re ready for the buffing wheel.
Buffing is easier than you think, but you need a legit buffing wheel to produce a professional looking shine on your shard. I use a power tech BF600 with a “white diamond” Jewelers polishing compound. Turn the wheel on and lightly touch the tip of the white diamond polishing compound stick to the running wheel for 2-3 seconds. Then, use both hands to hold the shard firmly and lightly touch the shard to the outer corner of the wheel. Pretend you are painting the shard with the wheel moving back and forth, slowly. Turn the shard as you do this but maintain a firm grip or you will find that the wheel likes to grip onto and throw your Selenite across the room.
This is my favorite part of working with sanded Selenite. Once fully buffed the stone gives away all of its hidden veins and intricate cracks. It is by far the most interesting part of working with this mineral.
Here’s my workshop Buffer.
White Diamond Polishing Compound
Working with wire can be straight forward if you use the proper material.
There are two types of wire you can purchase, one is high quality and hard to work with and the other is cheap and easy. I used cheap and easy for this project but if you are making these to sell I would seriously consider using higher quality material.
The cheap wire can be found at Michaels, as they sell “copper wire” in the jewelry section but really it’s just aluminum wire coated with a thin sheet of see through plastic that looks like copper. Be careful with this material because it’s really easy to scratch or marr. Definitely don’t use regular needle nose pliers as they have groves which will easily tear off the plastic covering.
The higher quality copper wire can be found at Home Depot. Go to the electrical section where they sell conduit and electrical components. In this area should be a large carousel type rack with a bunch of different kinds of electrical coated copper wire on it. The kind you are looking for is non-coated (solid, not braided) copper wire. You will need to get a Home Depot employee to help you locate and cut off your desired length from the desired gauge of wire. Don’t think too hard about the thickness of wire as long as it isn’t too big or hard to bend. If I lost you here, just tell the attendant that you want non-coated 16 gauge solid core copper wire. If they don’t know what that means then congratulations, you know more than the “electrical specialist” at Home Depot. Don’t brag too much, they receive less than 8 hours of training for that title.
Grip one end of the wire with a pair of ridgeless jewelry pliers then, carefully wrap the wire around the tip of the pliers to create your first curl. After 1-2 rotations you should be able to do the rest by hand. Put the shard in your non-dominant hand and hold the wire curl in place with your thumb on the face of the shard. In this process you will probably scratch the Selenite a little, don’t get too hung up on perfection, these pieces aren’t going to the Louvre. Then take this one bend at a time making your way around the shard until you get one full rotation. This is NOT like wrapping a shoelace around your finger. Press your dominant thumb into the wire on the apex of each angle to bend it around the shard. Again this will press small recesses into the Selenite, not a big deal, you won’t even notice when its done.
Here’s a video tutorial of simple wire wrapping on found objects:
Finished beautiful crystal and copper wire ornament!
Safety supplies used:
We hope you enjoyed this tutorial for working with selenite and copper wire. You can find more of Skyler’s creations by following him on Instagram at “skythemaker”.