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Crosssection of a Pearl

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  • Crosssection of a Pearl

    Does anybody know how to cut a crosssection of a pearl? I know it's heresy here, but I am a woodworker and the longer I read and learn, the more I want to incorporate pearls into a woodworking design. Obviously I'm talking freshwater, as a ppb would be useless for this purpose. I want to use a slice of pearl, marquetry style, to resemble colored bubbles in a new piece depicting ocean life.

    Given that heat destroys pearls,

    given that force shatters them,

    Is there some kind of jewelers tool that can cut slowly and safely?

    I don't want to use a full round as it will eventually just fall out. Plus, it looks amateurish.

  • #2
    I don't want to use a full round...

    How about a button shaped pearl or a blister (mabe) pearl? They wouldn't protrude so far.

    (Sorry, but I don't know anything about cutting pearls.)


    • #3
      Dear Pearl_dreams:
      Thanks for the response. Since I need maybe 20 or so and have several different designs in mind, (I said this was heresy), the mabes would be way too expensive. The buttons could work if I switched my design parameters from Marquetry to Intarsia. With good quality Marquetry all the different layers of wood, pearl, gold, whatever you use should be completely smooth to the touch when finished. You should not be able to feel any lines between them. You should only be able to see the depth created by the use of the materials. With Intarsia the roundness and curvyness of the wood and other materials used are both seen and felt. I'd kind of like to combine both methods.
      So, guess I'm back to how do I cut a pearl without damaging it.
      Thanks for the idea.


      • #4
        I have seen marquetry so I understand the look you are describing. I've seen mother-of-pearl used in marquetry but never a cross section slice of a pearl.


        • #5
          Would a cross section of a pearl have that same pearly look you are after?


          • #6
            That's a good question. I wonder if someone in the trade would know.
            I know they occassionally break pearls when drilling but not if that would tell them enough.

            But I would think the answer should be yes because of the way wood grows in rings. If you cut it in different directions, (crosscut, quartercut, flitchcut) you get different looks. None of the looks mar the appearance of the wood and woodcrafters use this quality to get different looks for different projects.

            So, it would seem that if you could cut a pearl without smashing it into smithereens, or burning it, you should be able to get different kinds of reflective surfaces from it. It would depend a lot on the thickness of the slice, the quality of the original pearl, the size, etc.



            • #7
              Originally posted by xeresana
              Would a cross section of a pearl have that same pearly look you are after?
              No. You need to look through the layers of nacre top down to have them look like a pearl.

              I've tried to cut through pearls but it is not easy - mother or pearl is extremely tough... it scratches easily but does not break. What works: a rotating or vibrating saw. You'd need a tiny one, like a lapidary would use.

              I'd bet that it is easier to wear away half of the pearl on some harsh polishing wheel to end with a half-pearl. This is how I've got to see my 'crossections' too.

              Also, among the cheapest freshwater pearls are baroque ones with a flat side, and the button pearls and flat button pearls. Those already have a shape close to what you have in mind.

              The examples under the link are relatively large and even under $10 apiece, relatively expensive. You can have entire strands of small freshwater 'button' pearls for that much. Polish the flatter side down, and you've got yourself a half pearl, methinks.

              PS. Speaking of wood and pearls... look HERE. ... especially for 'The Mabe' section with its wood & mabe pendants...
              Last edited by Valeria101; 02-25-2008, 08:28 AM.


              • #8
                I have been following your posts for some time. You are very knowledgeable. Thank you for reinforcing the idea of the buttons. They do seem the way to go for what I have in mind for now since I do not want to purchase more equipment this year. I have a whole shop full. Might try gently sanding a pearl or two flat, just to visit the effects. I may put the idea on the back burner and work on it again a little later, when grad school isn't also pressing.
                More later,


                • #9
                  You are welcome just take my posts with a pinch of salt; I am an amateur too.

                  Grad school! Best of luck! I was also getting interested in jewelry forums towards the end of grad school... to ward off stress. It sort of worked