drilling freshwater pearls


Dec 25, 2020
I live in a very rural area with no jewelry store within 120 miles, and have not found anyone within 300 miles that can or will drill my pearls for me. I have over the years received several freshwater pearl mussels, so now I have about 100 pearls with no holes. A couple years ago I started making beaded jewelry and want to use these pearls in my personal jewelry. I have researched drilling holes in pearls, but most I find is about saltwater pearls, and/or just enlarging current holes using everything from a dremel tool to $1,000+ tools.
I have a couple questions about drilling these myself:
  1. Can I or should I use the same tools for the freshwater pearls as I see for the others?
  2. Since the fw pearls do not have a bead nucleus can I drill all the way through in one pass or should I drill half way and then drill the other way in?

Any suggestions of inexpensive equipment that I can get that will do a good job for me? My pearls are from fairly small to about 8mm.

Any insight is most appreciated.
Hello JaciS and welcome to our pearl loving community :)
There are many experts here on our forum, some with decades of experience drilling pearls. Surely the answers will begin poring in :)
Happy Holidays!
Well I got my drilling machine and am ready to start drilling my freswater pearls. The machine included 6 drill bits - but these look more like a chisel point since there are no threads on the bits.

This raised a question for me - what is the best drill bit to hole a pearl - I will be drilling halfway through and flipping to drill through the other side and not enlarging holes.

  1. diamond coated or not coated?
  2. Plain steel or tungston?
  3. Twisted or not?
  4. Is double ended just for convience or is there something different with these bits?
  5. What is the use for diamond burrs?
Hello there JaciS, I might not be able to offer much help there because drilling has never been my forté, but please review this thread and you will find A TON of information that will help you make a better decision :)
Hello JaciS

  1. diamond coated or not coated?
    I wouldn’t bother with coated bits, the benefits of the coatings aren’t really relevant to drilling pearls
  2. Plain steel or tungston?
    Your choice, tungsten is harder, and lasts longer if not flexed.
    Plain steel/high speed steel is easier to resharpen (if you do production work this can be a factor to consider)
  3. Twisted or not?
    Personal choice - but if doing production work, the traditional bits have advantage if you learn to resharpen them.
  4. Is double ended just for convience or is there something different with these bits?
    Convenience mostly 😀
  5. What is the use for diamond burrs?
    Metal and stone working, not necessary for pearls

Hope this helps
Thank you both for the information. i think with 6 bits that came with the machine I should get a start on my new toy. I'm very excited but a bit apprehensive to get this going next week when my cast comes off my arm!!!!