Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tutorial: Tips for Gluing Vintage Glass and Plastic Cabochons

It's easy to use vintage glass and plastic cabochons in mixed media and jewelry arts, and one of the easiest ways to incorporate them in your art is to glue them.

With gluing, you can make layered designs, such as the ring above....

You can make your own charms and embellishments, for jewelry or mixed media....

You can make stud earrings...

You can use gluing as a step to secure cabochons to a filigree and then wrap filigree around them.  Or in this example, I will use glue to secure the rhinestone into the pronged setting, since this particular stone and setting are not exactly matched, and without the glue, the stone will slide just a little...

You get the idea.  I've pulled together these tips for gluing vintage glass and plastic cabochons into your mixed media and jewelry designs, things that I've learned through trial and error over the years.

1) Work in a well ventilated area. 

2) Use the right glue.
Craft glues or hot glue will not give you the bond and/or the professional finish. I've tried lots and lots of glues, and I now use E6000. I'm guessing there are other jewelry glues that also would be effective, but since E6000 works really reliably for me, I'm sticking with it (ha ha...) E6000 dries out pretty quickly, so I usually purchase small tubes now. You want it to be clear and stringy. Once it is cloudy or thicker, the bond is not as strong.

3) Clean your metal and maybe your cabochons. 
Use a cotton swab and dampen with rubbing alcohol, squeeze out the excess and swab the metal surface to be glued. Then flip the cotton swab over and use the dry end to dry where you have swabbed. I always do this cleaning step for metal surfaces, which can have oils or residues from their processing.  I don't always do it for the cabochons, it depends. If they are plain glass on their backs, I always clean them. If they are foiled on their backs, I never clean them. I often clean plastics, but not always. I've worked with a lot of different types of vintage plastics and not had a problem, especially since I am immediately drying the cab with the other end of the swab. However, if you have any doubts or you are unsure about the material you are working with, don't apply any sort of solvent to it.

4) Put your glue on the smaller of the two surfaces to be joined. 
So, if you want to glue a glass cabochon onto a metal bezel or setting to make a charm or pendant, put the glue on the glass cabochon. If the cabochon has a rim, like the one in the photo above, spread the glue on the rim.  If you want to glue an earring post onto a cabochon to make a stud earring, put the glue onto the earring post.  Spread a thin layer of glue as close to the edges of the surface as possible. Covering the surface as completely as possible is important to getting a good bond.

5) I use a highly technical and specialized tool to apply glue, the rounded wooden toothpick :)
I use this to pick up glue and put it onto the surface(s) of items I am gluing, I use the dry end to gently press surfaces together, such as pressing a cabochon into a bezel setting, or pressing an earring post pad onto a cabochon, and I use it for scraping up excess glue from places I don't want glue to be.

6) To glue things with a rounded or irregular surface or shape, use a bowl of rice.
Nestle the cabochons, earrings, charms, bezels, whatever you are gluing, into the rice to dry.  Above, I show cufflinks drying, post down.

This works well for making stud earrings, and also really helps with making charms and pendants that are not completely flat, for example, those with a bail.  Save your rice in the plastic container for the next time. I have a dedicated rice bowl in my studio for this purpose.

7) If necessary, glue under magnification.
I usually use high powered reading glasses so I can see the positioning and and remove any unwanted glue.

It helps alot if the glasses are cool colors with hand painted embellishments :)

Additional suggestions:

1) In addition to working in a well ventilated area, I often do my gluing at the very end of my day, and then leave my studio so the fumes completely dissipate before I return to my studio in the morning.

2) If you are gluing a cabochon into a setting or bezel, it is obvious where the cab should be positioned. But sometimes you may be gluing a cabochon to a filigree, or an earring pad to a cabochon, and where you glue will affect the presentation of your piece. Check the positioning of your items before gluing as much as is possible, to ensure the finished product will work the way you want it to.  Here's an idea from my mixed media background: Play around with positioning using glue dots, you know, those dots of glue that come on strips of paper.  You can temporarily adhere your cabochon to the base to check positioning, then remove the glue dot and use permanent glue to glue the cabochon securely in the location you want.

3) What if you use too much glue? If you see glue oozing out where you don't want to see it, use the dry end of the toothpick to gently and carefully scrape up the glue. Wipe your toothpick on a rag, and go back in to get more of the excess glue off. I recommend a rag, not a paper towel, since the paper can get stuck to the toothpick. If it's really just a gloppy mess, pull the two surfaces apart, and if the surfaces are the right type, clean both with isopropyl alcohol to remove the glue residue from both surfaces, dry, and start again.

4) I always dry overnight, no matter what the glue container says.

5) I do quality control. I check my materials before gluing to be sure they are the condition I want.  After gluing, basically, I try my darndest to pry apart the glued items.

I hope this is helpful.  If you have additional suggestions or experiences with gluing cabochons, I'd love to hear them!


  1. So, where can I get these "highly technical and specialized tools"? And, are they expensive?

    Just kidding. :D Thanks for the tips. I am usually peeling the glue off of my fingers and a thousand other surfaces because I like the haphazard approach. Your way is soo much simpler and genius. I must implement it, immediately.

  2. I can't wait to use the bowl of rice to set things in to dry. I'm always trying to prop my pieces up here, there, and everywhere! Lol.

  3. Excellent tutorial, Sharon! And believe me, one I will wholeheartedly use!


    M.E. :)

  4. I made a flat oval sterling silver chainmail piece and wanted to glue it into a bezel ring mount. Because the chainmail is flexible, I easily manipulated it into a domed shape. This meant only 6 rings (and only the bottom of those rings) would sit in the glue. I used 2-part epoxy and filled the bezel a little too much. Some of the glue overflowed. I did my best to clean it up before it dried, but I couldn't remove all of it. Got any suggestions? For the future, would E6000 work if I used the same method? Do you have any other suggestions? Thanks in advance.

  5. Hi Georgia, Thanks for having a look at my blog post. I never use 2 part epoxy, so I’m afraid I have no suggestions regarding that type of glue. My guess is that E6000 might work for you. It’s pretty stringy when fresh, which is when I think you get the best bond, but the nice thing is that it’s easy to remove a blob from the bezel if you think you have too much in there – you have a short time where you can manipulate the glue if you need to. Also, if the stringy bits get where you don’t want them, I’ve found it pretty easy to scrape them off, so perhaps that is different from working with epoxy as you describe it. Best of luck!

  6. Thanks Bumbershoot, you had the gluing advice I was searching for, and your instructional pictures are great too !

  7. Great simple advise. I find I can make a big mess with glue and use too much or too little. I will try your tricks. I've used a styrofoam ball in a cup to glue things on posts but the rice gives much more flexibility. Thanks.

  8. What are your thoughts on Hypo-Tube Cement? I have heard it should be used especially on glass stones, etc. b/c E-6000 can yellow over time. Is that true? Have you even heard of that ever happening? I'm curious what your thoughts are.

  9. Hi Christine, Great question! Hypo-Tube Cement is one of those glues that is readily available and often recommended. I'll just be direct and honest - I have not had success with it. I can't get it to bond reliably, so I never use it any more. Perhaps the items I want to glue are too heavy for it? I have not noticed yellowing with E6000, but then I probably wouldn't since I can't see the glue in my designs, and as a general rule I don't seem to glue transparent stones where you might be more likely to see that sort of thing. I hope this is helpful! Best wishes, Sharon

  10. Hi Sharon....I've had a couple of vintage pins with foil backed rhinestones that came unglued. I used E6000 to re-glue the rhinestones and lost the sparkle in the stones. It's like it dissolved the foil backing and made it all muddled looking. Can you suggest a glue for re-gluing foil back rhinestones? Thanks so much!

  11. Hi glorious eporium,

    Great question! I’m sure it is possible for components in the E6000 to react adversely with components of the foil on certain vintage rhinestones. I can’t speak from experience, since I do not do jewelry repair. Also, in working with foil backed cabochons and rhinestones, I have never had the problem you describe with E6000. But it is important to make a distinction between working with vintage “new old stock” that has never been made into jewelry and making repairs to vintage pieces, since these have very different histories, cleaning needs, etc. compared to the vintage items I work with. I did a bit of research and here is what I can offer:

    1. A lot of folks swear by G S Hypo Cement. It is supposed to remain clear (not yellow) and can be purchased in a tube with a needle-like applicator which is great for small places. I have had mixed experiences with it, so I don’t use it for my purposes any more, but lots of folks recommend it for vintage jewelry repair.

    2. I have never tried it, but one of my colleagues uses clear Sally Hansen Hard As Nails to glue small rhinestones. The brush is handy too. If you try this, I’d love to know how it works.

    Other things to consider:

    3. Always be sure the foil is intact. If the foil is damaged, scratched or flaking, which often happens when a glued-in stone falls out of a setting, this means the seal of the foil to the glass is compromised. This could create 2 issues: first that the damaged foil more readily reacts with components in the glue you are using and second, instead of the glue being on the foil, it is on the glass, which will dull the appearance of the stone when viewed from the front. When the foil is no longer intact, I suggest locating a replacement stone (or stones, since it may ultimately be necessary to replace all similar stones in order to obtain the best appearance).

    4. When purchasing replacement stones, buy a couple extra and try applying your glue to the back of one stone. Let the stone dry for a day or two and see what happens. If you don’t see clouding, you can more confidently proceed.

    I hope this is helpful! Thanks for asking!

  12. it wasn't easy to find some good tips for starting on cabochon jewelry making, but your post is invaluable! thanks for sharing!!

  13. Sharon,
    I've been using the E-6000 glue for some time now. Recently, I was checking over some of my jewelry pieces that were made some time ago. As I was giving one of my pieces the little 'tug' test to make sure it was still bonded properly - it just popped right off! And as I tested another, it did the same. These were glass cabs glued to a brass setting for bobby pins. Am I doing something wrong for this to happen? Or should I use a different type of glue in this instance. I want my pieces to be durable and last through time.

  14. Hi Christine,

    First, I want to give you kudos for checking your designs over time to see how they are performing. It is a really important aspect of quality control, so hats off to you!

    Here are some ideas I had about your issue, in no particular order: You could double check that the surfaces you are gluing are clean. Metals often have residue from the manufacturing process and this can interfere with the bond. Be sure that your glue is fresh (E6000 dries out quickly) and that you allow your designs to cure at least 24 hours. Make sure you are using enough glue, so for example, make sure your glue goes as close to the edge of the cabochon or gluing pad as possible so the full gluing surface is used. You might want to consider roughing up your metal gluing pad with sandpaper to create a bit of “tooth” before you glue. I have noticed that various settings have gluing pads with cross hatched or bumpy surfaces, which presumably serve the same purpose. You will likely get a better hold if you use a finding with a gluing pad that is as close in size as possible to the cabochon (vs. a small gluing pad with a large cabochon). Another approach would be to use a finding with a setting that can be squeezed around the cabochon. I am thinking in particular of lace edged settings, which have a flat base for gluing and then a scalloped edging that can be tightened around the cabochon. It’s just another way to ensure the cabochon stays put. You can also experiment with various epoxys to see if you get a better result, although I can’t make a recommendation since I don’t have experience with them.

    I hope some of these ideas are helpful to your situation. Good luck!

  15. I use E6000 glue for cabs but it shows through if I glue a clear cab over a digital image. It soaks though the paper. Could you help me?
    Thanks, Julia

  16. Hi Julia, I don't have specific advice since I have not tried to do this. But maybe there is a parallel with using resin. I don't work with resin, except for a few experiments, but I've done some reading about it. I have learned that when pouring resin over paper, it is usually necessary to seal the paper before pouring the resin, otherwise you can get bleeding and blotches on the paper. I've also learned that different types of paper and ink (for example, laser vs. ink jet) can have different results. You will find lots of discussion of sealing paper, and types of glues for sealing as well as types of paper and ink, with a quick Google search. I'm thinking this information might lead to a few useful experiments to try for your situation. I hope this is helpful! ~Sharon

  17. Interesting post. What about gluing cabochons to a photo? I just tried gluing my glass cabochon to my photo and I'm seeing some spots. Wondering if it is going to disappear after a little bit. I love getting the cabochon stickers and the epoxy stickers for my photos for the bottle caps and the cabochon settings. But I have the glass cabochons too.

  18. Hi Jennifer, Thanks for your interest! I don’t have direct experience to share, but I think my response to Julia above, applies here also. Basically, I’m thinking the blotches you see are an interaction between the glue and paper, and you may need to put a barrier between the two. This can also be seen when working with resin, which is why I suggest researching that topic. It helps to bring a spirit of inquiry and adventure, because it may take a few tries before you find a combination of paper – ink – sealant and/or glue that will work. Good luck! ~Sharon

  19. I am new at this and have appreciated your instructions, but after scratching the metal surface and cleaning with alcohol I apply E6000 to both surfaces then let it set up for a minute or two before joining them. This seems to give an almost instant bond with no movement or oozing and holds well.

  20. Hi Doreen, I'm glad you've found the post helpful! Yes, I think it can sometimes help to rough up the surface(s) you are gluing to create a better bond, especially if they are both slick surfaces. I know some folks have good experience with waiting until E6000 is a bit tacky before joining the surfaces. It is always good to try a few methods to see what works best for your situation. Thanks for the tips! ~Sharon

  21. Hi Sharon,

    I've learned something useful from your post. The toothpick idea is certainly ingenious.

    I wish to try attaching silver plated brass filigrees onto the cab setting of a locket.
    Will the same method above work?

    Thank you

  22. Hi Karen,

    Yes indeed, I have used the same approach to glue metal to metal, with good results. Sometimes roughing up the metal surfaces can help provide a bit of "tooth". Good luck!


  23. Hi Sharon,

    Thanks for the tips! Love the rice ball idea. :)

    I have also used the method were both the setting and the stone have glue. That has worked well - with bigger items. For some reason, I can't make smaller stones to attach. Perhaps the problem is with the amount of glue, there's easily too much or too little of it. It's clumsy!

    I also roughen the surfaces. And I have always put a glue spot in the center. Never thought I could used alcohol on plated brass though. Maybe I should give that a try.

  24. Hi there,

    So glad to hear you found the information helpful! Thanks for the extra tips.


  25. I want to attach some cabochons to a sequin dress TEMPORARILY. How do you suggest I do that?

  26. They are flatback ones and I only want them temporarily on a sequin dress is this possible?

  27. Good question! I don't have direct experience with this, but I recommend searching Google with the key words "temporary fabric adhesive" or "temporary fabric glue". When I do this, I find lots of different products that may meet your needs, many with customer reviews that may be helpful. Good luck! ~Sharon

  28. Thanks for this easy to follow advice. I've never used cabachons before and I want to for the first time so this is just what I needed!

  29. Thanks for cool advice. Although I have figured out most of them by myself, they´re fun to read!

  30. I have used so many different glues and find that E6000 is the best, however, I double checked my work, today which is cabochons or flatbacks glued to metal ring bases, and tugged on them only to find that some, not all, just popped off. I clean, sand, hold, leave to dry and now don't know what I need to do next.

  31. Have you tried resin? If so, with which result? :)

  32. I have not tried resin, so I don't know what to recommend there. If anyone has, please feel free to let us know what you have used and how it works as a glue.

  33. Sooo I attached some bezels and cabochons with E6000, and I was wondering if there was a way to dissolve E6000 so I could reuse my supplies? 9 of the batch I made turned out bad ( due to not sealing artwork first), and I'd like to try again.

  34. Whenever I end up with too much E6000 I usually end up scraping it away with a sharp tool. I have heard that acetone might work to loosen or dissolve E6000, but I have not tried it. There probably are more ideas online, but those are 2 approaches you might try.

  35. This has been very helpful! Even though I did not have the best luck with e6000, I love the rice to hold my earrings. I think I need to focus on curing times in my search for the best glue.... Thanks for sharing!