What Glue Should I Use? …When Making Jewelry
WHAT GLUE SHOULD I USE?
I often get many questions about what glue to use with rhinestones and other beading and jewelry-making projects. I design jewelry. I do some silversmithing, wire working, bead stringing, bead weaving, kumihimo, and other techniques in my designs. I have been beading and making jewelry for over 30 years, and own a bead shop in Nashville, Tennessee.
When you make jewelry and need an adhesive to attach one component to another, to embellish a piece with stones, to secure a clasp, or to finish off or begin a new stringing material, you have certain issues you need to contend with.
First, all jewelry moves when worn. This results in a tremendous amount of force placed on the jewelry, increasing stresses and strains. You want the glue-bond to be able to resist, or better accommodate, these forces.
Second, you do not want your glue-bond to expand when dry.
Third, you want your glue-bond to dry clear.
Fourth, you want your glue-bond to withstand the very cold and very hot extremes of temperature where you live.
You want your glue to be able to bond to the materials you are working with.
You want to easily wipe off and remove the excess glue from your piece.
Nothing is perfect, but based on our experiences, here are some good tips:
(1) Always experiment with your adhesives first, before you use an adhesive on your final project. No one glue works with every project.
(2) Glues vary widely in terms of which materials they stick to, how well they form a bond between two smooth surfaces, and how the glue bond ages, both in terms of durability and color, and whether the glue expands in volume after it dries, or not.
(3) Clean the excess glue off your piece before you display or sell it.
(4) You will probably have to rely on more than one type of glue to accommodate all your types of projects.
Jeweler’s glues are the perfect choice in most situations. Jeweler’s glues dry like rubber, so the bond acts as a shock absorber. They also dry clear and without expansion. Jeweler’s glues take 24 hours to dry hard. They begin to set in 10 minutes, so you can move things and re-position them, if you want, during these 10 minutes. At 20 minutes, the consistency is like rubber cement. Excess glue can easily be rubbed off with your fingers or pulled off with a tweezers.
The two brands I use the most are E6000 and Beacon 527. The glues are very similar. E6000 is very thick. Beacon 527 is very runny. Beacon 527 begins to set a little faster.
E6000 and Beacon 527
My favorite glue is referred to as a 1-part epoxy (but it’s not really an epoxy). “1-part” means that you don’t have to mix anything to make the glue — it just comes out of a tube. One brand is called E6000, and this version of the glue is thick in consistency. Another version of the glue is called Beacon 527. This glue is runny. Some people prefer one or the other. E6000 is the first one I used, and I prefer that one. But I actually use both where I think the thickness or the runnyness might be an advantage. There are other brands as well.
Perfect for attaching findings to base metal and costume jewelry pieces. Also, use E-6000 on bead strands to seal end knots and to provide a strong, flexible seal that won’t become brittle or damage the bead cord. E-6000 is safe for use with virtually every type of gemstone and works on wood, leather, vinyl, and canvas.
Non-corrosive and self-leveling, E-6000 adheres in 5 to 10 minutes, and hardens to a clear, waterproof cure in 24 hours. This means you have about 10 minutes to position and reposition whatever you are gluing. After about 20 minutes, you can take your finger and/or a tweezers and rub off any glue that has oozed out from any edges or around any pieces. If you are making jewelry, you should let the piece dry “hard” overnight, before you wear it.
E-6000 dries like rubber, so the glue acts like a shock absorber, as your jewelry moves.
Drawbacks: It doesn’t bond well between two smooth pieces of glass. Here it’s a good idea to rough up the surface a bit with steel wood or sand paper or metal file. It doesn’t bond well to very oily surfaces.
Superglue is not our favorite! Superglue has very few uses in jewelry design. It often ruins rhinestones (it discolors them and makes them cloudy) and other pieces we use in jewelry-making. It’s bond is tough, but it breaks easily when pieces move. Superglue dries like glass, and the bond shatters like glass. Moreover, the shattered bond looks like a piece of broken glass, so if any stringing material is nearby, the bond can cut it. It is terrible with elastic string.
We do, however, use superglue occasionally.
Cement or Glue?
A glue works by surrounding or closing in on an object. As the solvent in the glue evaporates, it’s “collar” gets tighter and tighter.
A cement works by adhering to all the individual fibers or elements of the materials you are using.
G-S Hypo Cement
This is the jeweler’s version of superglue. It doesn’t dry instantly like superglue. It takes about 20 minutes to set. It’s bond is like that of superglue.
We often use it to seal end knots, or coat a frayed strand of cord. We sometimes use it on crimp beads to enhance the closure. Unlike its super glue cousin, G-S Hypo Cement takes several minutes to set, so you can move things around during this time.
This glue has a very ultrathin needle point to get into very tight spaces.
G-S Hypo Fabric Cement
This version of g-s hypo cement is perfect for gluing knots in fibrous materials, especially silk. Great with any bead cord or stringing material made with natural materials.
Fabric Glue or Fabri Tac
Fabric and bead cords are made up of many, many micro fibers. It is important for the glue to bond to all these fibers, else, the bond won’t hold. While I prefer the G-S Hypo Fabric Cement, these glues are a good substitute.
Hot Glue Guns
Hot glue guns are easy and fun to use. When the materials you are using are large and bulky, hot glue guns make the projects go faster.
The glue’s bond will not last forever. The glue will yellow with age. The bond weakens at body temperature. If you made a dangly pair of earrings, and hot-glued a rhinestone to the piece that touches the ear, the rhinestone will likely pop off when the earring is worn. If you hot-glued stuff on the dangle, you won’t have the same problem.
This line of glues is very, very strong. However, the bond expands as the glue dries. Most versions do not dry clear. They discolor with age.
Elmers Glue and School Glue
These glues are safe for kids. They work OK, but the bonds weaken when wet, through washing or sweating.
About Gluing Rhinestones, Marcasites, and other Stones or Components
Your goals for gluing rhinestones into or onto a piece of jewelry or cloth or other surface are simple:
- A bond that sticks and is durable.
- A bond that does not ruin the materials you are using.
- A bond which dries clear and ages clear.
- Glue which will not show outside or over the edges of the stone.
- Glue where you can easily remove any excess glue that extends beyond the boundaries of the stone.
- Glue which does not expand when it dries.
Glue can adversely affect your materials, so you always want to do some pretesting! Also, some of the rhinestone and other glues you may use might be soluble in soapy water, such as when you wash your hands or wash dishes.
Rhinestones are foiled back pieces of acrylic, glass or crystal. Some glues will pull the foil off or make it crinkle. Some glues may make the rhinestones cloudy. This is especially true with acrylic and glass rhinestones, but not necessarily with crystal rhinestones.
I prefer to use E6000 when gluing these into settings, onto fabric, or onto other surfaces. This creates the strongest bond. Most E6000-stones glued onto fabric will survive the washing machine several times.
When we use E6000 with rhinestones, we put a little drop of glue on the end of a pin. Then we touch the glue to the back of the rhinestone. We maneuver the pin-glue-rhinestone over the place where we want the stone to be. Then we push the rhinestone in place with our finger, and simultaneously pull the pin away from the stone. After about 20 minutes, we rub the stone and around the stone with our finger or the pin to get any excess glue off.
Some additional suggestions about glues
A great book to buy is The Crafter’s Guide To Glues by Tammy Young. In it she discusses all the types of glues, including the following:
White glues, such as Elmer’s Glue All
- bond is not strong, so useful for lightweight objects only
- bond is not flexible, so not useful for things where there is movement
- may not dry clear
-materials used must be porous
Tacky glues, like hot glue gun
- usually dry clear and are flexible, but can wash out
- body temperature can weaken bond
Clear Craft Glues
- wash out easily
- for lightweight projects
- instant adhesive, that works with many smooth surfaces, but not well with smooth glass surfaces
- will cloud rhinestones
- especially good with plastic pieces
- water resistant, but not best choice for washable projects
- inflexible; does not work well where there is movement
High Tech Adhesives, like E6000 and Beacon 527
- not water soluble
- bonds to both porous and non-porous materials
- does not bond well to rubber
- sets slowly, so you can re-position things
- dries clear
Fabric Glues, like No-Sew
- holds up through several dry cleaning cycles
- formulated to glue fabric to fabric
- make also work well to glue various embellishments to fabric
Fusibles, where you melt the glue with an iron or another heat source, such as a transfer
- for applying appliques or transfers
- prewash all materials before fusing
Aquarium Glue (glass cements)
- great for bonding two smooth surfaces of glass
Clear Cements, like G-S Hypo Tube or Watch Crystal Cement
- Doesn’t dry as fast as super glue, so can do some re-positioning, but bonds strong like super glue
- Good to use for sealing knots in jewelry projects
- Not as strong as epoxies or high tech adhesives
- water resistant and not affected by temperature
As with anything you do as a bead and jewelry artist, you want to ask lots of questions and get lots of advice. You want to play with a wide variety of tools and glues and stringing materials and metals and beads. You want to experiment. Let yourself try and err.
This is a lot of information. But this Orientation is important. Very important. Making jewelry is very similar to building a bridge — you must be familiar with many kinds of materials, how the materials interrelate, and how you link and connect these materials in a durable and appealing piece which wears well, and moves well with the wearer.
Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:
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