Collect tools and materials. You will need: glue, briolettes, caps, scale, pliers, wire cutters, tweezers, modeling clay, sharpie marker, long sewing pins, pencil and paper.
Set up clay on paper, put stones in the clay, weigh them, and write the weight in front of the stones on the paper.
Examine drill holes and clean if necessary.
Sometimes there is polishing compound left in the drill holes. It will look like a dark inclusion after the glue sets. To clean it, soak the stone in denatured alcohol and flush with a stiff artist’s paint brush. You can also put a tiny wad of cotton into the drill hole with one of the long sewing pins. Make sure the drill hole is dry before you glue, or the alcohol may dilute the glue and keep it from setting up.
Examine the caps for defects. One of the caps I frequently use has a jump ring soldered to the top. In a high percentage of cases, the jump ring will snap off with a little pressure from my fingers. I test them and return the defective caps for a refund.
Cut the posts to fit each stone. Leave the post as long as possible. This will help to insure that you have a strong bond after the glue sets up. Sometimes you have to work the post with your pliers to round it and get it to fit. Never force the post into the hole because it’s easy to break a sunstone doing that. Actually it’s easy to break most stones by forcing too big a post in to the hole. If it doesn’t fit easily, rework the post, cut it shorter, use a different cap, or use a bead reamer to enlarge the drill hole.
Some caps I like for pendants have big posts. For these, I use a bead reamer to enlarge the drill hole.
Orient the brio to face the direction you want it to in the finished piece. Schiller in sunstone is directional, so find the schiller and face it forward.
Think about and visualize how you will attach the cap to the finished piece. You don’t want to glue the cap on with the jump ring facing forward and then realize that when you connect it to your piece, the jump ring faces sideways. Sometimes I have to draw out the connections to be sure about how to orient the cap. Always orient it so that the schiller faces forward in the finished piece.
Mark the front of the brio (where the best schiller is) with the sharpie. This will help to keep you from accidentally turning the brio a tiny bit when you are glueing. More than once I’ve realized that the schiller is 1/4 turn off, and you don’t see it when the brio is attached to the piece of jewelry. (Of course this always happens after the glue has set!). So always be sure to mark the front; when you put the caps on, you can then be sure your orientation is right before the glue sets up.
Glue the caps on. Wear grubby clothes for this part of the project because it’s easy to drag your sleeve though the glue or wipe your hands on your pants.
Mix the glue. I do this on a folded piece of paper using one of the long pins to mix it with. I also save the piece of paper until the next day. What’s left of the glue should be hard and snap when you break it. If it does, you will know you mixed it correctly and it has set up.
I mix tiny amounts because the glue sets up in five minutes and is pretty tacky in 3-4 minutes. This is why I mix a tiny amount, do a few caps, and then mix some more. I hold a long pin in each hand and wear a headset so that I can see exactly what I’m doing. I scrape some glue onto one of the pins and put it in the drill hole.
Then I work it up and down until tiny air bubbles come to the top of the glue. I pop these with the other pin, making sure to get all of the air bubbles out. (Nothing irritates me more than to see an air bubble in the middle of my completely natural, untreated gemstone!) But by now you’ve probably figured out that I might be just a tad bit fussy.
Fill the drill hole as much as possible, put a little glue on the top or inside the cap. Then put the cap on, making sure it’s straight and oriented correctly. For the first 5 minutes, you can move the cap to straighten it. Be careful, though, because they sometimes want to go sideways.
I try to make sure that blobs of glue do not come out of the cap. The glue is hard to clean, and if it sets up you have to scrape it off the next day. If you do end up with a blob of glue, though, scrape it down the side of the brio with your pin. The next day it will be easier to scrape thin glue off than thick glue.
Now let it set up for 24 hours. Test the caps by tugging straight up on them. (Don’t twist to either side, or you may learn what we mean when we say that sunstone has four directions of cleavage!) Even if you’re working with another material, be careful. Never use force. Take it from me: it’s really a bummer to break a stone.
If there is glue on the stone, you can often scrape it off with your fingernails or a small metal tool. (I often use a sharp beading awl to clean the stones.) The long sewing pins will work on some of it, too. Clean the sharpie marks off with denatured alcohol, and you’re finished.
This process sounds more complicated than it is. Mostly it just requires careful attention. I’ve listed each step to try to help you be as efficient as possible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mixed the glue and then realized that I didn’t clean the drill holes or check the caps for defects! This means I have to go back and redo what I’ve just done.
The following is summary to put on your worktable.
1. Collect your tools.
2. Put the stones in clay, weigh them, and write the weight on the paper.
3. Clean the drill holes.
4. Test the caps.
5. Fit the caps to the stone.
6. Orient the stones and mark the front.
7. Glue the caps on.
8. After 24 hours, test the caps and clean any excess glue off.
Sometimes the cap slips sideways, the schiller isn’t oriented right, you don’t like the cap, or you want to take the cap off for some reason.
To do this, some people soak the stone in a product called “Attack” until the glue is dissolved. I used to use Attack and sometimes soaked those suckers for days to get them to come apart. I discovered that the stuff is really volatile and corrosive and that it evaporates quickly. So if you use it, use a glass container with a lid that fits well.
A goldsmith recently told me to put water in with it because the water sits on top and keeps it from evaporating. But I stopped using the product, because it takes so long to dissolve the glue and it is pretty toxic.
So now I use heat. I put the brio on a lightweight cloth towel and gently heat it with a hair dyer. If you’re good with a torch, that will work, too. I’ve also had good luck heating caps in water. Set the piece in your hottest tap water for a minute or two. Then add hotter water. Wait a minute or two, then add hotter water.
Whatever heat source you use, you need to get the cap hot to the touch. Then hold the end of the stone and cap with the towel, and tug firmly and straight up on the cap.
Be careful: Don’t twist or turn the cap!
If it doesn’t come out, heat it some more. Keep testing and heating until you can pull it out.
Also be careful when you are using this method with other materials. Sunstone (and most materials) can take heat, but some stones can’t. So be sure to know the properties of the material you are working with before using heat.