Hollow Out Rocks for Cairn-Inspired Jewelry

Lisa Martin

A typical day for Lisa includes: getting up to see the sunrise, bicycling, interning at Make:, reading and writing short stories, and listening to audiobooks and podcasts for hours while working on projects or chores.

70 Articles

By Lisa Martin

A typical day for Lisa includes: getting up to see the sunrise, bicycling, interning at Make:, reading and writing short stories, and listening to audiobooks and podcasts for hours while working on projects or chores.

70 Articles

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Perhaps you’ve been at a beach or river and come across a stack of balanced rocks. These cairns — sometimes used as trail markers, sometimes created as a kind of meditation — are the inspiration behind Nicole Ringgold’s river rock jewelry.

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Ringgold describes herself as “an artist and art lover, outdoor enthusiast, gardener, small-scale farmer, and traveler.” Up until 2012, she had been using a drill press to make most of her jewelry. Since then she’s invested in soldering and polishing equipment and now has a shop filled with a variety a nature inspired jewelry.

“My art is inspired by the shape of a rock I find, my natural surroundings, a sound, glimpse, or smell,” Ringgold says.

Rather than keeping her techniques for creating these cairn-inspired necklaces a trade secret, Ringgold posted two tutorials on making the beads themselves: one on how to hollow out a rock and one on drilling holes through rocks. Ringgold uses diamond tipped coring bits and a drill press (though you can use the rotary tool of your choice) to hollow out the stones and make holes for strings. Keeping the rocks submerged in water for the drilling keeps the bit cool and the rock from cracking.

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These tutorials are nearly four years old, but they’re new to me (so maybe they’re new to you, too!). Plus, that extra time has given Ringgold many opportunities to address reader concerns. Digging through the comments I found some very helpful tips. If the rock settles in the hollow core of your bit, you can use a small nail to punch through the holes in the sides of the bit to wiggle it out. The rock is less likely to get stuck inside the bit in cold water. And, yes, this technique wears out drill bits fast. Ringgold estimates that she can efficiently drill 15 holes (depending on how hard the rocks are) before the dull bit starts causing the rocks to break.