How to make "Sparkling Moss Agate" beads
The idea for this technique was motivated by a couple of things. I picked up an interesting moss agate stone at a Gem show, thinking one day I'd "faux" it using polymer clay. Later I spotted a jar of PearlEx Sparkling Copper powder. This stuff contains large copper colored mica flakes that create a beautiful sparkling effect. I was dying to play with the stuff. The results of the combination of the moss agate characteristics with the copper? Sparkling Moss Agate, of course. ;-)

If you're curious about the results, check out my beads at the bottom of this page. If you willing to try making this bead, read on.

  • translucent polymer clay (Fimo Soft's version or Premo's version work nicely)
  • 1/8 block Fimo brand black polymer clay
  • PearlEx Sparkling Copper (#690)
  • pasta machine
  • large roller (lucite or glass, etc.)
  • a fresh sharp tissue blade (no substitutes here - the blade needs to be long, very sharp, thin and flexible)
  • waxed paper (your standard kitchen variety)
  • 3M wet/dry sandpaper (grits 120, 240, 320, 400, 600, and 1000)
  • sewing needle
  • small drill bit holder (pin vise) and drill bits that meet your desired bead hole width sizes
  • grinder/polisher with an acrylic, cotton or muslin polishing wheel or an acrylic glaze


Finely chop about 1/8th of a block of Fimo black polymer clay. The finer, the better. Set aside.


Roll out a sheet of translucent approximately 18 - 20 inches long, 3.5 - 4 inches wide and #4 thick on an Atlas pasta machine. Lay clay sheet on a sheet of waxed paper. Randonly sprinkle your finely chopped black polymer clay across sheet.

3. Load a fluffy brush with PearlEx's Sparkling Copper.
4. Randomly sprinkle the copper powder across sheet. Be just a little generous but not so much that any clay placed on top of it wouldn't be able to stick. Lay another sheet of waxed paper across clay sheet. Use your roller to roll across the entire piece, pressing to firmly embed particles into the clay sheet. If you find an overly coppered area, carefully brush the excess away.

Peel away top sheet of waxed paper. Starting at one end, tightly roll up the sheet to form a spiral cane. Leave no chance for trapping air pockets, please. For those who want amounts, reduce the cane until its diameter is about 3/4 inch to 1 inch across.


"Rectangularize" the entire cane using fingers, brayers, etc. Make sure you produce nice crisp corners.

Since you'll need the firmest possible cane for the next few steps, let cane rest. It can't hurt to stick the whole cane in the refrigerator or freezer for a few hours.

After your complex cane has rested, cut your cane into 1 - 1.5 inch segments.

Steps 7 through 12 show a different patterned bead, but the Buesseler cutting/shaping technique still applies for doing these beads.


You ready to begin the "Buesseler cut" for your football bead? Let's go!

Using both hands, grab each side of your fresh, sharp tissue blade. Place your fingers on the sides and top of the blade, bend it until it makes a nice arc then push the blade straight down to cut along one side of the cane as shown in the picture. (Do a double take on that blade to make sure you've got the sharp edge poised to cut into the clay and not your fingers.)

You now have one cutaway. This can be used to help make beautiful scrap beads, so don't crumple it up just yet or throw it away.


Make the second cut along the opposite side. Two cuts and two cutaways down, two and two to go!

Side note: These "Buesseler cuts" aren't easy to do right off the bat. They take practice, practice, practice.


See my unmanicured thumb!

This is a very important step. Take your nicest, fullest cutaway and rest it on it's back (flat side down). This cutaway is now a "cradle" for your football bead-to-be. Gingerly place the bead into its cradle. If you made nice sharp rectangular edges, your cradle will not rock or wobble while you try to do the next couple of steps. Also, if your clay is cool and firm, the bead won't stick much at all to it's cradle.


Blade arc look familiar? Using both hands, grab each side of your very sharp tissue blade. Place your fingers on the sides and top of the blade, bend it until it makes a nice arc then push the blade straight down to cut along one side of the cane as shown in the picture. (Do a double take on that blade to make sure you've got the sharp edge poised to cut into the clay and not your fingers.) Yes I know, but it bears repeating. ;-)

Yes, you will be cutting into your nice cradle when doing this, but it's OK and necessary.


Make the fourth (final) cut along the other side. Pick up your bead and carefully pull away the remains of the cradle. You now completed doing the "Buesseler cut" method for producing a football shaped bead. ;-)

The bead usually reminds people of a football. Mike says he's not fond of the term, but since it was the best way to describe the shape, the name stuck.

If you feel the bead's shape is pretty close to perfect, and you are experienced in making holes in raw clay, go ahead and use the sewing needle to make a preliminary hole at this point. You can widen it after baking by drilling. Otherwise, wait until after baking to drill the hole. (see later notes)

Remember all those scraps? Gather a few together, carefully scrunch them together into a blob, then shape into nice round beads. Be careful to not scrunch or twist the scrap clay too much.


Final stage of bead prior to baking.

Bake your beads at 275 degrees F for 60 minutes.


Reshape by Hand Sanding:

If your cuts didn't quite create a symmetrically balanced bead, sanding with coarse grit sandpaper gives you the opportunity to correct and finalize the shape of your bead, redefining the bead's central axis, which is where the hole could go. In this case, you may find it best to wait until after a vigorous sanding to see where the central axis will be, then drill. Reshaping requires grinding level grits (CAMI 100, 200, 300).

Put some warm water and a little liquid bubble bath in a big shallow bowl. Soak your wet/dry sand paper and wet your bead. Start with the lowest grit and begin sanding. Dip the bead and sandpaper in the water frequently to clear the sanded debris from the paper and the bead. If you're systematic about sanding, you'll be able to tell which of the four side(s) you've done and which side(s) still need grinding down.

Slightly assymetrically cut bead, before doing low grit sanding.

After low grit sanding - a good line to drill along.


Finish Sanding:

Once you're satisfied with the shape either because you did a good job when making those tricky cuts or because of hand sanding/grinding, it's time for finish sanding. I used to warn folks that sanding was this long, arduous process that required dedication and patience.

Now, you don't need any of that stuff. All you need is a rock tumbler and small smooth river rocks. That setup works like a charm.



Drill Jig: I prefer to drill along the length of the bead instead of across. If you are lucky enough to have a drill press, this drill press setup will work best.

Pin Vise: For those who aren't that lucky: Use something like an Xacto blade to start a pilot hole. This helps prevent the drill bit from wandering. If it wanders, it might scratch your lovely sanded bead. After making the pilot hole, start with the smallest drill bit in your pin vise. Pull the drill bit out every once in a while and remove the loose clay, then continue drilling.

If your bead is shorter than the length of the drill bit, drill until can feel the drill about to break through, but don't let it. Pull the bit out and drill in from the opposite side at the exact spot where you felt the drill bit push.

If your bead is longer than the length of the drill bit (get a longer drill bit ;-) or drill a little over halfway down the length of the bead, then tackle from the other end and hope the two "tunnels" will meet in the middle. I won't lie, this does take a bit of practice, so try the two tunnel method on some scrap beads first.

You can buff your bead using an acrylic, soft cotton or muslin wheel or my favorite method - tumble buffing. Sanding and buffing really bring out the effects and showcase the depth of these beads. Also, the effect of sanding and buffing creates a more realistic appearance for faux work such as this.

Sparkling Moss Agate Beads

Have a great polymer clay time.. ;-)


Page created 6Jan02. Last update: 12 Jun 08. Send comments, questions or suggestions to Desiree McCrorey.