Etched Slide Necklaces

Etched Slide Necklaces

Etched Slide NecklacesBack in the early aughts, microscope-slide necklaces were making the rounds and I thought they looked great. The downside, for me, was that most used solder to cover the edges of the glass and I wasn’t ready to take the leap into metalwork at that point.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m still not ready.

This was my take on the trend and I still love these necklaces today. My twist involves chemical etching cream, wire, beads and foil tape. I took these pictures in 2003, always with the intent to share the process: better late than never!


For each necklace you will need:

The finished pendant1-2 glass microscope slides (preferably unused)
A stencil of some sort (more on that later)
Craft knife
Etching kit (cream, brush, gloves)
Timer and access to running water
Cardstock (optional)
Foil tape
Jewelry wire
Basic jewelry tools: needle nose pliers, round nose pliers, wire snips

About Stencils

Stencils for Etching GlassIf you buy a glass-etching starter kit (which is a really good way to start, but certainly not mandatory), it’ll usually come with an assortment of stencils that are made to stand up to the corrosive nature of the glass-etching cream along with some pieces of glass to try them out on. Those stencils are great, but can also be limiting!

I like to make my own stencils out of self-adhesive shelf paper, clip art or stamps and a craft knife. (You can use any sort of shelf paper you want but I’d advise against clear only because it makes it difficult to see what part you’ve already cut away.)

Cover the glass completely with the adhesive sheet and then, using masking tape, tape down your clip art image, drawing or whatever you’re using. With the image as your guide, cut out the parts of the picture you want to be etched onto the glass with a craft knife, cutting through both your guide paper and the adhesive sheet below.

You could try using printable label paper, but I’d test it before using it on your big project as it might not hold up well enough to the etching cream.

Etch your glass

The slide ready to be etched.

You can find slides both with and without the frosted end.

Start with a microscope slide that has been cleaned with rubbing alcohol to remove all grease and residue.

Apply your stencil and make sure all the edges are sealed to prevent fuzzy outlines on your finished project and that every place you want to stay clear is covered.

Etching the slidesEtch the glass following the instructions on your etching solution. Make sure to really glob the solution on–don’t be stingy! While it’ snot necessarily true that the more the better, it is true that if you don’t have a good, thick layer of the cream on the glass your etching will be uneven and you could loose details.

After the etching cream has done it’s job, thoroughly rinse the cream off the glass using the paintbrush to make sure any remaining grit is removed. It’s a good idea to keep the gloves on while removing the stencil and wiping the slide dry, just in case.

Etched Slides, Ready to Wire Wrap

Etched slides, ready for decorating.

Make the Pendant

Some pendants have a colored layer, others do not. First decide if you want a clear, single-slide pendant or a double-slide pendant with colored or decorative paper inside. If the latter, you’ll need a second slide and a piece of paper cut to the same size as your slides. I like to use some shimmery powder or paste to add some dimension to the card stock inside. Sandwich the paper between the 2 slides.
Sealing the edges with foil tape Seal the edges of the pendant with foil tape (I found mine in the drafting section of the craft store but I’ve also seen some in the kids-craft sections, too) trimming away any hanging edges with your craft knife. Obviously you’ll want to use a wider tape for the double-slide pendant and a narrow tape for the singles.
Fitting the wrapped loops to the base of the pendant Take a length of wire (1.5 times the length of the slide’s perimeter or so) and make 3 wrapped loops in the center: one in the exact center of the wire and the others about 1/4-inch to either side of the center so they’ll hang at the corners of the short end of the slide. 

Bend a 90-degree angle just outside each outer wrapped loop to fit the wire around the edges of the slide.

Securing the wire with foil tape Secure the wire by wrapping a piece of foil tape along the bottom edge, all the way around the base of the pendant, trapping the wires on each side. Rub the tape down with your fingernail to ensure a good seal. Do the same at the top edge of the pendant, once again trapping the wire along the sides of the pendant.
Forming the bail Bend another 90-degree angle, this time in towards the top of the pendant. Make the bail (the thing that lets the pendant hang from a chain or ribbon) by making a 90-degree bend in one wire, at the center of the top edge of the pendant, complete a wrapped loop, and wrapping the free wire around to strengthen and secure the wire edges. Trim away any excess wire.

(Hindsight has me thinking you could also twist together the two ends of the wire where the meet and use both to make the wrapped loop together, potentially strengthening the bail in the process. I’ll have to keep that in mind the next time I make some of these.)

Finishing the Pendant

Making and attaching the beaded drops to the lower loopsMake 3 beaded drops to dangle from the bottom of your pendant. 2 short and 1 long with a focal bead is especially nice. Attach them via the wrapped loops along the bottom edge of the pendant and you’re ready to go.

You can wear these pendants suspended from the chain of your choice, but I really like to use ribbon: not only is it a subtle contrast to the hard nature of the wire and glass but it allows you to easily change the length of the necklace to accommodate your neckline, too.

Other Touches

Adding a charm to the bail and letting it drop in front of the pendant might be a nice touch, depending on the theme of your pendant. Using more loops and drops at the bottom is another option. Or, if length isn’t your cup of tea (these pendants are a good 5 inches long, after all) turn your design and your slide on its side and form a bail on each corner of the now-long top.

I think my next pieces will skip the etching and add in some collage elements while I’m at it.

10 thoughts on “Etched Slide Necklaces

    1. Thanks! They’ve fun and funky and when people find out they’re an actual microscope slide it makes them that much cooler.

  1. It’s kinda science-geek-chic! Very cool use for old microscope slides. Now I am kinda wishing I had kept some from my last Vet job. I even had a glass etching kit with unicorns somewhere….maybe my mom still has it! heheh

    Lovely work, as always!

    1. American Science and Surplus is where I get my slides for an absolute song. I could really see the science-geek-chic thing working if the etching was a tiny skeleton!

  2. OH, I love these! I saw some in a craft store that were smaller and square and sold for $30.00! I have been wanting to try some for myself. Thanks for the tutorial!

    1. You could cut the slides down for square pendants with a diamond-tip glass cutter. At this thickness you probably wouldn’t even have to worry about the water-insulated large cutters, just score and break (carefully, of course). And I sell mine for $35, currently.

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