Mother of Pearl and Crystal Calcite Inlay
Mother of pearl and crystal calcite are versatile, natural materials used to create many types of inlay.
They can be used as is or dyed to emulate a variety of luxurious gem stones such as sapphire blue, ruby red, jade green and more. Other materials can be mixed in to enhance its appearance as well, such as metal filings or pearlescent pigments that add a shimmering translucent chatoyance effect.
On the Mohs Hardness Scale, mother of pearl has a hardness of 2.5; calcite is 3.0 and are easily sanded using silicon carbide or aluminum oxide sandpaper, which has a hardness of 9.0. It is durable and provides an excellent surface to polish and/or finish.
Note that these products are made from nature: there may be variations in color and minor impurities which add to the overall natural aesthetic. Our mother of pearl comes in fine and flake; calcite comes in fine and coarse.
Both are non-toxic but should be kept away from children and pets and not ingested in any form.
Applying the Inlay
Wet Application: The mixture can be blended with epoxy, polyester or acrylic resin. When mixing with a resin, heating the mixture with a heat gun and/or adding additional solvents can reduce viscosity and help eliminate air bubbles.
Dry Application: Fill the void with dry calcite and add thin CA glue (Cyanoacrylate). This is good for small voids.
When using ground mother of pearl or calcite, either coarse, flake, fine, or a combination, leave the material proud of the finished surface and sand flush with 60 – 80 grit aluminum oxide or silicon carbide sandpaper. Once flush, check for minor voids and fill them with more finely ground dust and CA glue or the resin mixture. Then, progress through a typical sanding schedule. Wet sanding on wood is not recommended.
The final surface can be left raw or finished with a variety of wood finishes to produce a luxurious inlay.
Both mother of pearl can calcite can be ground into a fine powder: use the back of a spoon or a mortar and pestle.
Mother of pearl and calcite can be colored with a variety of dyes, pigments or stains; dyes work best for producing a rich translucent color. Our favorite dye, Transtint® is a concentrated dye with special solvents that creates a wide variety of colors.
Add a few drops of Transtint® to 1 oz. of material. Squirt a few drops of denatured alcohol to help disperse the dye, then mix thoroughly to produce your desired color.
Add a few drops of dewaxed shellac (1 pound cut) to the mixture to seal the color. Use just enough to coat the material ever so slightly while not creating a paste. The final material should be loose and granular.
This formula is best when applying mother of pearl or calcite in a dry form with CA glue. Alternatively, pigments can be added directly into a wet resin, like epoxy, to achieve more opaque, stone-like effects. Calcite can be mixed with other materials too, such as mother of pearl, metal filings, glow-in-the dark powders or opalescent pigments that will enhance the look of the material.
Experimenting with various mixtures will help you find your own unique aesthetic.