Light Gets In

The art of un-foiling

This design took shape when my lovely friend Mel gifted me some vintage un-foiled glass Chatons. Magically, they are a glass imitation of Alexandrite, a stone which changes colour when viewed in daylight or artificial light.

To show off this effect I wanted as much of the light to shine through the glass as possible, so I created a delicate bezel of beadwork.The bezel, thanks to the thread path, is fine but strong, and I discovered that it was an easy step to adapt it to fit all shapes of stones.

In my excitement, I also realised that I could join stone shapes together to recreate some of my favourite pieces from history.

Here is a page from my sketch book showing an image of the beautiful Cotes Peridot Parure, and arrangements of my bezelled stones.

I set about sharing the bezel idea as a class, only to discover that the supply of un-foiled stones is a little limited.

Then the adventure really began, the alchemy of de-foiling stones, it’s such fun! and addictive! I have bags of vintage crystals foraged from dealers in all things old, I love them, but the foiling is often scratched and damaged. How lovely then, to be able to bring them back to life. Also, because I’m loving my new light and airy bezels and the play of light they allow on un-foiled stones.

The recipe is simple.

White vinegar (because it is the least smelly)

Coarse salt


Put the stones to be defoiled into a glass dish, cover with vinegar and a handful of the salt, cover with cling film, and leave to let the magic happen. This can take between 24 hours to several days.

Rinse off the stones and the foil backing will slide off. Any stubborn bits can be re-immersed in the solution for a bit longer.

I need to add some basic home safety. Most foiling uses fine layers of Silver, Copper and Brass, but who can be sure what alloys were used with really old crystals. Please wear rubber gloves and work over newspaper that can be folded up to capture all the metal flakes, then discarded.

Cautionary tale: this process works for regular crystals, but any with a secondary coating will loose that too. Most coatings (Aurora Borealis, Iridescent, Shimmer etc) are created by passing the crystals through a metal vapour or PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition), to leave a light coating of the metal. As such this could also be removed by the process.


After class I decided to make a starter kit, using beautiful Channel Chaton from Preciosa, and everything needed to make the ‘Light Gets In’ pendant.

The worksheet includes the bead counts for a range of stone sizes and shapes, plus the formula for adapting the bezel to even more stones.

The recipe and tips for de-foiling is set out in more detail too.

If you'd like to get started, The kit are here 



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