How To Make Melt and Pour Gemstone and Rock Soap Tutorial

Yes, these are truly easy to make. Even my very first attempts came out great yours will, too. Heres how!

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Follow standard procedures for working with melt & pour
soap (MP). If you are experienced with MP, you can skip over some of this
information as it is geared to soap makers who are new to MP/gemstones.

You will need:

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    • Transparent Glycerin Soap Base
    • White Glycerin Soap Base if desired
    • Colorants micas, oxides or liquid colorants
    • Fragrance oils of your choice
    • Rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle
    • Melting vessels (microwaveable plastic or Pyrex pitchers)
    • Variety of “molds” margarine, cool whip, gladware/ziplock bowls
    • Toothpicks, silicone or rubber spatula, knives, peelers, scrapers etc.
    • At the end of this information packet, there is a list of websites that

are suppliers of soap, colorants and fragrances.

Melt & Pour Glycerin Soap

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You can use any brand of melt & pour soap, which ever is
your favorite. I use the extra clear for most of the gemstones. The opaque
stones, like the turquoise and jade, are made with white base.

I dont add anything to the base except for color,
fragrance and occasionally exfoliants. Make sure you are using a good
quality base. Adding oils, butters, glycerin etc will not improve the soap,
harden the base or increase lather. The soap is called melt & pour, it is
ready to use as is. Adding oils and butters to a saponified base (MP) will
result in those additions being “free” oils in the bar. If you feel the need
to enhance the base to make it better, you need to find a new base. If you
want to create something more luxuriant with fine butters and oils you
should be formulating cold process soaps where you will get the benefits of
the saponified fatty acids.

Colorants

I prefer to use micas in the gemstone soaps. They offer a
wide spectrum of hues and provide a variety of gem like effects including
pearlized, solid, metallic and glittering. I have over 30 micas that I use
for stones. Occasionally, I use oxides (lapis is ultramarine blue) but they
dont blend as well as the micas. Always use skin safe colorants.

Liquid colorants and dyes are used on a limited basis
because of the migrating or bleeding. There are times that you may want the
migrating colors. Take note of the black veining on the lapis picture. This
effect is created with liquid colorants. I make watermelon tourmaline by
making the layers dark green, clear and dark fuchsia. I know the colors will
migrate blurring the “line” of the layers. If you see real watermelon
tourmaline it has that gradient look so liquids work well for that stone. I
also use liquids if I want a clear stone like emerald or ruby. I use the
rock base, with pearlized matching mica and top off with the clear that is
colored with the liquid. The liquid color will migrate but it is not as
noticeable as the other layers are dark or similarly colored. Liquid
colorant is also used in the turquoise and jade soap as I use white base and
micas dont work as well with the white base. They need the transparency to
really sparkle and you cannot get a vibrant deep gem quality color with the
white base and micas.

Essential and Fragrance Oils

Any skin safe essential or fragrance oils can be used. Be
sure you follow the manufacturers directions for safe usage percentages.
You will want to be wary of any fragrances that will morph your colorants.
The most common offenders are fragrances with vanilla. A good fragrance
supplier will tell you in the product description if the color will cause
browning. There are vanilla color stabilizers on the market that work most
of the time.

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Step 1: Components

Spend a session making components of colored MP in
whatever colors you want to use in you gems. The components will be carved
chunks of soap in several shades, sheets of soap for veining, small base
rock, crystals etc.

Some soap makers melt the MP in a double boiler,
crock-pot, electric roaster, chocolate or wax melter etc. I have found the
microwave works best for me. Use whatever works best for you. I use a dough
scraper or knife to chunk up the soap into 1-inch cubes. Place the cubes in
your melting vessel and microwave. I melt in Pyrex if I need the soap to
stay hot or microwaveable plastic pitcher if I need to cool the soap before
pouring. To maintain the quality of your MP you should not overheat it.
Microwave ovens are different watts. For my microwave, two pounds of cubed
soap takes about 2 minutes to melt. I do one minute, stop and stir then
another minute and let it stand until it melts, stirring occasionally. Your
soap should not boil or steam, melt it gently. I try not to reheat the soap
more than two or three times. Overheated MP will lose quality – yellow,
possibly burn, lose moisture and become brittle etc.

Once melted completely, add your micas/colorants. I use a
toothpick to sprinkle a little mica at a time on to the surface and stir
until incorporated. You can add more if you need a deeper color, but you
cant take it out so go lightly at first as a little goes a long way. I use
a silicone spatula to stir so I can eliminate any clumps of mica by pressing
against the side of the container with the spatula. Oxides are a little
harder to get incorporated so I mix them in glycerin before I add them. Put
a little oxide into a small container and add a few drops of glycerin and
mix until you get a paste. It is good to do this well in advance so all the
oxides granules will be softened and absorbed when you are ready to use it.
Liquid colorants are added a few drops at a time until you achieve the
desired hue.

To make shades of colors for your stones, just color the
MP with the lightest shade you want, pour 1/3 of it into a mold, add some
more colorant to deepen it, pour 1/2 of that into another mold then darken it
further to get your third shade. You can also do a solid, a pearl or
glittery in the same color family.

Once colored, add your fragrance and stir well to
incorporate. Use your judgment on how much fragrance to add. Fragrance oils
have different strengths so it is difficult to set specific guidelines for
how much to use. (Recommended maximum usage of 1 tablespoon per pound)

Pour the colored, fragranced soap into the molds. You can
use old plastic containers like cool whip bowls, margarine bowls etc. Spritz
the top with alcohol to disperse any bubbles that form and let it harden.
Some soap makers put the MP into the refrigerator to speed up the cooling
process. I prefer to be patient and allow the cooling to occur naturally at
room temperature. It takes longer but you have less chance of the finished
MP attracting moisture, especially in humid months. The quality of the soap
degrades with extremes in temperature hot or cold. Use moderation.

I use lots of browns, bronzes, blacks, etc for the base
rocks and the contrast that surrounds the gemstone. Since I use that for
just about every stone, I make up several molds of those colors as well.
Once you have made the gem soaps and carved them, you will have lots of
scraps from the carving. Keep them and use them for the base rocks. I try to
keep fragrance similar, so you can melt them together and add a little black
or brown oxide to get the desired dark soap stones for the base rocks. I
also use this for the outer layers of the geode & museum soaps.

When the soap has cooled, remove it from the mold. I use a
variety of tools like knives, ice cream scooper, melon baller, dough
scraper, large forks, etc. to get chunks of MP ready for the rocks. Small
pieces, especially those used for the rock base, can be made in the food
processor (I recommend a separate processor for soap). I like my dough
scraper best, just slice it up and chop to the desired texture. Cut large
chunks with a dough scraper then carve the individual pieces with a
vegetable peeler to get a natural rounded look to each piece. In nature, you
find very few straight edges. Keep the scraps from carving; you will melt
them to use when assembling your stones.

I also make sheets of thin MP mostly in gold, bronze,
black and white. These will be added to make veins in the rocks. Just color
the MP. I dont fragrance the sheets because they are used in a variety of
rocks. Pour it out onto a silicone sheet, cookie sheet lined with saran wrap
or directly on a clean counter. If bubbles form, spritz with alcohol. When
cool, peel it off and you have very thin sheets for veining. I tear the
sheets by hand to get a more natural edge rather than cutting. The soap
sheet “curls” on the edges when torn.

When you are ready for the more advanced gems that are set
in quartz, you can make the chards as well as the crystals. The clear shards
quartz-like supporting the crystals are the same for all projects so I make
a lot of that. I usually melt clear MP, add a tiny amount of snowflake, or
silver, or pearl mp and let it harden. Then using the dough scraper I cut in
into fine chards. The crystals are cut individually.

I store all the cut up components in zip lock bags. This
step is the most time consuming. Once you have these pieces ready, you can
make many dozens of gemstones in a couple of hours.

Step 2 Creating the “master” block

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I suggest starting with a basic gemstone rather than the
more elaborate crystal museum type of stones.

You can use just about anything for a mold as long as it
is flexible enough to remove the finished soap. I have custom-made silicone
molds that I use, but I started with cool whip, margarine, zip lock/gladware
type containers. You will have a little more waste with these types of
containers as you will have to cut away the edges to get rid of the shape of
the bowl. With the smaller square zip/glad containers you will get 3 to 4
small stones.

You really cant go wrong with these so use you creative
side to make each stone unique. The following directions are just a
guideline. Feel free to experiment.

Basic soap rocks:

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I start by placing enough black/brown base rock in the
bottom of the mold to make a layer, as thick or thin, as you like. I
generally prefer a thin layer. Melt some clear MP, you can add a little
sparkle if you like, it is best to use a mica that is more individual
sparkles than a pearl or solid one. Spritz the soap chunks with alcohol, and
pour the hot MP over the rock base. I like to have just enough melted soap
to hold the chunks in place without covering them completely so you dont
have a flat layer/line. Allow soap to cool until quite hard, but not
necessarily fully hardened. I think you get better adhesion between layers
if you dont completely cool it. I use hot MP, you may have a little melting
of the previous addition but that give it a more natural flowing appearance
and less chance of separating layers.

I like a few large chunks of dark stone to serve as an
“imperfection” in the rock. I place these in the mold on top of the rock
base. Melt some dark MP, spritz the chunks with alcohol and pour some hot MP
into the mold, just enough to cover half of the black/brown chunks. While it
is still hot start adding your larger pieces of the color gemstone pieces
that you carved earlier. I use variety of sizes and shades. Fill the
container about 1/3 or the way full and press down firmly. Some of the dark
liquid MP will surround the colored. Continuously move the mold around until
the soap thickens to a gel, allowing the soap to form an undulating layer of
molten color on top of the bumpy layer. This give you the look of uneven
layers like you find in real gemstones. Allow to cool. One nice effect is to
pour a contrasting color onto the previous layer, again moving the bowl
around to create another uneven layer.

If desired, you can: add pockets of chards, clear or base
rock strategically placed throughout the stone; use a paintbrush to dust
metallic mica between layers; or sprinkle a few grains of poppy seed,
cornmeal, jojoba beads into the clear layer to replicate imperfections in
the stone. Using very hot MP will melt some of the adjoining soap to create
a marbling effect. Another interesting effect is to roll some of your
“component” chunks of soap in metallic mica before putting it in the mold.

You can add some veining with pieces of a sheet of black,
gold, silver, copper or white MP over or in between the pieces. Nature is
random. Dont strive for perfection! Now put in some more pieces of gemstone
color, spritz with alcohol, and pour hot matching MP over, again pressing
down hard to meld everything together. I usually turn the bowl around to be
sure the liquid MP moves throughout the mold. Repeat until the bowl is full.
It will look UGLY at this time, but the magic will happen when you carve the
soap. Allow soap to cool completely.

Note:

You can make individual rocks by using paper cups. This is a good procedure to use
when experimenting as you can do lots of different colors without using a
lot of soap. Use a pan filled with rice or beans to act as a support for the
cup while cooling the layers. Start with a small amount of your top layer in
the bottom of the cup. I usually use colored, clear for my top layer. You
can tilt the cup to create a slanted soap by supporting the cup in the rice
pan. Allow to cool until firm enough to support the next layer. The next
layer can be the same color family but pearlized or sparkling. Spritz with
alcohol and pour the next layer. It is best to use cooler soap so as not to
melt the first layer. You can tilt it in the same direction or reverse the
tilt for interest. When set up enough, spritz and fill the cup with rock
base also spritzed and cover with melted clear MP. Allow to cool. You will
tear the cup away to unmold when you are ready to carve.

Step 3: Carving

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Once your master block is completely cooled, you can
unmold it. Decide how many stones you can get from this block and make your
first cuts with a large knife. I usually cut on an angle to create more
visual interest.

The next step is to use a paring knife to carve away the
basic shape. You dont want to have any signs of the original container.
First, decide if you want a crystal like cut or something rougher. For the
rough cut just cut away the container shape at random angles. Carve away
until you are satisfied with the shape.

For the crystal cuts, I start by making angled cuts on the
edges to get beveled edges. Cut and bevel all the sides. You can be as
elaborate or simple as you like with the facets. Fine-tuning can be done
with a peeler.

The carved soap may be a little dull from handling, if so,
spritz it with alcohol to bring back the sheen.

If you have any tiny holes in the stone, highlight them by
brushing metallic mica into the crevice. You can create crevices with the
point of the knife, peeler or chopstick. Use a good paintbrush with a chisel
point to “paint” the crevice with mica. If the mica doesnt want to stick to
the soap, spray the brush with alcohol before dipping it into the mica. One
tip for getting a clean edge on your metallic mica fissure is to paint in
the color, then using the peeler or knife slice away a very thin layer of
soap. You will end up with a striking sharp edge with the gold/copper
sparkling inside.

Advanced techniques – Museum pieces

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Crystal formation soaps that replicate museum quality
gemstones can be made using the same techniques as the basic soap rocks.
These are not really user friendly as soap goes but they are fun for the
“Wow” factor.

To make the aquamarine stone, I made sheets and “sticks”
of MP by pouring a layer about 1/8 inch. I colored it with mica and used an
eyedropper to drop in tiny amounts of darker colors to get the shading. I
unmolded it and cut it into strips then filled a cup with the sheets and
sticks. I then filled the cup with melted MP (slightly cooled so it didnt
melt the sticks) unmolded and carved out the shape I wanted. Then you just
place the finished crystal into a bed of “quartz” MP. The quartz is just
clear MP colored with snowflake or pearl mica, shredded in the food
processor and cut in to shards with a dough scraper. I used a small round
mold, poured in hot MP to act like glue to hold the pieces together while
letting the sharp soap shards to stick up out of the melted MP. After
cooling, remove and roughly carve so it does not have the “bowl” shape.

The amethyst and emerald and ruby formations are done the
same way. Carve the crystal elements separately and hold together with
shards and hot mp. The Tiger Eye & Malachite are done one layer at a time.
Malachite is dipped in layers. The veined lapis rock was made by using a
large fork to chop up the component chunks creating the craggy edges.
Another layer of “dirty” soap made with cornmeal, seeds, etc can be added to
the outside to add another dimension by melting MP with the additives and
dipping the piece into the slurry until the desired effect is reached.

The geode is a great way to use up all the scraps you will
have after the hand carving. The center is the same shreds used for the
“quartz” held together with melted MP, like making a snowball. I melt the
other scraps to get the colors for the layers. It is messy but I use my
hands to dip the center in the melted MP, smoothing and dipping over and
over again until you get the desired effect. Takes a while but uses up
everything so there is no waste.
I finish by dusting metallic mica on the outside and when cooled completely,
cut in half or quarters. I use a fork or chopstick to roughen up the quartz
center to give a more crystal like appearance.

I wrap my MP soaps immediately using a stretch food wrap.
I use Sams Club AEP wrap or the Sams Club premium stretch wrap from
Walmart. Stretch tightly and pull the wrap to the back of the stone then
trim off the excess. I package the wrapped soap in a crystal clear cello bag
for retail sale. For retail stores and craft shows and markets I display one
of each type of gem in a treasure chest lined with gold or velvet fabrics as
sniffer/samples.

Have fun and email me some photos of your finished gems!

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SUPPPLIES

Here are some links to suppliers for soap base, colorants
and fragrance & essential oils. I have ordered from all of these companies
and can personally recommend them. I am not associated with them in any
capacity, except as a satisfied customer. You can certainly use your own
favorites. There are literally dozens of online suppliers, just be sure you
are choosing colorants and fragrances that are skin safe/formulated for
soap.

Soap bases: Custom Silicone Molds:

Colorants, micas, pigments & liquid dyes:

Fragrance/essential oils:

I researched websites for photos of museum quality
gemstones. Just do a search for mineral formations or gemstones. Once you
get an idea of the amazing colors and formations in nature you can be
inspired beyond belief. Here are a few with nice photos.

links to some photos and mini tutorial on soapdish
forum

Cold
Processed Soap Rocks/Gemstones:

I really didn’t do the CP soaps as a demo at the Mid
Atlantic Lights & Lather Symposium. I only had an hour of speaking time. I
took the CP soaprocks just to show, but here are the basic instructions for
CP rocks:

What I do is a rebatch without adding any extra oils or
liquids. I make one of my usual CP soap recipes and separate the batch
leaving some uncolored, and do some in several shades of the rock. I use
ultramarines and oxides for colorants in my CP, I dissolve them in glycerin
to avoid speckles.

Once the multi colored soap is removed from the molds, I
grate it on a cheese grater to make shreds, fresh out of the mold so it is
still soft. Then, like making soap balls, I just hand form the soap using
the various shades and white soap kneading it to create the marble effect.
To make the one in the picture with the green and black cubes of soap
embedded in the rock, I just cut up pieces of soap into chunks and worked
them into the softer soap. The soap is very malleable so I form it like
making a snow ball; I added things like coffee grounds, raspberry seeds,
cornmeal, oatmeal etc to get the stone like look. I stop a few times and
flatten the ball of soap, dust on a layer of metallic mica, and fold it over
– that made nice copper, silver, gold veins. I then let the soap cure as
usual. Before it gets too hard, for my recipe I wait about a week or two, I
simply cut and beveled the ball into the rock shape. If I have any crevices,
I dust metallic mica into the whole to make a fissure. If there are not
imperfections to dust with the mica, I just take the point of a peeler or
chopstick and make a crevice. (I take the carvings and spray them with a
little water and repeat the process to make more rocks with the leftovers)

I finish by spraying with alcohol to bring out the shine
and allow the soap to finish curing.

I hope that helps. Have fun – happy soaping!

Author:
Bonnie Bartley