For DIYers, it can often be tricky to enhance the appearance of your project without splattering it in glitter. Likewise, guitar makers and woodworkers often rely on the same material that is notoriously hard to find and can be difficult to use.
Guitar players often found it hard to see if the dot marks on the fretboard, which can affect their playing. If only there was something that could make the marks on a fretboard more noticeable.
Ever seen a piece of furniture, a musical instrument, or a pretty trinket that has a distinctive pearl-like sheen? This shiny substance is called a mother of pearl inlay, and can come in two main forms - crushed or in sheets. DIYers, woodworkers, luthiers, and hobbyists alike use mother of pearl inlay for their projects, both for practical and aesthetic purposes.
Regardless of your project, finding the right type of mother of pearl inlay can seem a bit daunting. There isn’t much information online about this material, let alone how to apply it. Well, you’re in luck - here are the 5 best mother of pearl inlays, complete with a handy buyer’s guide and FAQ section!
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Easy Inlay’s mother of pearl inlay is everything you could need for your DIY projects. This crushed mother of pearl inlay is extremely fine, which is a rare find. Despite its soft and fine texture, this mother of pearl is surprisingly hardy.
The fine finish means that it can be easily dyed to suit whatever project you’re doing - especially if you’re wanting to emulate a type of gemstone on furniture, bowls, or decorative items.
The mother of pearl itself is sourced from the inner shell layer from abalones and oysters, giving the natural mineral its distinctive and spectacular iridescent appearance.
It is worth mentioning that as this product is sourced from natural shells, color variations are likely. This will only add to the natural appearance, which is ideal for those who don’t enjoy the artificial translucency of a fake mother of pearl.
- Extremely rare - Fine and soft texture is hard to find in a mother of pearl inlay
- Can be dyed - Great for emulating colorful gemstones
- Natural - Sourced from the shiniest layer of oysters and abalones, allowing for the most natural-looking inlay
- Color variations - As this product is sourced from real shells, there will be some color variations which some buyers might not prefer
Where the previous product featured fine crushed mother of pearl, this Makers Minerals product is simply crushed mother of pearl. The size of each granule ranges between 2 millimeters to 0.25 millimeters, making this an ideal product for hobbyists and woodworkers who prefer the natural, slightly rugged texture of mother of pearl.
This is not a man-made mother of pearl - instead, it has been sourced from the inner layer of shells such as oysters and clams. This means that not every granule will be the same color, as some will be more white and others will be slightly yellow, which adds a unique dimension to the inlay material.
When the inlay material hits the light from different angles, it will shine and shimmer in a really special way that cannot be matched with artificial mother of pearl.
Due to the uniqueness of the varying colors and sizes in this mother of pearl product, this would work brilliantly for woodworking inlay projects.
- Varying shapes and colors - Allows for a unique and natural finish
- Not man made - Sourced from real oyster and large clam shells
- Can be sanded - With a Mohs Hardness Scale of 3.5, this product can be easily sanded
- Size - Customers have mentioned that the size of the product (½ ounce) isn’t enough for their liking
For any string-based musicians or luthiers (musical instrument repairers), these mother of pearl dots are ideal for marking the frets on a guitar. Suitable for guitars, ukuleles, banjos, and mandolins, these tiny mother of pearl dots are great for placement on a fretboard.
With a diameter of 6 mm and a thickness of 2 mm, these tiny dots are ideal for fitting on a fretboard/fingerboard of most guitars - though be sure to check the dimensions before ordering.
These dots come in either a white mother of pearl or an abalone color depending on your personal preference. If you opt for the white color, make sure to wash them in water to make the color fresh.
The best part about this product is that 20 dots come in the same package, which means that if one was to break, you’ve got enough spares to replace the broken dot. Due to the size and delicacy of the dots, chipped dots could occur if they are poorly handed - so approach them with a gentle hand!
- For instruments - Ideal fret dots for guitars, ukuleles, banjos, and mandolins
- Good value for money - 20 pieces come in the same package, which is more than enough for most fretboards
- Color variety - Comes in either a white mother of pearl or abalone shell coloring
- Fairly brittle - Approach with caution as these dots could chip or break with a heavy hand
Not everyone has the time, patience, or skill to carefully embed mother of pearl inlay onto a musical instrument, furniture, or a decorative item. Sometimes, you just want to go the easy route and cheat slightly. That’s where these stickers come in.
These Inlaystickers stickers make life far easier for luthier hobbyists (though professional luthiers might scoff at the idea of sticking mother of pearl to a fretboard!). To give the illusion of real mother of pearl without nearly as much effort, simply apply these decal stickers to the fretboard of a guitar, ukulele, mandolin, or banjo.
The best part? You don’t even have to remove the strings. Plus, your fingers won’t get stuck to the stickers, and they are easy to remove with no adhesive remaining behind.
If you’re struggling with where to put each sticker, this product comes with a guide to show you how the stickers can cover dot marks easily.
- Easy to apply - Simply stick the decals to the fretboard with no sticky adhesion remaining
- Covers dot marks - Forget about 6 mm dot marks and cover them with stylish mother of pearl stickers
- Hardy - Stickers won’t curl or break even after hours of playing
- Not the real thing - Great for amateurs guitarists and hobbyists, but not the real mother of pearl inlay for expensive instruments
For DIYers, mother of pearl can look exceptionally classy and elegant when placed in a tile format. Whether these tiles are put on a wall or decorative surface (such as a small coffee table or a bowl, for example), they can add a real sense of uniqueness that will make people say “Oh, where did you get that from?”. Little do they know, you did it yourself.
Again, this product isn’t technically mother of pearl inlay, but it’s a wonderful decorative accessory. Made of natural mother of pearl sourced from real shells, these tiles vary in color to provide that pure mother of pearl appearance.
This product comes with 100 pieces of the tiles (plus an extra 2 for good measure), which is more than enough to cover a small decorative surface. Each rectangle varies in thickness between 0.06”-0.07”, which adds a unique texture to the tiles when placed together.
These tiles can be easily applied with either cement, glue, double-sided sticky tape, or mortar. Plus, they can be ground down with a small grinding wheel to fit into small areas.
- Good value for money - 102 pieces in one package for an affordable price
- Ideal for DIYers - Tiles are great for enhancing decorative surfaces
- Natural - Thickness and color will vary slightly on each tile due to the natural shells the mother of pearl is sourced from
- Don’t cut with nippers - Nipper cutters might split the tiles
Best Mother of Pearl Inlay Buying Guide
What to consider when buying mother of pearl inlay
Finding good quality mother of pearl inlay online is a tricky job due to the lack of products available.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s not impossible. Here are the key factors to consider when buying mother of pearl inlay!
Consider your project
First and foremost, you must consider the project you wish to complete with mother of pearl inlay. This will give you an idea of what type of mother of pearl inlay you wish to buy - whether it’s fine inlay, crushed inlay, or decorative stickers.
Each of these will serve a different purpose.
Fine mother of pearl inlay
Fine mother of pearl inlay is the softest of all the mother of pearl types, making it most ideal for specific decorative purposes. Most people who use fine mother of pearl inlay like to embed it into cracks in bowls or vases (for example), to create an intentional artistic design. For woodworkers, mother of pearl inlay is perfect for making intricate pieces of work.
Fine mother of pearl can be applied by embedding glue onto the surface, and simply sprinkling the mother of pearl inlay onto the sticky surface.
Crushed mother of pearl inlay
Crushed mother of pearl inlay is essentially fine mother of pearl inlay before it has been grounded into a fine dust. Woodworkers and hobbyists like to use crushed mother of pearl inlay on decorative items to create a more natural appearance with more texture.
The crushed pieces of pearl also offer more dimension due to the varying shapes and colors that hit the light differently from every angle.
Mother of pearl stickers
For those who don’t want a textured appearance to mother of pearl, and especially those who don’t want to spend extra time with the application, mother of pearl stickers are ideal. Most people who use these stickers (coming in the form of dots, rectangles, squares, or tiles) use them for the fretboard of guitars or for larger decorative purposes.
Mother of pearl stickers on a fretboard indicate the dot marks far better than actual dot marks, making it easier to play the guitar. Plus, the application of these stickers is exceptionally easy, as you simply just have to stick them to the surface.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is mother of pearl inlay expensive?
Fortunately for DIYers, mother of pearl inlay is surprisingly more inexpensive than you would think. Despite the luxury appearance that mother of pearl inlay produces, it doesn’t cost much!
Depending on the size of the project, you may feel inclined to buy more than one product at a time (which will inevitably increase the cost), but in general, the inlay is very affordable. Plus, the application isn’t costly, either.
How do you inlay mother of pearl?
The best way to inlay soft or crushed mother of pearl is straightforward. All you have to do is simply embed glue onto the area of which you want the mother of pearl, and then sprinkle or place the soft or fine product onto the glue.
Wait for it to dry, and then you can sand it down if you wish for a flattened appearance. Some professional woodworkers might have more specific techniques to make sure the inlay is in perfect position, but the same application process works for every project!
Mother of pearl stickers and tiles can be stuck on either with glue, double-sided tape, cement, or mortar.
Does mother of pearl turn yellow?
If the mother of pearl is a natural, non-man-made product, then it will eventually turn yellow. In fact, it is likely that each part of the mother of pearl will already have gold and yellow parts to it.
Contrary to popular belief, yellowing isn’t a sign of a fake pearl. Instead, it indicates the natural process that alters the organic substance composition. Kind of like oxidation, if you will.