How To Make Sterling Silver Jewelry

Making sterling silver jewelry is a business for some and a hobby for others.If you are able to get hold of silver clay, you can cut, attach, or mold solid sterling silver with a jeweler’s saw, soldering kit, hammer, and anvil.There are several techniques that can be combined for innovative results.

Step 1: You can choose a heat source.

To burn away the binding material and leave only the silver behind, you’ll need to fire the clay at high heat.Some brands of metal clay can be fired over a gas stove, while others need a torch or kiln.Before selecting a clay, check the temperatures you can achieve with your tools.If you are using a stove, you will need a mesh.If you use a torch, look for a heat brick.Large or thick items should be kilned.If you want to estimate the temperature you can achieve on your gas stove, you need to heat a small, thin aluminum pan on high and point an IR Thermometer at the surface.

Step 2: Purchase sterling silver clay.

Not many art stores have it in stock, so you may need to order it online.The jewelry made from pure silver clay will be less sturdy.You can purchase this in lump form for sculpting, as a softer paste from a syringe for fine detail work, or even in paper form.

Step 3: The clay can be used in the design of your choice.

You can sculpt this clay with hands or ordinary sculpting tools, add detail with a knife or wire, or cut it into shapes with stencils.The jewelry should be on the large side because the silver clay shrinks during firing.Shrinking can vary from 8% to 30% between products.A metal stamp can be pushed into the clay to form a surface design.

Step 4: Sand the clay.

Use a hairdryer to dry the silver clay.Use fine sandpaper to smooth the surface.

Step 5: The clay can be fired with a torch.

If using a torch, place the clay on a brick that is heat safe.Hold the torch flame from the clay and heat it until it catches fire, burns out, and glows red.Continue to heat for at least five minutes according to your instructions.To relieve your eyes, look away periodically.

Step 6: The clay can be fired with a stove.

If you are using a gas stove, follow these instructions to put a piece of mesh on the burner.The burner should be turned on to its highest setting.The mesh has the hottest area on it.This area will light up.The mesh should return to it’s normal color if the burner is turned off.After placing the silver on the hottest part of the mesh, turn the burner on to a low flame.The silver can be handled with flat, non-serrated pliers.The silver glows red after the clay has burned off.If it glows orange, turn it down again.After ten minutes, turn off the heat.

Step 7: The clay should be fired in a kiln.

You can follow the recommendations on your silver clay if you have a kiln.It is possible to achieve maximum strength with a long firing at high temperatures, but there may be a faster firing option outlined on the instructions.A ceramics kiln will work just as well as a specialized jeweler’s kiln.The firing temperature for most silver clay is 1650oF, held for 2 hours, but the jewelry might come out strong even at 1200oF.

Step 8: The silver can be Quenched.

It’s best to let the silver cool on its own.If you’re in a rush, you can get the hot silver down in the water, but it’s not a good idea to touch it for a while.This can cause structural issues if reheated, but thorough drying can prevent this.It’s never a good idea to quench jewelry with glass, precious stones, or other additions.

Step 9: The surface can be Polish.

After firing, the silver will look dull.If you want a shiny silver look, you can either brush the surface with a brass or steel wire brush or use a buffing machine.

Step 10: Pick up the silver.

For typical small jewelry such as an earring, you’ll want a strip of sterling silver at least 2.5 inches wide and no more than 3.5 inches long.If you have a specific design in mind, you can adjust these dimensions, but it may become harder to work with.There are 22 gauge and 24 gauge sheets used.It is possible to label sterling silver as “ster” or “.925”.

Step 11: Supplies should be gathered.

It is possible to cut silver by a jeweler’s saw, but buffing is needed to smooth out the sharp edges.Specialty tools can be found at a number of stores.A small buffing machine with canton flannel wheels, a bench grinder with the grinding wheel replaced, and a jeweler’s saw with a saw blade numbered 2/0.White rouge or brown Tripoli polishing compound may be required for scratched silver.For earrings, sterling silver ear hooks, a drill, and a number 64 drill bit.

Step 12: The saw and buffing machine are needed.

Attach the wing nut to the upper end of the jeweler’s saw.Pull on the frame to add tension and insert the lower end of the wing nut.You may need to consult with your model’s instructions to add buffing wheels to the buffing machine.You can put the buffing machine on your workbench.If you listen for a “Ping” sound, you can test the saw.When stroked, tighten the saw until it makes this sound.

Step 13: Pick a design that you would like to use.

You can find a design online or in magazines.Make two identical copies of the earrings.

Step 14: The silver should be cut in a shape.

To cut through the outline, use the saw to tape the design over the silver sheeting.As you cut, use a slightly forward tilt to the saw.As you cut, move the saw up and down.

Step 15: It is possible to stamp the clay.

A stamp designed to imprint silver is the easiest way to add detail to the surface.To stamp a thin sheet of silver, lay the stamp over the metal and hammer it in.Make sure the stamp stays in place while you hammer it.

Step 16: The jewelry needs to be polished on the buffing machine.

It is recommended to follow your model’s instructions.The jeweler applies polish to the wheel after turning on the machine.To smooth out rough edges, gently touch the jewelry to the wheel’s surface.

Step 17: It is a good idea to wash in warm soapy water.

This will remove the polish.Dry with a clean cloth.

Step 18: Attach the hook to the earring.

Tuck the hook over the earring edge or twist it around if you want to attach it firmly.If you make jewelry without a hook attachment, you can skip this step.

Step 19: The materials should be gathered.

soldering is the easiest method to join multiple pieces of silver.It still requires quite a bit of preparation, and the following materials: Use a “medium” or “hard” silver solder made from silver alloy, not standard solder.Do not solder if you have a respirator.A small torch with a flat tip.There are any brazing or soldering flux labeled as suitable for silver.The tongs and tweezers are made of copper.The “pickle” solution is heated according to the instructions on the label.

Step 20: It’s a good idea to set up a safe work area.

You will need a well-ventilated room, a heat- resistant table, and a brick to work on.It’s important to protect yourself from spatter during close inspection with goggles.Gloves, a denim or leather apron and tight-fitting, non-synthetic clothing are good additional precautions.If you’re working in a room with dangerous materials, a fire extinguisher won’t hurt, but you will need a container of water to rinse the jewelry.

Step 21: Clean and apply.

Rub on a degreasing solution if the silver is greasy.If the silver is black from oxidation, you should dip in the pickle solution.The areas to be joined should be brushed with the flux.First, powdered flux must be mixed into a liquid form.The instructions should be checked for details.

Step 22: There is a person who sells the silver.

This guide may help if you have never soldered before.Place the objects carefully on the heat brick, then apply a chip of solder or solder paste with a pair of tweezers.To focus on the thicker piece of silver, heat from about 4 inches away.Don’t heat directly solder.Thin pieces of silver should be held with tweezers.

Step 23: Pick up, rinse, and rinse again.

When the solder has melted along the gap between the pieces, turn off the heat and wait for it to solidify.Use your tongs to dip the silver in the water bath, then into the pickle solution to remove the oxidization created during soldering.After rinsing a final time in water, pat dry.The pickle can be corrosive so don’t put it in contact with clothes or skin.The non- copper tongs may corrod the metal.You can skip the pickle if you prefer the look of “aged” silver.

Step 24: You can add gemstones or glass.

Adding these to jewelry with a two-part glue is the best way to do it.If you have to sand the walls down, you can solder a silver “bezel cup” to the jewelry, then glue in the stone and let it dry.

Step 25: Use flat pliers to twist.

Precious metal jewelers only use flat pliers when using serrated tongs.Round nose pliers and wire cutting pliers can be found in several sizes and shapes.

Step 26: Attach the silver wire to the jewelry.

thick silver wire can be shaped into necklaces or arm bands.Simple lay the wire on a small anvil or other flat metal surface and gently tap into the desired shape with a mallet or hammer.Wrap the wire around an object or solder it to a pendant with a sterling silver attachment point.

Step 27: Different hammers can be used for different effects.

For precise control, you can use a flat mallet, a round ball peen hammer, or a couple examples of each in different sizes.A planishing hammer can be used to smooth out dents on a bent or curved surface once the shape is complete.The hammer should fall from above the silver, hitting the surface at a 90o angle.

Step 28: Try hot forging.

Silver can be manipulated while it is cold.If you have some experience under your belt, hot forging could be the next step.You’ll need a small gas forge or an electric oven with excellent temperature control to heat the silver to a cherry-red glow and keep it stable at that temperature while you manipulate it with pliers and hammering.The correct temperature for sterling silver is 1100oF, but it varies depending on the alloy.