Introduction: Electroformed Turquoise Earrings

Picture of Electroformed Turquoise Earrings

In this Instructable you will learn how to make copper plated turquoise earrings with a process called electroforming.

Electroforming is a 4-24 hour metal-forming process that forms a layer of copper onto a conductive surface. This method will allow you to create beautiful pieces that highlight the natural qualities of each stone, keeping true to an entirely organic look and feel. Allowing the copper to form around the curvature of each gemstone makes each piece completely one of a kind.

Step 1: Gather All of Your Supplies

Picture of Gather All of Your Supplies

Things you will need:

  1. 2 stones of your choice
  2. earring posts and backings (you can get these at a craft supply store)
  3. electroforming solution (http://www.RioGrande.com)
  4. Rectifier (I am using the Sherri Haab rectifier which you can buy online http://www.sherrihaab.com)
  5. Conductive paint (http://www.safer-solutions.com)
  6. Paint Brush
  7. Electroforming container (I am using a glass vase from IKEA)
  8. 10 gauge copper wire (mine is from the electrical section at Home Depot)
  9. Thin copper wire (I stripped down some speaker wire for this)
  10. E6000 adhesive
  11. PlastiDip (you can use clay, or something you know won't dissolve in the acid. I like the PlastiDip because it's easy to apply and easy to peel off in the end)
  12. Liver of Sulfur for oxidizing (optional)
  13. Baking Soda
  14. Distilled Water
  15. Dremel with finishing abrasive buff attachment or very fine grit sandpaper.
  16. Tape
  17. Jewelers Wax

Step 2: Glue on Your Posts

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Attach your posts to the stones using E6000 adhesive. Just a little drop will do the trick!

Step 3: Dip Your Posts in PlastDip

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Since the posts of these earrings are conductive, you'll want to dip them in PlastiDip to ensure that the copper doesn't form around the posts. This will make it so the earring posts are kept at the proper gauge. Be careful not to get any of the PlastiDip on your stones, and allow to dry completely before the next step.

Step 4: Paint on Conductive Paint

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There are many different brands of conductive paint, and I swear I have tried them all! This one seems to work best for me.

Shake well before opening the container of paint. Since my paint is water based, I like to thin it with a little water before coating the earrings. Wherever the paint goes is where the copper will form, so make sure that you get a smooth and even layer.

Let dry THOROUGHLY. I usually let mine dry for a full day just to be safe.

Step 5: Prepare the Bath

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Bend your copper coil to fit in your electroforming container . Make sure you have a little exposed out of the top to connect your alligator clamp onto. Pour in your solution, and make sure it's high enough to fully submerge your earrings.

Be VERY careful with this solution. It can burn your skin and etch your counter tops. (I know this from personal experience.)

Step 6: Wrap Wire Around Earrings

Picture of Wrap Wire Around Earrings

Using the thin gauged wire, wrap it around your earrings making sure that the wire is coming in contact with the conductive paint. You'll want the wire loose enough that it won't become a part of your the earrings and tight enough to get a nice secure connection.

Step 7: Submerge the Earrings

Picture of Submerge the Earrings

Bend a short piece of the 10 gauge copper wire across the top of your container to hang your earrings onto. Tape the ends down so it doesn't move. Place your earrings in the bath one at a time, wrapping the thin wire around the 10 gauge wire.

You don't want your earrings to touch each other OR the copper coiled around the container.

Step 8: Attach the Clamps and Turn on the Rectifier

Picture of Attach the Clamps and Turn on the Rectifier

Attach the red(+) clamp onto the exposed part of the copper coil, and the black(-) clamp onto the wire bent across the top of the container. Make sure that your clamps are tightly connected, to ensure a complete circuit.

A general rule of thumb for electroforming is to deliver 100mA of current per square inch. The rectifier I am using is 50mA to 400 mA. I am starting out on the lower end since I am only electroforming a small area.

Double check that you have a solid connection, and turn your rectifier on. I am going to go grab a cheeseburger and check on it in an hour.

Step 9: Check on Your Piece After an Hour

Picture of Check on Your Piece After an Hour

It has now been an hour since the earrings have been electroforming. A good way to gauge how much copper has been deposited onto your piece is to look at the thin copper wire.

If your copper is dark red, or crumbly you'll want to turn your rectifier down. If it's a salmon/pink color, turn your rectifier up. If your copper is like a shiny new penny, you have it right where you want it to be. Since there is a little bit of crumble on my wire I chose to turn it down a hair.

After you have checked on your earrings and adjusted your rectifier as needed, place your earrings back in the solution and grab another cheeseburger.

Step 10: Remove and Rinse Your Earrings

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The earrings have been electroforming for 5 hours, and I am satisfied with the amount of copper build up. Remove them from the bath, rinse them in a neutralizing solution of distilled water and baking soda, then a rinse in just distilled water. Now you can remove the wire and PlastiDip.

Step 11: Oxidize Your Piece (Optional)

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Your earrings will eventually oxidize over time, but I like the raw look of oxidation so much that i'm going to expedite that process. I am using a few drops of Liver of Sulfur mixed with hot distilled water. BEWARE OF THE SMELL! This seriously smells likes farts, so be sure to use it in a well ventilated area. I like to let mine soak until they are almost black. Take them out of the Liver of Sulphur, rinse them in the baking soda water solution, then water, and then let dry.

Step 12: Polish Your Earrings

Picture of Polish Your Earrings

I am using a Dremel with an abrasive buffing attachment. If you don't have a Dremel you can use sandpaper with a fine grit. I like to go over the copper areas to give it a more raw and dimensional look.

Step 13: Waxing Your Earrings

Picture of Waxing Your Earrings

Seal your earrings with a jewelers wax to slow further oxidation. You can use your finger to massage a small amount of wax onto the copper, and then go over with a paper towel to remove excess wax. A little goes a long way, so use sparingly!

Step 14: You're Finished!

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Ta-Duh! You're all finished!

Show off your one-of-a-kind copper and stone earrings. :)

The possibilities are endless when it comes to electroforming. You can electroform just about anything you can fit into your electroforming container!

Some porous stones and materials may need a varnish to protect them from dissolving in the acidic solution. So make sure to do your research, or you may end up with a ruined project.

Comments

DeborahD32 (author)2016-02-08

Hi thanks so much what an amazing project !! Your instructions are the best I have seen and I have looks for hours on end late at night hours and hours u really should consider going on Etsy and charging for tutorials Don't get me wrong I love free and am so grateful I didn't have to pay. But for your future and time involved in the process of making a tutorial you deserve a little income from all the time u put into it. I've seen a lot of amazing electroforming of rings. I have had a hard time finding the different looks of patinas and raw edges vs shiny edges. If u could do a tutorial on rings and the various raw electroforming and smooth polished looks that can surround a stone I would actually pay a tutorial fee. Do you know if the electroforming areas on only jewelry can end up peeling off?
Or how to prevent people's fingers from turning green. Since I have read it is impossible to prevent except the initial waxing. I want to have anyone I give jewelry to to have the ability to have instructions on how to keep their jewelry from making them turn green.
If u have any advice on the above questions interwoven in the long comment I would be beyond beyond appreciative

alanjamesblair (author)2016-01-11

"make sure to do your research, or you may end up with a ruined project." But ending up with ruined projects is how I do my research! J/K. Great project and great earrings!

yrralguthrie (author)2015-12-31

A real rarity...a useful instructable instead of an ego post. Excellent!

Lisaakrill (author)2015-10-17

Thank you so much for this! Ive been looking at elecroforming on and off for a while and id say your tutorial is the best I've seen! Can't wait to get my bit's together and give it a go!

sclements3 (author)2015-08-25

I see why you won the earring challenge. This is freaking amazing!

ddj0195 (author)2015-07-17

Amanda, I enjoyed the instructable very much. Most presenters mask out brand names, but your inclusion of that information will make it so much easier to be sure we are starting off on the right foot.

In step 6, the conductive paint appears to be very precisely applied and has very clean sharp edges on the stone face. After electroforming those edges are quite ragged and imprecise. Can you clarify why this transition occurs? Is it possible to maintain the precise edging during electroforming?

MuditaJ (author)2015-07-05

Hi Amanda, this is great thank you.

I'm just in the process of getting all my equipment together to start electroforming. I want to be using it on different types of crystals and minerals. I know that the copper solution is acidic and can eat away at some of the minerals. I'm trying to come up with a type of barrier that can be painted into the mineral and then removed after electroforming. PlastiDip looks like it might be the product I've been looking for however you mention above to be careful not to get it on the stone, why is that?

Thank you so much for your time, effort and sharing.

Dita.

imamanda (author)MuditaJ2015-07-07

Hi Dita!

I am sure you would be fine to get it on the stone to protect it from the acid bath. I have never tried it so I'm not sure! I just meant to not get it on the stone where you wanted the copper to form.

I just went to a craft store and picked up a clear varnish that I dip the porous stones in. The one I have is pretty thin so I like to add a few layers so it's easier to peel off afterwards. Sorry, I don't have the brand I use, I pulled the label off of the bottle! Really any water based varnish will work fine. :)

Good luck in your electroforming adventures!!

Amanda

mikeschafer13 (author)2015-05-26

daaang girl! ever thought about going into finger modeling?

imamanda (author)mikeschafer132015-05-27

Do you think they'd be able to look past my gnarly cuticles? ;)

LeticiaG1 (author)2015-05-20

Hi! Thank you for making this tutorial. I got most of the materials except the PlastiDip. I looked on the internet and some material for cars made by Performix came out. I am not sure if that is what I need. Where do you find the one you use? Thank you again! :)

imamanda (author)LeticiaG12015-05-26

I got mine from Home Depot! Sorry, I didn't save the original container it came in, that probably would have been helpful.

Travpena (author)2015-05-17

Is there anything i can use in place of your rectifier? I mean what kind of voltage is needed for something like this? I have a rig for electroetching but that is taking material away not adding to it. Great build though.

imamanda (author)Travpena2015-05-18

For doing a small project, like these earrings, you really only need a very low amount of amperage. This particular one is .05 amps on the low end and for this project I only turned it up a little bit from that.

I know there are a few YouTube videos where people have built their own power supply for electroforming, so if you're feeling experimental you can go that direction.

I hope that somewhat answered your question!

Kutluhan (author)2015-05-17

A lot of working. Electroforming part was very interesting for me. Thank you for sharing!

imamanda (author)Kutluhan2015-05-18

Thank you!

BeccaA (author)2015-05-17

You are so talented!

imamanda (author)BeccaA2015-05-17

Thanks Becca!

NathanSellers (author)2015-05-17

This is awesome! Excellent instructions and pictures to match. Thanks for sharing.

imamanda (author)NathanSellers2015-05-17

Thank you so much!

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