Instructables
This instructable will demonstrate how to solder sterling silver rings using a torch, silver solder, and various other tools to create a pair of sterling silver earrings. How about making your friend or loved one a custom pair of sterling silver earrings!

**Warning, if you are reading this to try and learn how to solder for computer circuits, read no further. Soldering jewelry involves an open flame torch and temperatures up to 1700 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 930 degrees Celsius. This will very likely destroy any circuitry that you attempt to use this technique on. Unless, of course, you intend to destroy said circuits, then by all means, read on.***

The next page will include a list of tools and materials you will need for this project.
 
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Step 1: Materials list

Picture of Materials list
Pickle.jpg
various silver findings.jpg
Various Jump Rings.jpg
Here is a list of tools and materials that you will need for this project:

  • Sterling silver wire or jump rings
  • A torch. The one I am using is a small butane powered plumbers torch by Ronson which I got for about $30 at Walmart. Butane refills are about $2 each and fill it up almost twice.
  • A soldering pick. I got mine in a set from Home Depot for about $5, but just about any kind of long thin steel rod will work.
  • Borax Flux. You may need to look for a specialty store or order this online.
  • Silver Solder. Silver solder is an alloy of silver, copper, and sometimes a little zinc. It comes in three main grades - Hard, Medium, and Easy. Hard melts at the highest temperature, Easy at the lowest. For this Instructable, I used Medium as my torch is a bit small to melt Hard very quickly. If you have a larger torch you might want to start with Hard, then use Medium on your second solder joints to prevent reflowing your Hard solder and loosing the connection. You will probably have to order this online or over the phone from a precious metals supplier.
  • Wire cutters. Use these to snip the silver solder into small pieces.
  • Tweezers. You may want these to hold something in place while soldering. Good ones have wooden grips so that they don't burn your fingers during extended soldering.
  • Pickle. No, not the food. Pickle is a weak acid that is used to dissolve oxides and flux from the metal after soldering. Basically it makes the metal really clean by eating away all the dirty stuff. Also, never put anything made of steel in the pickle. The steel reacts with the pickle, making it so that the pickle will copper plate your silver. It's a weak acid, but it's still an acid, so if it gets on your clothes it will bleach or eat holes though them, and you should wash it off if it gets on your skin, and be especially careful to keep it out of your eyes.  Update: I've heard some people use citric acid or a salt & vinegar solution instead of the acid pickle you can order from jewelry supply stores. I've never tried these methods myself, but they seem like cheap and easy options for beginners so I thought I'd list them.
  • Some kind of plastic/ceramic container to put the pickle in. I just used a old Tupperware container. You can't use metal, especially steel.
  • Earring hooks to attach to your earrings to make them dangly.
  • A short length of thin copper wire. Use this to dip your silver in the pickle. Never put steel in the pickle.



Optional tools or materials you may want:

  • Sandpaper - Use this to clean up your solder seams. I prefer 320 or 400 grit, but these will not leave a high polish.
  • A polished hammer and anvil. You can hammer the silver to flatten, harden, and planish it a little bit instead of sanding, saving a lot of time. Planished silver is shinier than sanded silver, but you can't use a regular hammer for this because if there are any marks in the hammer face, those marks will transfer to the silver. The same applies to the anvil.
  • If you're looking to save some money, or you want to practice with something less expensive than sterling silver, these techniques can also be applied to copper or brass wire and sheet as well. Just remember that if you use silver solder on copper or brass, the silver will show up against the brown or yellow of the other metals.

Most of these tools or materials can be ordered online, from companies such as the ones below:

http://www.hauserandmiller.com/ - Hauser and Miller supplies precious metal materials such as Sterling silver wire and silver solder. They have low minimum purchase requirements, and their shipping is fairly low too. Their selection is somewhat small though.

http://www.ccsilver.com/ - Another good site for raw silver materials such as wire and solder.

http://www.riogrande.com/ - Rio Grande can supply you with pretty much everything you'll need for this project. The only problem with them is that they have some high minimum purchase requirements for raw materials, such as silver wire or solder, and they also have high fabrication fees. They do however, have an enormous selection. This would be a good place to find flux, pickle, sterling components such as ear posts or hooks, etc. You can also purchase tools from them such as hammers, small anvils, soldering tweezers, and torches.

http://www.monsterslayer.com - I've never ordered from them before but I hear their prices are pretty good and they seem to have a decent selection of things like raw materials and findings.

While I am by no means saying you must order your materials from one of these sites, several of them I have used previously and not had any major problems with them. If you prefer to do your own research, these sites may be a good starting place to compare prices, although for most silver items the price fluctuates daily with the precious metals market, so the best way to check prices on silver items is to call the company and ask for a price check.
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ana.cristi.53 minutes ago

help...how do I make or shape the silver/copper to make a "light-tight" ring that I can solder? I know it must be something so basic...I am mangling my wire and becoming totally frustrated. I just want to make a simple ring, that's it. help. thank you

Flux can be made with Boric Acid Powder and Alcohol. Some use denatured, I'm trying to use Isopropyl 91% solution. I'm hoping the water will be less of a contaminant than the ≈10% wood naptha or other adulterant used in denaturing. We'll see. But it's definitely DIYable.

Wow, this is beautiful work!!

thank you I think I can do this now.

vinegrafted2 years ago
Thank you for your instructable - very helpful. I am wanting to solder together the settings that swarovski rhinestones come in or can be placed in - like the tiffany style metal pronged settings and then solder the settings together like the example shown in the image.

I was wondering if I might be able to use a soldering iron - if you know - possibly a low-temp? If so, do you know what type of flux and other material might be needed?

I would attempt to solder the metal together, first, then load the crystals in the prongs after cooling.

thank you.
rhinestone jewelry example.jpg
I am looking to do something similar ... I already have a soldering iron, but I'm unsure of the other materials I would need to join two of the curved turquoise pieces to the larger pendant finding. Both are constructed of brass.

What type of solder/flux and other supplies would I need?

I would greatly appreciate any help!
Brass Pendant Finding.jpgTurquoise in Brass Back.jpgTurquoise in Brass Front.jpg
I have been making jewelry for a long time now and I use a soldering iron that is made for jewelry. I recommend "simply swank" :)
thank you, Lysharianne, that helps. Have you ever made anything like what is in the picture? I'm also having a difficult time locating the settings for the crystal rhinestones to be set into. I've searched all over the internet for settings to fit Swarovski rhinestones and haven't had much luck.
Thanks again, though!
Yes, I have made something similar. You can find settings on amazon.com or even etsy.com good luck! I hope this helps!!
CGMFindings2 years ago
Nice tutorial. You can find all of this stuff if you are interested at:
https://cgmfindings.com/
https://cgmfindings.com/index.php?id=6&page=75

wire jump rings silver solder and even a some gemstone beads if inclined to add some to the design.

dmann72 years ago
I need to make a minor inside repair to a silver tea-pot strainer basket and was thinking about using a dab of pure silver for my solder.
The mesh is stainless steel while the structure around the base, that needs repaired, is silver.
Is this the way to go?
Thanks in advance.
D
soundinnovation (author)  dmann72 years ago
Well, pure silver is going to have a higher melting point than sterling or any kind of silver solder. The problem with this is that if you are trying to heat the pure silver onto the silver of the strainer then unless you have a lot of practice you're more likely to end up melting the rest of the silver and possibly deforming it. If you decide to go with this method I'd recommend practicing it on some silver pieces that you don't mind accidentally damaging if it doesn't go well.

Now, the other consideration is that since the mesh part is stainless steel, if you try to use it with a Sparex type pickle solution, it will contaminate the pickle and make it copper-plate anything that is silver. This can be removed using an abrasive but that is usually a huge pain in the butt and can also damage the finish of the piece. You can try a vinegar/salt pickle or a citric acid pickle, but once again I'd test that on something you don't mind messing up. I've never worked with those pickles so I don't know if they contaminate with steel the same way Sparex pickles do.

Hopefully this advice helps!

Thanks I guess I was making it to much of a job. I just need to reattach the SS mesh to the bottom silver ring so the tea leaves stop leaking into the tea-pot.
Without poisoning the tea with bad metal.
Where is a pot tinker when you need one?
Lysharianne2 years ago
Btw simply swank makes everything you need :) you can buy the kit on amazon
Thank you - I'll look for it on amazon. I'm still having a difficult time finding the settings for swarovski crystal rhinestones but will keep looking. Thanks again!
I've been making jewelry for a long time now. I started with crochet craft wire necklaces which I look back on and laugh at now. Then I started doing basic beading, and then wire wrapping, and now hammering...And I think now I'm ready to start getting serious. Soldering seemed like the next logical step, especially as I've been hammering wire to make bangle-like bracelets but always have to improvise some kind of closure, and would love to make bangles. I'd really like to be able to do rings, as well, without having to design some flourish to mask the ends. This tutorial will be very helpful in making my decision as to whether soldering is right for me. It was very well written, easy to follow, and accessible. And now I know everything I need, where to get it, and what to expect. Thanks very much.
crowdinamin2 years ago
Thanks so much for this tutorial! its been really helpful. Now that Ive done a few easy pieces I wanted to do a more complex piece. I have a bunch of brass links that I soldered into a ring using the same methods you show here... my issue now is as I try to solder the last link to complete the circle, it melts the solder off previous links. Is there a handy way to keep this from happening?

any advice would be much appreciated
thanks!
Sorry, I misunderstood your comment. I was thinking you were working on a chain. It would be easier to use a heat sink with a chain but you may still be able to use one. You might be able to affix the razor blade to your links with wire. You want to make sure the edge of the blade is in contact with the link you are trying to solder. As was said in another comment, solders in hard, medium and easy would also solve the problem. My suggestion is a possible fix that would not require additional solders of some sort of covering to protect the metal you're soldering. I hope it helps.
yea that could actually help also. I didnt even think of using some kind of heat sink and the blade should be pretty easy to place on the links i am soldering. Thanks for your help!
soundinnovation (author)  crowdinamin2 years ago
You're welcome!

The easiest way to do this would be to use solders with different flow temperatures, usually referred to as hard, medium, and easy. 'Hard' solder melts at the highest temperature, and 'easy' at the lowest. There is also a 'very easy' but it is usually only used for repair work. You should start with hard solder and progress downwards so that the first things you solder are at the highest melting temperature and you get progressively colder. If you are working on silver, you want to use the highest melting point solder you can on all visible seams because hard solder has a better color than medium or easy does. On brass it shouldn't matter too much.
The other alternative is to get your hands on some yellow ocher. If you make a paste of yellow ocher and water and paint that onto the solder seams you do not want to flow, the ocher will inhibit the flow of the solder. If you use yellow ocher you should be very careful to wash it all off before you place the piece in your pickle because the iron in the ocher will contaminate your pickle and cause it to copper plate your metal.
Hope this helps!
awesome. thanks so much for you thoughts on this. I will definitely try this!
Some years back when I worked in a jewelry store I did some chain repair. In order to keep the solder from going where I didn't want it I used a razor blade as a heat sink. I took a single edge razorblade and put a metal screw in the slot in the blade so it was stand up on its edge with the screw forming another leg. I then placed the edge of the blade on the link I was soldering, about half way back of the link. This prevented the heat from reaching the other parts of the chain. I think I got fairly good at soldering fine curb link chain using this technique. I think it could be applicable to your needs.
paqrat2 years ago
Thank you for a great tutorial. Its been years since I've done any jewelry soldering. Its good to know a small portable torch can be used for this. I didn't want to get into the large torch outfits, certainly not in my home.
mojobo13 years ago
I'm 17 and wanting to start a career in jewelry design. This should help a lot :) I have a lot of 1"-2" thick flat slabs of rock... Hoping to use one or more of those as a soldering pad. Also need to invest in a soldering torch... Hoping they aren't too expensive. Thanks for the 'ible! This will help a lot
scotto3 years ago
another good one is ...Contenti Jewelry Making Supplies
http://www.contenti.com/catalog.html
C.G.3 years ago
This was amazing, but way too much work for me. I want a bail to be soldered closed and trying to find a sterling silver jeweler is not easy. Apparently, Jewelers only like to work on gold.
I know it's been here a while, But I just wanted to say thanks for a useful tutorial on a technique that I've been wondering about for some time.
MommaD534 years ago
I got a welding mat at my local Harbor Freight store. They only carry a big one but I can cut it down to size and have a lot of little mats to solder onto. I am new at soldering as well but my husband has been doing it for at least 40 years so I have a personal instructor.
Hi there

I'm new at this (and very grateful for your tute) what do you recommend for a fireproof work surface?    I looked but couldn't find a source.

TYVM
soundinnovation (author)  vintage53rose4 years ago
If you want something that's totally fireproof, start with a metal table and cover it in a layer of kiln bricks. Or, maybe just a metal table. Or, a wood table with a sheet of aluminum over it.
My current workspace is actually just an ancient wooden desk that has a 1 inch thick piece of wood for the top, and I solder on a ceramic soldering pad (Rio Grande) on top of a kiln brick. Some people will get a metal lazy susan pan and fill it with pumice pebbles, then put their soldering pad on that so that they can spin it as they work.  I believe this is the soldering pad I have:
http://tinyurl.com/24klysk

Hope that helps!

Well made. Clear photos and video.
rosenred5 years ago
Excellent tutorial! I have read many more (I usually do that when I am about to start a project - putting it off by reading a ton of material) but yours is far more explanatory and simple to follow. One question though: When soldering copper do you use the same kind of flux and solder? Well maybe two questions... Can you use standard solder (the one used for circuits) if you are not making jewelry (I understand it is not healthy)?
soundinnovation (author)  rosenred5 years ago
Yes, the same kind of flux and silver solder will work. I've never tried standard solder, but it's my understanding that since it has a much lower melting point, if you overheat it it will just boil or vaporize off in the heat of the torch. If you do try it, I'd recommend doing it outside or somewhere with very good ventilation so that you don't inhale any fumes, especially if it's a leaded solder.
This was really informative. When people mention "soldering" my brain automatically jumps to electronics. It is great to see other uses, or in this case, an entirely new use for the technique! Thank you for sharing such a little known practice outside of the jewelry world.
don't u mean the old use? this is what they did before the had electronics lol
lunastyx5 years ago
This is a SUPER tutorial The pictures and video were wonderful but your written instructions were the best I have seen. Thank you!
quinee5 years ago
This is very helpful~! Thank you so much.
jinnypearce5 years ago
Really, fabulous tutorial, thorough and clear. I've been trying to find this info. You know, this is better presented than in some of the hard core books I've bought. Great job!
I am VERY interested in learning how to solder and out of all the tutorials I have found online this one is by far the most informative I have come across! Thank you so much! Now if I could only decided what and where to buy supplies... AH I'm still so confused and nervous but you never know until you try... Oh and BTW, I have bought from Monsterslayer.com on many occasions and they are a good company. great prices, hard to beat deals, and relatively fast USPS shipping( but it depends on what kind of shipping you choose they offer UPS and FEDEX too). They have also added a bunch of stuff to their stock so there is more of a wider selection of things. Check it out sometime.
soundinnovation (author)  courtneygrobb5 years ago
If you have a university or community college that offers metalworking/jewelry classes nearby, try looking at art stores very close to campus to see if they have some stuff like solder and flux. You'll pay a little more for the amount, but you can buy smaller quantities so that you can test out some techniques rather than plunking down a whole bunch of money up front and getting more than you need. The art stores near my school offered small jars of flux and solder by the inch.
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