Tutorial showing the construction of a necklace, from sterling silver wire, based on a traditional southwestern Native American design. I think the original design I saw used half-round wire, so the center of the dogbones (see later steps) are more cylindrical. I actually like this look slightly better.

This style is unisex, although this particular one is destined for a lady. Every person I've made one for has loved it; it is a pretty classic design--simple, elegant, and with enough irregularity that it says "made by hand."

Try it for Valentine's Day. I gave my girlfriend one last year, and three months later we got married. Guess I oughta enter the V-Day contest. Hmm... Just saw that it is also soldering month. Free patch, huh? Look at step 4, serious soldering going on there. Prolly not what you were expecting, but heck--*that* is soldering. First instructable and I get to enter two contests! This is cool.

Step 1: Materials & Sources

As I noted, this tutorial involves some specialized tools, although you can make some obvious substitutions. Sources for raw sterling silver wire and other supplies include Santa Fe Jeweler's Supply and Rio Grande, which is a dead tree catalog-centric company.


Mandrels of various sizes. Despite the fancy name, what we are talking about here is a couple metal or solid rods that wire can be bent around to form rings. You will need one about 0.5" in diameter and one about 0.25" in diameter.

Jeweler's saw. Jeweler's saws have very fine blades. This is one tool you might consider buying, along with some "0" blades. If you don't make the cuts close and straight, soldering becomes a frustrating exercise.

Pliers. For these tasks, I like the small pliers with springs that will keep them naturally open. I also prefer smooth jawed pliers, since anything with knurling in the jaws will mar sterling silver--dead soft sterling silver, which is used here, is very malleable and will show such marks easily. For the most part, I use snub nose pliers, but I also use a pair of rounded jaw pliers and a pair of parallel jaw pliers. Unless you get into this heavily, you may have to figure a substitution here, although you can pick up relatively cheap sets of pliers at Sears Hardware.

Wire Snips. Unless you want to leave bits poking out, you will need a decent small set of wire cutters. Those big lineman's electrical wire cutters won't cut it here... Something with a fairly pointy end and small...

Rawhide Hammer. I use a rawhide hammer in this tutorial because it mars silver less. You can probably get away with a softer hammer, or taping up--and continually retaping--the end of a conventional hammer to soften it a bit.

Torch. Silversmithing was my excuse to get a big oxyacetylene rig, and it can be your excuse too. In all fairness, however, I use a little torch in this tutorial, and the soldering is such that a little torch works pretty well. Mine was actually a gift, and I think its actually designed for putting the sugar crust on creme brulee. There are probably better versions of these things available at Home Depot. They run on butane. I would not recommend one of the big plumbing torches for this--I do this inside. Insert big disclaimer here about things that can burn you and use of gas indoors without adequate ventilation, etc.


Dead Soft Sterling Silver Wire. I use, for this tutorial, 12 ga. (large rings), 14 ga. (small rings), 18 ga. (clasp) and 20 ga. (wrap) wire. I like the relative proportions using those dimensions, but you could sub 12 ga. for the 14 ga., with minor adjustments, 22 ga for 20 ga., etc. Read the tutorial and see where you might choose to do things different.

Silver Solder. I used medium for this--70% silver solder. I recommend using easy solder (65%), but I didn't have any on hand. Or couldn't find it.

Liquid flux. Stuff to solder with. Very small amounts needed. Generally sold in very large quantities.

Pickle. Not that kind of pickle. Pickle is a mild acid used to take the oxidization off after soldering. Again, small amount needed, generally sold in large quantities.

Baking soda. The stuff you get in the grocer's. Used to neutralize pickle and scrub with.


Tumbling Polisher. I use a Lortone tumbling polisher in this tutorial. There are other ways of polishing as well. I used this one because it is in my garage. If you don't have one in your garage, you can probably use silver polish and do it by hand.

Jump Ringer. I use a Jump Ringer system to make jump rings. Again, you have alternatives if you can find metal rods (mandrels to us jewelers). You just need to form circles. Look in Home Depot.

If you want to know more about this kind of stuff, suggested reading includes Indian Jewelry Making, which, despite its cheezy pictures, is very good.
I am no silver smith but I want to try and make one or 2 of these as gifts. If I had none of the materials and some of the tools how much do you think this would cost? Also is there another material I could use that would give me similar experience that is cheaper then silver?
Can you make instructable on how to make the simple rustic chain.
Thats really neat! I'm currently working on a cool steampunk-ish pendant (a 3d model to later be printed using a 3d steel printer) and it would look really cool on a chain such as this.
ugh. i wish i had the patience( and/or skill) for something like this. the end result is spectacular!
Great Job. I'm making one.<br/>Here is a link for a sterling silver <a rel="nofollow" href="http://jewelrymaking.about.com/od/polishingmetaljewelry/a/012008.htm">cleaning solution</a>. Hope this helpful.<br/><br/>raving apache<br/>
well done. i make chainmail type jewelry with stainless steel wire myself . maybe if i get bored enough one day i'll do a tutorial on mine
Hi bluesblood, Where do you get the stainless steel wire for your chainmail? Tks, fkillam
<a rel="nofollow" href="http://theringlord.com/">http://theringlord.com/</a><br/>
It's worth noting here that chain should always be polished like this, in a tumbler; or by buffing by hand with some fine steel wool. NEVER polish chain on a buffing wheel! It can easily get wrapped around the spindle and turn into a metal whip.
Thanks for the nice comments. I figured I'd start with this one since it didn't require a huge battery of specialized tools. After seeing the comments, I quickly checked the time tags on the photos. Think I spent about 2 hours one night going from raw wire to the completely soldered piece, then about 1.5 hours a couple nights later wrapping it and finishing it. And, I think I also did some other stuff while I was working. So, as jewelry goes, it isn't completely horrendous... But, I've done this before, and it the first time I did this type of chain, it certainly took longer than that...
Extremely well done, but you obviously have more patience than most of us here. I really admire the quality and designs of the finished products. Thanks for sharing.
Very very cool, I make jewlery as well. But have'nt had the time to post a tutorial yet. It takes long enuf to make the necklaces let alone take pictures as I go along. lol.

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