Every year we have a "Mineral Fair" in my Hometown, which consists of several large Halls filled to the brim with people selling precious gems in all shapes and colours. During this I picked one special Opal for my girlfriend, who is fascinated of them and always wanted one.
Thus I made a pendant out of an Opal shaving, a rose coloured Turmaline and a nice firm chain to hold it.
This was the first time i worked with real silver. Thus this was a magical journey of waisting resources and discovering and im quite proud of the results it gave me. :)
This 'ible will teach you how to weave a chain out of fine Silver Wire (often called viking or medival style), make a setting for one unusually and one reglular shaped Stone and how to throw them all together into one finished Piece.
At the time im writing this I have already completed the settings and set the stones, as well as made the lenght of the chain. Thus the pictures concerning the setting will be inconsistent but i will try to show you the process as best as possible.
I hope it will be as much of a learning experience for you as it was for me :).
Step 1: Materials - Spending for the Opportunity to Learn
The important thing is to get the right materials (since you can improvise for a lot of tools). So don't hold back on them too much.
These are the materials I used. I will also give you the approximate cost of a few things since that was something I wasn't sure about when I started the project and should be helpful to you.
Note that the price and quality of gems and silver can vary extremly from different suppliers. Be wary! :)
- An Opal "shaving"
- This cost me about 10 Euro at the aforementioned fair. It has quite the unusual shape and is quite thick but more on that later. If you don't have a similar fair in the area you should be able to buy something similar from the Internet.
- A Turmalin
- I choose this Stone as a complementary piece to give the pendant a bit more weight, because the rosé colour matched the fine sheen on the opal. Also after i was done with the Opal i finally kinda understood the process to make the setting and was in a rush to make another one. Also 10 Euro
- Fine Silver Wire
- This will be the stuff you mainly make the chain out of. It's also one of the materials that will greatly fluctuate in amount depending on the thickness and length of the final chain. I used 0,3 mm (a bit smaller than 28 Ga) and mabye 1/3isch of my 20 meter coil (hard to measure without uncoiling it) thus this cost me about 10 Euro. Get a bit more and Experiment! ;)
- Cheap Wire
- This will be just to start the chain. I used 0,5 mm (24 Ga) Coper wire though it can be anything as long as its mildly sturdy and cheap.
- Silver Wire
- This will be used to make the settings and should range in Ga depending on the Stone. I used a few Meters of 0,5 mm (24 Ga) Silver Wire but this will be considerably less if you have some experience soldering. Make sure its Sterling or fine Silver as Plated Wire will turn black while you solder. It cost me about 2,60 per Meter.
- Silver Solder
- Regular silver solder. Try to get it in wire form as it's really easy to handle with the wire cutters.
- Silver Clasps
- In the past I made my own closing mechanisms but they were always super big and not reliable at all so now i use these. 9,75 Euro for 10 clasps with jumprings.
- Flux is used while soldering to prevent oxidation and to help the solder flow. Flux comes in several different forms but consists manly of Borax. I used the liquid form (often called "Fluoron") which worked really well. Keep in mind that these are Chemicals. Safety first!
- "Vinegar essence"
- Acid to clean the silver after you soldered it.
Step 2: It's Dangerous to Go Alone. Take These Tools With You!
Since i had a limited budget from the moment i started with Jewelry making, I always had very few tools but that won't stop us!
This will be a list of tools i used. Most will be an absolute must while for some you can improvise. See what works for you:
- A Gas Torch
- I picked this up cheap at a local hardware store. It fills with lighter fuel and could get hotter then what we will ever need. Also get some gas for it.
- A soldering Block
- This is something that you can safely solder on without burning through the table. I used a block of coal bought at a hobby shop.
- An assortment of wire cutters
- A few side winders "borrowed" from my fathers tools. even though you could do with one its always nice to have extras.
- Pliers: one flat one serrated
- Mabye one that is naturally closed and one that is round. Ah the luxury.
- A cylindrical Piece of Metal
- This Piece should be a more or less round cylinder shape and fit comfortably in your hand. it will be used to wrap the chain arround. If it also has a flat tip that you can use to set the stones it will be perfect.
- A titanium "needle"
- This tool has become quite useful for me during the process. Its main strengh is while you solder. You can use it to apply the Flux, to attach and direct the solder (it will only stick lightly to the titanium) and to push the hot pieces off your soldering block to let them cool. It will also be useful while making the chain.
- A "drawing Board"
- This is a thick wood board in which i drilled consecutively smaller holes. it starts at ~5 or ~6 cm in diameter and end at around 3 cm. This will be used to "draw" the chain to even it out and give it its final thickness
- A cordless screwdrinver
- This will be used once to make the setting. If you don't have one just lend it somewhere. You might need it for 1 hour tops, 5 minutes if you make just as much as you need.
- A Hammer
- You want as few scratches as possible on the flat side to avoid texture on anything you hammer.
- Lots of Lights
- you want it bright while you work.
Step 3: Chain-Starter - Radical!
The chain will be the most time expensive thing in this project. If you already know how to weave a "vicking style"-chain you can skip these next steps.
If you are concentrated on it you will be able to get it completed in about a week. I took almost a month. Once you get into the rhythm though you can watch TV or read and learn while you work, making this a bit better.
To start the chain you have to think a bit about how it should look. The more "loops" and the higher Gauge you use the thicker and less flexible it will come out. At the same time it will be more sturdy and look more solid. I used 0,3 mm (~28 Ga) wire with 6 loops and got a chain ~4 cm thick. It is quite sturdy and still a bit flexible. The thickness and flexibility can also be influenced later on so don't fret this decision to much. For 0,3 mm wire anything around 5 loops is usually good.
Making the starter is quite simple. Take a long piece of your cheap wire and grip one end between your thumb and a finger so that the wire runs over Index-, Middle- and Ringfinger and then wrap it around those 3 Fingers until you get the desired Loop count.
After this take the lenght of Loops of your fingers. They should be oblong and have the beginning and end strand on one side which will be refered to as the bottom during this process.
Next pinch the loops at about 1/4 of the lenght from the bottom and twist it a few times to fixate it. You should now be left with one site that has long loops and one that is almost round witch a pinched twisted part in the middle (further refert to as the Handle). Twist the ends of the wire a few times around the handle to keep them from annoying you.
Now you only have to seperate the long loops into a shape similar to that of a flower, by bending them down one after the other into different directions. Then the Starter is done!
Get yourself some Tea or Coffee because i always find the next part to be the trickiest.
Step 4: Starting the Chain - the First Weave
The first weave is always the hardest. To start take the chain starter you just made and grip it at the handle. Hold the starter against the metal cylinder as if you want to stick it on the flat end. It should look like a stalk coming out of the flower. Then bend the loops upwards onto the metal cylinder. The loops should now go around your cylinder. It's ok if they overlap at the sides as long as the top parts of the loops are free.
First take a strand of your fine wire (about the length of your arm) and wrap one end a few times around the handle of the chain starter. Then bring the rest along the side of the loops to the top. Wrap the wire one time around the top of one loop.
Now its Time for the first real loop.
- With the free end of the wire go through the next loop from the inside so that the wire lays under the top of the loop.
- Then go over the side of the loop into the direction of the previous loop.
- Finally tuck the wire under the the wire from the first step and then gently pull until your first loop rests against your metal cylinder.
repeat this until you reach your first loop again. While doing that try to avoid the wire developing kinks anywhere.
Then do the same thing just this time you go under the part where the wire of the loop crosses itself (see step 3). Repeat again on the new layer until you run out of wire.
If you found you just made a mistake, you just pulled one loop too tight or you can't get between the wires because they sit too tight use the Titanum needle to push and control the wire. This is way easier than using your fingers trust me.
Step 5: Splicing in a New Strand - Looks Messy, Works Well Though
Splicing in a new wire strand is quite easy once you figure it out. Basically its just doing two double loops and then carry on normally.
After you finished the old strand go back one loop (from now called the pre-end-loop) . Now take one end of the new stand and go under the bridge between the end-loop and the pre-end-loop then follow the pre-end-loop tucking the wire under the bridge between the pre-end-loop and the loop before that.
Next you pull the wire through until you have a rest as long as the one on your end-loop.
Now follow the old strand along with the new strand and go loop though the same X-part as the end loop.
After this go around again treating the douple loops (pre-end-, and end- loop) each as if they are normal loops.
When you understand this and have some practice you can try going revers on the pre-end-loop, thus preventing you from having to pull the whole wire through the first time. This comes in very handy when you try to work with strands that are almost 2 meters.
Continue the last two steps until you have around 3/4 ths of your final length. More is always welcome as you will loose a bit during drawing and adding the clasps.
Step 6: Draw, Draw, Draw Your Chain Gently Through the Board!
After drawing you will not be able to elongate the chain except by adding the clasp! Though the drawing will add quite a bit to the length, make sure you do have enough!
This is always quite fun! the drawing will make the chain dense, will smooth out any irregularities and you will finally get a feel for what you worked towards all that time!
To begin take your drawing board and fix it somewhere so that it can't move. I used the vice that is in the cellar at my parents house.
Then draw the wire through the holes starting at the widest. For that place the 'flower' end (where the chain starter is) through the hole and the pull gently but firmly. If you can't fit the chain starter through the holes cut it of and wrap a wire a few times trough the end you just created. Then use it to pull the chain through.
pull it through twice then move to the next smaller hole. Stop lowering the diameter once you like the feel and thickness of the chain. This will be different for every chain depending on several factors so you just have to see for your self.
If you made a bit more than you really need and youre unsure if you should make it smaller just pull a little bit through the next hole and look how you like this little bit.
Step 7: The Setting - Failures, Experiences, Solutions
So the stone settings were the hardest and best learning experience of this projekt. Like I said i never solderd silver before but was used to messing. Thus the first thing I had to learn was to not completly melt the thing im working on.
Then came the next problem. I wanted to make a 2-stage-prong setting which are kinda standart for usual gems. Also I had made 2 before so I thought I kinda knew what i had to do. Alas I did not.
The problem was twofold:
- The Opal has an unusual shape. Not round, like the stones i had worked on before but not quite square either. This made every attempt to make an 2-stage-setting difficult because it would always bend or be to stiff at one point during the process leaving the stone to not fit right.
- The Opal is more a splinter from a bigger stone thus it doesn't tapper of to a point, while being in the overall quite thick. This made it hard to shape the stages correctly. Meaning i could make one stage go around the stone and one smaller then the stone, or both smaller. Both these options defeated the point of the 2-stage- setting
There were three possible solutions to the problem:
- Try to work around the problem but accepting a setting that did not fit right or didn't quite look right.
- Making a Bezel-setting instead of the 2-stage setting.
- Ditching the 2nd Stage and experimenting.
In the end i went for the 3rd option. I wanted the setting to look as best as possible so I didn't want to do the first option. The second and the third option both meant to experiment (I never made a Bezel-setting) so i went for the option that in my mind delivered the best result in this situation. (The Opal is bent and has a really irregular surface meaning a Bezel would struggle reliably keeping the stone in the setting)
In the next steps I will explain my solution and show you the creation process.
Step 8: Preparing the Rim-wire
The decision to not make a 2-stage setting opened up new possibilities for the setting! I knew that i wanted two strands at the back which were not solderd together but would be able to shift as i wanted them to. It also gave me the possibility of a bigger rim around the stone, masking the thickness of the stone and thus making it appear lighter.
To make the wire I was using, you have to take a long piece of the 0,5mm silver wire and fold it in half. Then clamp both ends together into the drill-less cordless screwdriver. Now take your titanium needle, fixate the loop part with it and slowly turn the wire until it's twisted evenly.
For the Turmalin i used this wire as is. For the Opal though I hammered it down. This gave it a braided look and made it thinner and broader.
Then everything is ready for the setting!
(be careful with bending the hammerd out wire as it will be quite brittle)
Step 9: Chemicals - How to Not Poison You (as Much)
Now before we get to solder anything we need to keep somethings in mind.
Apart from the usual "Don't touch the hot flame" and "Wait till the metal is cooled off before you touch it" there is also the matter of being save around the chemicals we are using.
- The Flux we are using is of the "Fluoron" type and is considered to be "Damaging to the Fetus or damaging to the reproductive system". This is manly caused by the Boric acid.
- A good way to prevent exposure is to not directly breath the vapours coming of the piece you are working on. Also I do my lab routine, which is to wasch my hands once after I finish working and once before I beginn to eat anything.
- Most of the problems are long term exposure
- See the wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boric_acid
- Use your own judgement what is enough for you, but i would recomend to not solder while you are pregnant just to be sure. :)
- There is not much to say here since its a standart acid.
- Always prepare the water first then add the acid to it.
- We shouldn't be working in any concentration that could damage you skin but still if you get it anywhere wasch it off with lot's of water.
Step 10: Soldering - Make Metal Do Your Bidding
When silver-soldering you just have to make sure that the pieces you want to solder are as close as possible. Then use your needle to apply the solder to the open piece and clip some solder (you really need only a VERY tiny piece of solder). Make sure you also have some flux on the solder clipping.
Now there are several ways to apply the solder:
- Put the solder-clipping direktly on the part where you want to solder. This works well when you want to fuse two pieces of wire together since you can prearrange everything so it all looks straight.
- Melt the Solder to a little ball and then use your Titanium needle to apply the solder directly to where ever you may need it. In a semi-molten form the solder will stick to your needle until you give it a better alternative (preheatet silver in this case) or it cools. I dont do this much because i find I need my hands for other things.
- Let the solder flow onto one part and then later stick that part onto another, reheating it until it forms a bond between both parts. This is good, since this will allow you to adjust the alignment of the parts to each other while you solder.
Then very gently heat the piece trying to keep the heat evenly on the whole part. If you don't distribute the heat evenly the solder will flow to the hotter part. But this can be fixed by heating the parts you want the solder on. ;)
Always keeping the torch moving will make this smoother.
Afterwards wait for the piece to cool off (you don't want to touch the hot metal!) and then inspect how your solder flew through your piece.
Step 11: Settings 101 - the Opal
The setting for the Opal is quite straight forward. (I'll be using an Amethyst as a substitute to show you the process since i allready had done the setting)
- First you have to create your "Rim". For this I took a lengt of the hammerd out twirled wire and wraped it around the circumference of the stone. I started in the middle of the longest side, just pressing the wire around the stone (use the pliers if the wire doesn't bend right)
- You can also try to bend the wire using just the pliers but I found that i never quite got the shape right and the frequent error correcting led to a lot of wire breaking. If you do make an error just use your flat pliers and pinch the place you want to flatten.
- Once I had wraped the stone and ended up at the point I startet at, I clip the excess wire so that the beginning and the end line up as best as possible.
- Afterwards I put the stone away and then made sure that the ends of my rim line up as best as possible. The ends should not have any space in between and should be on all the same planes.
- Then I soldered the Rim wire together. Afterwards I was able to make small adjustments on the form where the need was.
- Now you need to plan where your setting prongs should be and how the back should look. As discussed at the beginning i wanted the back wires to hold the stone while not having them be soldered in the middle.
- So I layed the rim on my soldering block and cut two pieces of wire so that they overlap the rim quite a bit. I layed them out how I wanted the back to look. Since the Opal was quite square i was able to just align them like a cross with both wires sitting right in the middle. This will depend completly on your stone.
- Think about how you can make sure you secure your stone to the maximum .
- Once you are done with the planning it goes back to soldering. I took the rim in one plier and set it on my coal block so that the face I wanted to solder faces upwards.
- Next I applyed some flux on the rim face and put some solder on. following this I went to grab one of my wires so that the part that should go over the rim was in my pliers (this will become one of the prongs for the setting later on). Apply some flux on the wire too.
- I heated the rim until I saw the solder flow. Pressing the wire firmly against the place where I put the solder, I reheat everything until I saw/felt the wire sticking to the rim (this will need a bit of practice but is not super hard to get right :) ). Congratulations if you followed this instructions you fixed your first prong!
- Now since the Opal was flat i had to make a little basket for it. I measured (guessed) how far back into the setting it should go and then bent the wire around to the other side of the rim with the appropriat space on the backside. This will be different for every stone (for the amethyst im using in this example it won't work at all because it has a tapered back)
- Once you have the wire across the back solder it onto the rim there and do the same treatment for the other wire. this will coclude the Opal setting.
(In hindsight I should have also attached a little jumpring on the top of the Opal- and on the top and bottom of the Turmalin-setting to attach them more easily but alas that thought came to late.)
Step 12: Setting 102 - the Turmalin
The setting for the turmalin is similar to the one for the Opal but easier! (For demonstration purposes i will use a peridot since I already had the stone set.)
- Since the Turmalin has a tapered back its easier to do the setting. I didn't have to worry for someting that will keep the stone from slipping back (since the rim will take care of that) and attaching the prongs was easier than with the Opal!
- For the rim I used the unflatened coiled wire since this will linke it visually to the Opal setting while still holding the Stone optimally. First I made the rim but this time I needed the rim a bit smaller than the stone so it can 'rest' on the rim. Just like with the opal I started in the middle of a straigth part of the stone and then using my pliers I wraped the wire around the circumfence of the stone. I had to check often if I could hold the stone on my rim without touching it directly. This way I was able to make sure I made a rim that my stone could rest on.
- Once I was satisfied with the result I cut the excess of and aligned the ends. I then solderd the rim closed. The Turmalin is again very square but this time we want an open back. So I arranged my prong wires how they should look. Then I put the rim away and just layed the prong wires out in the way I wantéd them. I soldered them together.
- After I had done that, I just layed the cross onto my rim and soldered at all points where the wires and the rim were touching. This was quite tricky. My only advice is to start with the wires that are actually touching the rim.
- If you mess up (like i've done for this demonstration - see pictures) dont be discouraged. You can seperate the rim from the wires by fixating the rim then heating the whole thing and using the needle to push the wires away while the silver solder is molten. Afterwards you wont need to use as much solder since the rim will keep some of it.
- Once I was done soldering, I just bend the wire upwards making sure that all wires are soldered to the rim. I then cut out the middle with my wire cutters. Make sure you cut as close to the rim as possible.
Your done with soldering the settings. Now you can go pickle them. Yum!
Step 13: The Pickle!
The pickle is a acidic mixture to clean the silver from excess flux and the oxidation marks made flom soldering. we use a mixture of water and vinegar essence. This is not very strong so we need to heat it and wait a bit but for that we can handle everything without much of protective gear. :)
For it just fill a small pot with water and then add the vinegar essence. The concentration is not really that important. I begann with a 4:1 mixture but then i got impatient and added enough acid that it went up to a 1:1 mix. As long as you remember to always add the acid after you have added the water all will be good.
Then throw your silver into the pot and heat everything withouth boiling it. Wait for 30 minutes to an hour and then check if you like the result. Otherwise let it stay a bit longer.
Afterwards take out the silver and rinse it good under flowing water.
Step 14: Setting the Stones
Prepare your setting by cliping the prong wires to one height (not to small!). This will make it easier to handle. Make sure everything is in order since you won't be able to change the setting (without risking the setting) after you set the stone.
Put the stone between the prongs looking to keep it level. Clip the prongs at about 1 or 2 mm (3/64 - 5/64 Inch) (rather clip less than to much since you mabye can adjust it later). If your stone has facets on the sides you can use them to help you guess. You want the prongs long enough to rest on whole thick of the facet but not on the 'table' (the flat top).
To push the prongs you need a flat piece of metal. Avoid things with scratches on the flat surface or with sharp edges since that could lead to scratches on the settings.
Getting the stone set level and looking good can be hard. Infact there are jewellers that specialize in stone setting. Lucky for us that this is not really nessecary for these settings. The thing to keep in mind when setting is to not overwork one side without giving the other prongs attention-
Always move from pushing one prong to the opposite side, never pushing the im more than a little. Dont rush! While you work always check if your stone sits level. You can adjust it a little by just pushing where its to high. Make sure you don't scrape across the stone with your metal piece since that will most likely result in a scratch!
Doing this you will get ever so closer to the final setting. Now when the stone can almost not move anymore you can make the last adjustments. If you find that your prongs are to long you can VERY CARFULLY use some wire cutters to cut them back. Only do this if you really have to much wire (its easy to cut them to short while doing this), you have the stone almost completly set (if it still moves you increase the chance for damage on your stone) and you are sure you can handle the cutters well. Some stones are harder, some are softer.
Step 15: Connections, Connections, Connections (making the Actual Pendant)
Since I did not add any jumprings to my settings I had to improvise to get the stones together. Once you work on it it becomes pretty self explanatory.
I used the fact that my settings are not 100% tight and there is a little space between the prongs and the stone where i was able to squeeze in one or two loops of the fine wire. So to connect the settings just run a long piece of fine wire twice or thrice in between the settings and the stones, pulling them close. Then twist it a few times (careful to not overdo that as it may put so much pressure on the stone that they pop out of the setting).
Wrap the remaining wire carfully around the twists to fixate them. Fixate the wire where you have some room (like on the back of the Opal ;) ).
Do something similar for the loop that connects to the chain. I fixed the wire to the Turmalin and uses something round that is bigger that the chain (a pen) . I then wraped it around several times passing through the setting once or twice more.
The remaining wire i used to wrap the loops once across the whole length (to keep them together) and then to wrap the connection between the loop and the turmaline setting and the side that was visible when you wear the chain.
Lastly i streched the loops again on the pen and checked if it moves smoothly on the chain (it does luckily).
Yay we are almost finished!
Step 16: Finishing the Chain - Getting the Fruits of Your Labor!
Measure how much of the chain you actually need. I used my Gf when she visited but in the past I also used myself, parent, friends etc. Cut your chain a bit bigger, you always want a bit to work with.
Now the end won't look to good. So I decided to wrap it with the fine wire. Using a long piece of fine silver wire i first fixated the jumpring of one clasp at the end, weaving the wire a few time through the chain and the loop. Then I made one loop just though the jumpring so that i had a clean start. From there i carefully but firmly wraped the wire around the chain in rows until i had the feeling that the Jumpring would be secure. Weaving the wire a few times through the chain to keep the ends from unraveling. I then cut it.
Measure the chain again. Don't forget to factor in both sides of the closing mechanism. Cut the excess.
On the other side I did something quite similar. I used the same technique that I used to make the Pendant-loop. The wraping and the loop is one continous wire, which I used to first make the loop then go back through the chain, starting the wrap from the chain and working my way to the loops, then along the loops until the loops were wraped.
Then I realised that I forgot to an the Pendant...
This was not such a huge deal though since i was able to open the jumpring from the clasp and squeeze the pendant through.
Closing the Jumpring meant I was finished! This made me extremly happy and a little proud!
And there you have it! My first Instructable. Please let me know if you find obvious typos since english is not my main language. Im happy for any feedback.