Introduction: Make a Silver Bead

Anyone who has dabbled with jewellery making will end up with odd tiny bits of scrap silver or gold often in the form of swarf or filings. (This is known in the trade as lemel, and jewellers go to great lengths to make sure that none of this gets lost by having specially designed benches to catch it.) Professional jewellers will sell this back to a bullion dealer.

As an alternative you can turn this into something you can recycle and use yourself - small beads.

You will need : a charcoal block, blowtorch, some scrap silver, and a pin vice and drill, clamp, wet or dry paper, silver polish.

Step 1: Introduction

Place some scrap on the charcoal block.

The block is not essential, but will aid in melting the silver because it absorbs and re-radiates the heat and also does actally burn adding more heat to the mix.

Step 2: Melt the Silver

There are two main types of silver used in jewellery:

Fine silver. This is 99.9% silver and 1% something else, usually chosen to make the silver more resistant to tarnishing. It is very soft, but after melting it will be shiny as pure silver does not oxidise.

Sterling Silver. This is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. This melts at 962° C It is very soft, and is used because it is harder than fine silver, but after melting will be a dull grey colour as the copper content will oxidise.

When you melt the silver it will try to form a sphere due to surface tension. However gravity will be acting against this so it will tend to flatten into an ellipsoid.

The larger the bead the more it will flatten. You can make a small dent in the block which will help shape the bead.

Health and safety notes:

1. You must wear eye protection for this step. Impurities in the metal or grease on the surface can cause the melting silver to spit.

2. The block will stay a lot hotter for a lot longer than you think. Be careful.

3. If you burn yourself, hold the affected area uder a cold tap for at least 5 minutes. Do not apply butter or any other substances to the burn. Seek help from a qualified person.

Step 3: Beads After Forming

Here are some fine silver beads as they look when cooled. You can use them as they are by gluing or soldering onto jewellery, or you can drill and polish them.

Step 4: Drilling

Next drill the bead. I used a small drill in a pin vice and held the bead in the amusingly named bottom screw ring clamp.

Step 5: Polishing

After drilling you can smooth the bead off with 800 grit wet or dry paper. This will produce a satin finish (first picture). Further polishing can be done with jewellers rouge and finally metal polish.

There are various ways to hold the bead while polishing. One method is to fix the bead onto some wire with hot melt glue or epoxy. Do be aware that that polishing using a rotary tool produces heat.

The final picture shows the bead mounted on an ear wire ready to start making an earring.