With just a few supplies, you can make lovely simple personalised Sterling Silver jewellery.
I will start to write Instructables on some simple enough projects to get started into some new skills :) Enjoy!
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Step 1: Set It Up
You will need to find a local supplier of Sterling Silver wire & Jewelers tools to pick up the essentials. The endeavor shouldn't be too expensive, and I find you collect as you go.
Firstly you'll need bench space to work, a decent stool, good lighting and ventilation (as the soldering is pretty unpleasant) - I forgot to put this in the picture, but if you can get a bench peg & clamp it to the bench, you'll be set!
- Butane gas torch will get you started, I think I paid around $30AUD for mine (oh and you'll need some butane, just lighter gas)
- Kiln brick, to solder on
- Cross Locking Tweezers. These are a reverse pliers type tools that will hold your piece while you solder, very handy!
- Silver solder paste (you can use flux, a paintbrush & small snips of solder wire; this was just easier for this project)
- Sterling Silver wire (round), I used 1mm thickness for this project
- Pointy nose jewelers pliers (I say 'jewelers' because they're not as harsh on your delicate metals)
- Bezel pusher (basically a square ended piece of steel with a handle for pushing the claws into place)
- Gemstones, I used a small rough garnet I had given to me a while back. You can find these type of stones at a variety of places including crystal shops, markets or even online (just be diligent of the quality & price if you're buying serious gemstones)
- Jewelers hand saw & blades, I used a #4 blade in mine
- Polishing cloth (pick one up from the jewelers supplies, they're cheap & handy)
***I recommend you buy some brass wire also, to get a bit of practice in on a cheaper material.
Step 2: Make It Happen
Set up your bench space so you're comfortable & not in danger of setting anything (including yourself) on fire!
Have a glass jar of water on your bench also, so you can 'quench' your freshly soldered pieces. (once they're quenched, they're cool to touch)
Start by 'annealing' your silver. This means carefully running the flame over it until the flame coming off it turns orange. The metal should not be red and turning molten, and with such thin wire, it's a good idea you practice how quickly this can happen. The pic shows this & I took the heat off immediately as this pic was taken.
1. Measure your gems base, and with your annealed wire, make a complete circle around something of the same size (or close enough, you'll get the feel for it); I use things like pens or screwdriver shafts, that sort of thing. If you wrap the wire around twice you've got a better chance of getting the perfect circle.
2. Cut your loop with the jewelers saw (carefully, those things can slice into fingers with ease) and bring the ends together so they're touching without a gap (solder will forge 2 pieces together, it doesn't fill gaps).
3. With your pliers, make 2 arches that will fit over your circle (base). The idea is to solder your 'claws' on at a slight angle and also have a tight surface connection for soldering. It's at this point that you will use whatever you can to suspend and hold your settings in place whilst you solder; as you can see I used the tweezers to hold the circle up off the surface and placed the 2 arches over the top whilst soldering. Solder (until the paste melts molten) and quench.
4. Carefully saw off the tops of the arches and use your sandpaper to get a nice smooth finish (leaving the claws on the other side)
5. You'll need to make another loop for the chain to fit through, so very carefully make and solder this on now. I say carefully as if you get the setting too hot, the previous solders can melt and you'll have to start again.
6. Place your gem into the setting & mark the claws only a couple of mm from the top of the stone as you do not need too much claw to hold the stone in place once it's set. Trim the excess using the hand saw.
7. Carefully using the saw, cut a tiny (seriously, not too much or else your claw will snap when bent) channel from the inside of each claw; this will assist in the metal being able to fold over easier and without bulging.
8. Give the whole setting a sand, getting rid of any marks & scratches.
9. Gently bend the very tips of each claw using your pliers to get the process started. Place your gemstone into the setting & hold it on a completely flat surface (I use my bench peg gaps as the chain loop tends to sit further out behind the setting so I can hang that over the edge & still have a flat surface).
10. Take your bezel pusher & holding the setting tightly with one hand, use the other to very carefully but firmly push down onto each claw. This needs to be done in about 5 rounds, only a tiny bit at a time and working between opposite claws (top, bottom side, other side); this is due to wanting an even setting and hold. Practice with something not so important first, so you can get the feel for it.
11. Finish your piece off by giving it a good polish & hang it on some chain.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask & keep an eye out for some other Instructables that may help with further understanding of the basics of working with Sterling Silver.