Feb 3, 2012

Stag Fight Earrings

Sometimes, it makes more sense to pay someone to cast pieces in silver than for me to fabricate (meaning cut, file, hammer, and solder) them myself.  This pair of earrings is a perfect example.  They took me more than a whole day in studio to make, and at that level of input I'd have to sell them for $200 a pair.  What I should have done, and what I will do in the future is to fabricate the originals, have molds made of them, then pay another craftsperson to cast multiples from the molds. That'll add cost to the production of the earrings, but save enough hassle for it to be worthwhile for me.  I would still have to set the stones, solder wires to the backs of the earrings, oxidize, and polish the earrings, so they won't be cheap.  But hopefully a little more accessible price wise that what I'd have to sell these for.  

To see exactly how I made these earrings, follow the See More link below.

I started with pure silver wire.

I filed the ends to points.

I cut pieces to length with my jeweler's saw.

The pieces ready for the next step.

This thing helps me hold tiny pieces of metal so I can file them.  I filed an angle on this piece.

After filing an angle on it, I hammered it.

I bent it.

I hammered and bent all the pieces, and took a lot of time filing them so they'd fit against each other as tightly as possible.

In preparation for soldering the pieces together, I put them in a liquid flux along with chips of silver solder.

Soldering the pieces together on my window sill.  I have this weird rash all over my face that I'm pretty sure is from soldering without proper ventilation.  duh.

That first one went pretty well.  The solder flowed to fill in the joint.  

This second one did not go well.  The solder all melted onto the smaller piece.

I have to clean the pieces and try again.

Back into the flux.

Here I go again.

Dammit!  The solder flowed onto the larger piece and not into the seam.  I hate soldering.

Okay.  The seam wasn't tight enough.  I need to file the pieces so they fit together even better.

I'm bringing out the big guns now.  This is another type of silver soldering flux.  It flows the solder better, but makes a bigger mess on the metal.  

I painted on some of the handy flux and put a third chip of solder over the seam.

C'mon baby, c'mon!

Yes.  The solder flowed into the seam, but now I've got three times the amount of clean up work to do later. 

The ear wires and loop for the stone also have to be soldered on.

I melted a chip of solder where I want to attach the earring wire.

I filed it flat so the wire could lay across it.

I laid the wire over the solder.

The soldering went fine.  

The earring wires are attached.  I did the same thing again at the bottom end of each piece so I'd have something to attach the stones to.

I sanded the excess solder off.  

That was a pain in the butt, but the hard part is over and the main body of the earrings is fabricated.  

I cut the wires to length.

Now I'm going to set the stones in PMC - Precious Metal Clay.

Lab created ruby smushed into a bar of soap to hold it in place.  

I used the PMC syringe to lay the silver clay around the stone.  Kinda like cake decorating on a teensy weensy scale.

I used a paste version of PMC to attach a ring to the stone setting.

Looks crappy right now, but I'll clean it up later.

I sped up the process by drying the PMC with a hair dryer.

Once the PMC is dry, it can be worked just like ceramic clay, but this is so fragile that I shouldn't do much until it's been fired.

Part of the reason I use lab created gemstones is because they can be fired in the same kiln that PMC has to be fired in.  

Once out of the kiln, the PMC is nothing but pure silver.  It can be filed, polished, oxidized, etcetera.

I have a habit of oxidizing everything in liver of sulphur.  That can't be good for my skin, either.

I hit the oxidized pieces with a brass brush to shine 'em up.

I bent the earring wires into shape.

I added the stones.  

Oh, they are pretty.  

I'm going to call this design "stag fight".