Last night, I had a great idea for a pair of earrings; and all day I’ve been trying to snatch an hour or two, here and there, to be able to get them done.
I drew out my design this morning and worked out what materials I would need to use. Today, I made everything in this design from scratch (except the pair of cabochon amethysts and the earrings posts/butterflies for the back) using only scrap pieces.
First, I had to make the bezel mounts with solid backs (so I had somewhere to add the earring posts) – I didn’t want to use a purchased setting. The cabochons are pretty small (8x6mm) and I didn’t have thin enough flat bezel wire, so I used my dividers on the stones to find out how thin the bezel wire should be. I transferred this onto the bezel wire by holding one point of the dividers at the edge and scoring along the wire with the other. I then cut down the scored line with my tin-snips. The cup of the bezel (which will hold the gem) was made by soldering the bezel wire into a circle and then shaping it round the oval gem. This was then soldered (using hard solder) to the small scraps of 0.4mm silver sheet (by putting it all on a wire mesh and heating from underneath so not to melt the bezel) and the excess cut away and then filed smooth.
Next, I needed to make the ball-ended wires. I found enough wires in my scrap box and then created the ball at one end of each wire by holding it pointing downwards and heating with my blow-torch till the end started to melt and drew up into a ball. Each one was dropped into water to quench it – they cool quickly, but can still be hot even when they look cold on the surface. I didn’t want any burned fingers!
The wires were shaped with round-nosed pliers and fingers to fit the design and then cut to size. I had to remember that one of the pair would be a mirror-image of the other, meaning that each wire on that earring would have to be placed back-to-front, or both earrings wouldn’t look like a pair.
I didn’t solder all the wires on at the same time. First, I soldered the two wires that went around the bezel setting. Only once they were looking right, did I solder the other wires on. This helped me keep the wires looking the same on both earrings and minimised any movement – as light pieces (such as these wires) can either be blown around by the heat of the blow-torch or slide away when the solder melts.
After quenching again, I turned the earrings over and stamped “925” on each one. The earring post was attached by a technique known as “sweating”. This meant that I melted solder onto the earring post and let it go cold. Then (after fluxing the earring to help the solder flow), the earring post was held upright (with heat-resistant tweezers) against the back of the earring and the earring was heated. As the earring got to the right temperature, the earring post was heated too and as the solder melted, it was drawn to the earring and soldered the two together. (It helps to know that solder will travel towards heat; and that grease, gaps, and fire-scale all stop solder from flowing, so that flux is needed for successful soldering.
I decided that the bezels looked a little plain (as well as still being a little too high for my taste), and so used my triangular file to file notches all the way round each bezel. After rounding off any sharp bits, it gave the bezel a pleasing scalloped edge. Checking the stones in the bezels (using dental floss laid behind the stone and over the bezel edge, so I could get the stones back out!), I decided to raise them up a bit and so added an oval of 0.8mm square wire inside each bezel for this purpose.
A good half-an-hour in the pickle and then a preliminary file and polish by rotary-tool was all it took to get them at the stage I could throw them in the tumbler for about an hour or so. I did remember to first neutralise the pickle on the earrings by dipping them in a solution of bicarbonate-of-soda, and also to give them a good wash & brush after using the silicon wheels.
All that was needed now was to set the amethysts – made much easier by having those notches cut in the edge – and here they are, fairy-tale earrings: