Over the last couple of days I've been making a big batch of sterling silver stud earrings, along with a number of other pieces. At this time of year I start making bigger batches of designs in preparation for the Christmas rush and the end of year markets I do.
As I was working on this particular batch I took a series of photos at different stages to share some of the process with you so you can see the work involved in getting them (mostly) to completion.
To explain the processes depicted in order from left to right:
- After the etched disc panels for the earrings are cut out they are then all annealed with a blow torch, which means heating them up to several hundred degrees in order to soften the metal so the pieces can be shaped as required.
- Once annealed for these designs the discs are all domed inwards or outwards. Posts of sterling silver wire are then soldered in place.
- When the pieces are heated they get a coating of copper oxide on the surface and soldering also leaves glassy flux coating the pieces. To clean them they are put into a heated pickle solution until clean.
- The posts are then trimmed to the right length and the ends are softened so they won't scratch you when being put in. They are also lightly hammered to make them harder. A blackening chemical is applied to some of the designs at this stage and all of the earrings are then sanded.
- Finally the pieces are ready to go into the tumbler: a rotating barrel containing stainless steel shot and a soapy solution which cleans, polishes and hardens the silver. In the final image are all of the pieces after spending a night in the tumbler.
Some of the earrings in the final image are complete but others still need final finishes applied to them, such as gilding or brushing.
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