Silversmithing Demo: Sterling Silver Ring

Posted by Sunwest Silver on Jul 22, 2017 2:26:00 PM


Hi I’m Molly with Sunwest Silver in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We've been in business since 1973, I believe and currently we have five mines, five turquoise mines and the piece we're going to be working with today is a really gorgeous New Lander Cab. You can get these cabs from us. I'm going to be setting this in a simple ring just to showcase the cab itself so it doesn't... we don't be taking away anything away from the cab itself. It's so beautiful.

What I’m doing now is I'm wrapping bezel around the stone. This is 0.999 bezel which means that’s fine silver and fine silver is easy to bend around the stone so I'll be marking it where I want to cut it. I’m coming up with a really sharp shears, very straight. Now I'm going to be straining out the cut I made so that we have a good joint two pieces larger stones that can sometimes be challenging to get and meet perfectly. I think that's it. That’s a nice perfect fit.

The wire solder that I'm using... lots of people prefer to use a chip solder. I like the wire that comes in different hardness’s so you can do several different joints without actually compromising the joint before it so that if you're soldering several different things together you will use a harder solder and the first ones and then you gradually go down as easy, super easy, medium and hard. So see how the stone is in the bezel and hopefully it fits perfectly. Now I'm going to solder the bezel to the sheet, make sure it has plenty of flux because the flux has chemical reaction to clean the metal and allows the solder to flow. You might want to get a little closer. I'm watching the solder flow so it is a nice... one of my favorite parts about doing jewelry is watching the solder flow. So heating up everything and keeping your torch moving is one of the best pieces of advice I can give any new silversmithing is to keep the torch moving. That way you have a nice good even heat on everything and your solder will flow completely. It's kind of like patting your head and rubbing your belly, isn’t that it? It becomes a bit ambidextrous.

I put the solder in the inside of the bezel just so I don't end up with the unwanted solder on the outside. I should go all the way around. Well just make sure you go exactly where you want it. That’s it. Usually when you're finished with the piece you'll put it in the pickle, it soldered down, completely soldered down. Some will drop it in the pickle which is I think it's an acid. I'm not quite sure the chemistry of it but I know it is an acid. And then I'll rinse it off. Now I'm going to do a simple twist wire around this because like I said the stone does hold its own. So we'll wrap the wire around it. This two... well some people do very little on the hard side so I'm going to kneel it to soften it up, kneeling is something really important with all wires or bezels and it's simply heating it to a certain temperature and then quenching it. I could pin the light up so I’m going to get a good view of the color of red. It needs to be red hot. It just makes it more malleable, easier to bend, easier to use. That looks good, clean, punch it quickly. Oh that one is better. I’m just moving it around and I'll push everything in, we’ll get a mark where I want it, clip it. We always double check, if they say measure twice cut once, right? Let’s get this. Like I said some people like to solder that, twist wire together before they put it on. I just kind of maneuver it in places I go. We do need more flux to make sure everything flows freely. Once again just keeping the torch moving and make sure everything is at the same temperature. It’s really critical. I'm just going to tap it down right here and then I'm going to move through it. I’ll go this way. You just ease it in there and as I heated that, it stays in place.

And here we make sure everything is flowed nicely. Great and the acid it goes. This is the piece like a soldered wire. Usually it's sets in the pickle for probably a couple of minutes. When it's warm it works really quickly. You want to get rid of all of the flux that’s on there. I'm going to take it out a little early, will cut around the piece to remove the excess silver and I'll be back to put the shank on it. So you pick it up and do that. This is the piece ready to go to the grinder to get the edges smooth out so you have no sharp edges.

This is a wet grinder that we have. We have several of them here at the shop because we do a lot of grinding when it starts casting. So here the water just keeps the temperature from getting too hot. Grind throughout at a very high bit and I'm going to use it 600 just to take the edge off it and do the back. It’s like I have a little gap in my bezel that I'm going to have to address when I'm putting the shank on so we will do that also.

There's the setting for the stone. That's the complete setting for the stone. I'm now going to make a shank. One of the standard shanks that are used is the number one low dome, that's what the material is called. Silver comes in so many different forms. It comes in low dome. It comes in twist wire. It comes in beaded wire. There's a beaded wire you can use. There's a twist wire you can use. You can make your own twist wire using just two strips so you twist together. This is a half B. There are all sorts of different wires you can get. This is the low dome and I'm going to make a shank out of. We measure a certain size, clip it, I'm going to take these shears and just split the shank, get it right in the middle there. They're pretty big stone so we'll put a pretty wide split out there. Let’s hammer it down. Make sure it’s a nice even split. Once again I'm going to kneel this just because it makes it so much easier to get a nice round shape. You can use several different sizes of half round to make a shank. It's all up to your creativity. Just around the mandrel, I'm just going to tap it down. We can always make sure it's rounded again after the ring is finished but this one's really good. I'll put these together. This is aesthetically pleasing. When I do want to grind this flat again so I will go up to the grinder and make sure that's flat so it does sit on the back of the piece absolutely perfectly.

I will flatten this ring so it’s set really nicely on the back... so it sets really nicely on the back of the shank. Hey it’s hot.

So once again I'm going to put flux on the back of my settings. So now I put my shank on there, now solder that down. I'm using the same temperature solder and everything because it's just... there many joints and they’re so close together that I'm going to compromise another side of joint by doing that. Beginners sometimes you know you might want to really adhere to some of those standards like using a harder solder for the shank or I’m just hardening the shank and have gap in my bezel and I don't like it. So I'm going to try to remedy that. Bezels are really soft. You can smooch it. You can make it move. You can make it do what you want because it is soft. You can pull it and stretch it. If you have a little gap like that I stretched it over and now I'm going to just double solder in there to fix it. Once again I always use a flux, never forget the flux. It's really... we’re running to all sorts of problems if you do. I hope we can get this. Okay, got it. Back in the acid so fix a little crack that was in the bezel. Everything's ready to be cleaned completely by the time it comes out of the acid, it will all be white. Just like to sit in there for a little while. So we've got all the pickle. The pickles taking all the flux off it so it's pretty white and what we're going to do now is we're going to oxidize it to give it an antique look. Well most of the handmade silver does get oxidize. Some of it they don't but it looks a little strange to me when it's not oxidize so I'm going to go ahead and put this in the pickle. And this is liver of sulphur and this is liver of sulphur it has been heated up so it's very hot and it's going to basically oxidize the silver and turn black. It's going to turn it completely black. There's the piece completely black and I'm going to rinse it off and we're going to set the stone. There's a lot of different sawdust you can use to put behind your stone. The reason that they put sawdust behind the stone is to build the stone up a little bit and also it protects the turquoise which is rather soft from cracking an impact. So if you're wearing the ring and you hit it somewhere it cushions the stone and keeps it from cracking. I prefer using hardwood sawdust. This is red wood and you just put it in the back of the setting and sometimes you have to try and put it in a little more and try it out and see if their bezels open enough to accept your stone. I should have done first which I will do now. Right there we got a little more. That's going to hold the stone so this is called a burnishing tool and I'm just going to push that bezel around the stone to keep it in place. That's the air compressor in the background going off. Stone is totally set and the ring is ready to polish. Let's go do that.

So I like to wear gloves when I polish. It keeps your fingerprints off the piece and it also protects your hands from the compounds that are pretty pretty dirty. So we do have a blower in here that's loud so I'm not going to turn it on. I'm just going to use the buffer. There are two different steps to buffing. The first one is a buffing compound that takes off material. It takes off the material and it does gives you the first stage in buffing stone. This is a compound called white diamond. There are a lot of compounds out there. You just find one that works well for you. The white diamond works well. To remove them, wrap up the silver and in my brand new lines and sidelines so let’s start at the back. That's the first run. So you can see it's a black on this side, that’s what I polished. This is quite heavy, the whole thing. This is another compound... this is called... I'm not really positive whether this is yellow rubbing compound but rather you see it kind of greasy so it's used to rob the stones so it’ll never get so hot because friction does heat things up.

So we cut this down to compound for... this also helps protect the stone. I can run a little stone in the inside. We go over this machine real quick and still run in the inside just to get and clean up the last oxidize that I put in there. And there, this is our ring. There’s this side with a stitch shanks. This is the back of the ring and in the inside here is the 925 that tells you the quality of the metal we’ve used and that's a new lander stone from the mine, owned by Sunwest Silver Co in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Topics: Handmade Jewelry, Silversmith Lessons, Silversmith Tutorial, Step by Step Silversmithing

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