Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hoop Earrings Tutorial

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I measure a length of hard 20 gauge sterling silver round wire, cut several more to match, then shear them off at exactly the same length (using a scissors type shear). Using a round nose pliers, I make tiny loops at the ends, making them as small as the tip of the pliers. To remove any slight tool marks from bending the hard wire, I lightly burnish it with the tips of the pliers by rotating them in the loop. The loop should appear shiny and round with no dents. (I usually make ear wires at the same time, those are to the left.)

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After rounding the end of the wire with a 1 mm cup burr I use a plastic mallet to shape the wire into a circle on a smooth ring mandrel. The easiest way to do this with hard wire is to wrap firmly at the end of the mandrel where it’s small. Then slide it up, tap with the mallet, and grab the next wire. Complete each step for all the pieces to save time. When the wires are circular, bend up the rounded ends in a curve. Then place each earring on a polished anvil, and flatten lightly all around using a highly polished chasing hammer (with a head 1″ wide or larger) focusing more on the center part. This is done with many light taps- hitting the silver wire too hard in one place will deform it. Each will take about 20 seconds to finish the forging completely. It’s important to go this slowly to avoid mistakes. Also, try to keep the anvil and hammer clean (free of any grit or silver filings.) I use a separate area from where I cut, file and finish. This is a very old bench that my friend salvaged from an auto shop. It’s very heavy and sturdy. It’s a good idea to wear ear plugs- the noise can damage your hearing.

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I always check the first pair for size and uniformity, then compare the others to those to make sure each is the same size and shape. When the batch is finished I put them in the tumbler along with some burnishing compound and usually batches of other jewelry. This makes them extra shiny and slightly harder. I store them on earring cards in plastic bags with anti-tarnish tabs inside, and they wait on a hook on a peg board until they’re sold and shipped.


Catherine Chandler said...

Great tutorial Elizabeth! Thank you :)

the b-line said...

These tutorials are wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing!

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