Thanks to our friend Lauren of DiademJewels Jan and I got some comprehensive lessons a few months ago on soldering and forging sterling silver, fine silver, and Argentium. It was something we’ve both been wanting to get into for awhile, and Lauren is a master Silver smith! So for a little work in her Etsy store (I was happy to help her clean up a couple of her listings so her beautiful pieces would be seen), she brought her soldering and forging kit to my studio to teach us the finer points of soldering everything to everything else.
After that lesson, we were both hooked. So we got all the little bits and pieces we needed (like torches, charcoal, solder, flux, picks, pickle pots, and the whole kit) and then proceeded to watch the silver market like it was our jobs (oh wait…).
And then the metal market was kind enough to dip and so the silver was deposited on the steps of the studio by our gracious post man (I love when that guy comes by, it’s like Christmas)! After a short drive, and a pot of coffee later I found myself helping Artisan Jan make hammered sterling silver rings.
Our setup that day consisted of a large piece of plywood (to protect the table, we did it in the dining room so we were closer to the coffee), a piece of charcoal on a heat resistant tile, a ring mandrel and a chasing hammer, pliers and other tools, sand paper, torch, a pickle pot and a lovely glass coffee mug that served as our quench.
Then Artisan Jan takes raw sterling silver wire and hand forms it on a ring mandrel, gently bending it into the ring shape and cutting it to size. This part is a bit tricky, as when we hammer the ring, they grow in size. The wire stretches when hammered. So we always start with a smaller size to ensure the final ring fits. It’s an educated guessing game.
Each ring shape is then heated to white hot, and I mean WHITE hot, over a teeny-tiny bit of solder. It’s amazing what happens. One moment the solder is solid metal and the ring form is split at the cut point, the next moment the solder is sucked up into the little space and the ring is a solid circle. It kind of makes you want to open a physics book. Almost.
After the ring is quenched and pickled (you will be able to read about Jan’s eco friendly pickle soon), the ring is placed onto the steel mandrel and struck over and over with the chasing hammer until the entire ring is covered in light reflecting facets. It’s certainly a work out, and very satisfying. I highly recommend doing it after a frustrating day!
This is what they look right after hammering. See all those subtle hammer marks? That’s the beauty of the hammered effect, flat spots on a round form. After a lengthily polishing process, they turn bright & shiny, and get a mirror finish!
I love they way they look. You can purchase the Hammered Sterling Silver Stacking rings here. Leave us what you think, or your soldering experiences in the comments! Oh, and don’t forget to give Ms. Lauren from Diadem Jewels some love too!