Oct 22 2009

Last night in my Silver Class…

Published by at 4:02 pm under amy's head

I tried a few things in my silver class last night, and was fraught with much frustration. First, I attempted a bezel. A bezel is the thin wall of silver that holds in/down a stone in a ring, pendant, earring, etc. I could make the bezel fairly well, but I could not solder the damn thing onto my backplate. This could be for a number of reasons – if the components (backplate, bezel, solder) wasn’t clean enough, or close enough, or hot enough, the solder won’t “flow”, which is shorthand for melt and run between the molecules of the joint you’re soldering and stick ’em together!

In my case, I’m pretty sure I did not have the bezel flush enough to the backplate. It’s a pain to get a little circle of silver to touch EVERYWHERE on a flat sheet of sterling silver. If that sheet is not perfectly flat, there’ll be a gap. If the bezel edge is not perfectly flat, there’ll be a gap.

After 3 tries of my solder not melting, not flowing at all, but just getting hotter and hotter until it STUCK on the backplate like old chewed up gum, I gave up and tried something easy.

First I annealed a piece of wire – anneal is when you heat the metal enough to realign the molecules in the metal so that it is soft and malleable. They call it “dead soft”. Annealing is a process one goes through many times in making a piece, as the more the metal is worked, the harder and more brittle it can be – without annealing, the metal may be too hard to shape and work, or so brittle it could break.

Anyway! I annealed my wire and then clamped one end in a vice and proceeded to tie a knot. Then I pulled as hard as I could to get the knot into a nice small shape. Then I wrapped it around a ring mandrel, marked the size I wanted, snipped and made the two ends as perfectly flush and close as I could get them. Then I went to solder them together – after that, a little reshaping with the ring mandrel and a hammer, and I’d have a nice little ring.

My soldering woes had not yet left me, however. That solder just did not want to flow. I think something was bubbling up from the charcoal block I was using and dirtying up my wire. Finally after several tries though, I managed to get my knot ring made and shaped.


Feeling a bit better about my soldering, I went back to my bezel, double checking everything and making sure Nick (my teacher) gave it his approval. Once again, I soldered away, and while I still had a few of my solder pieces NOT flow, instead, just SIT there fusing themselves to the backplate, enough of the solder did flow, that I finally tasted sucess!

The bezel is complete, and next I will make a ring shank to mount it on. Inside will go a pretty pink oval rhodocrosite stone:


So all in all, not a bad use of my classtime. I am very excited for next week – I’ve ordered some tubing and have a whole bunch of sweet little faceted gems to set. Nothing too expensive yet, but I got white topaz, peridot, amethyst, tourmaline. Drooled over the sapphires, but I’ll wait until I have more skill! I’m planning on making a series of skinny stacking rings with gemstones for the shop.

All in all, a great night at the bench.


3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Last night in my Silver Class…”

  1. Lindaon 22 Oct 2009 at 5:37 pm

    I get excited that your blog talks about molecules now. So complex!

  2. Alion 02 Nov 2009 at 11:35 am

    Amy, I really liked your knot ring. What guage wire did you use? I want to try something similar…

  3. amyon 02 Nov 2009 at 12:12 pm

    It was 16g – it was easy and fun! I’d like to try to make a puzzle ring sometime, too.