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Working with Sheet – Creating Custom Jewelry Components…
While assembly can be lots of fun, there’s something special about creating your own customized jewelry components. You feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when you wear jewelry you hand-crafted.
I want you to be able to experience this joy as soon as possible and with minimal investment, so my first project in this segment is…
‘Painting’ with Liver of Sulfur Patina
Liver of sulfur is a stinky chemical that is traditionally used to ‘antique’ or darken a silver or copper piece of jewelry. It is common practice to submerge the piece in a warm solution until it becomes completely dark (not quite black) and then buff off the high points to enhance the contrast and show off depth in a design. But when you slow the process by using a weak batch, you can view the color changes that happen as the patina process progresses. You can capture the beautiful bronze hues on copper by sealing them with a clear coating to make intriguing jewelry components.
I’ll show you my process and discuss various tips and techniques to get fabulous results. But first, you’ll need a ‘canvas’ to paint…
The simplest way to create a custom component is to start with a basic shape. In the jewelry world we refer to pre-cut shapes as blanks. So if you’re shopping, you would search for copper blanks or silver blanks. Just be aware that these blanks come in various thicknesses. There’s a wide array of shapes available in 24 ga thickness which is a great weight for earrings. (I’ll talk more about what gauges are appropriate for other types of jewelry soon.)
For metals we measure thickness using an American Standard Wire Gage for Non-ferrous Metals. Click here to learn more about this tool and how to use it.
Some blanks come with pre-drilled holes and the edges are all smooth making the piece ready for surface treatment. Others need holes added. Punching your own holes can be nice because you get to choose where and how many. I personally find myself attracted to classic shapes, which can be hard to source, so I provide copper blanks that I design and cut using my bench shear. You can click here to take a look at the pre-cut blanks I offer for sale. Because my blanks are simply cut shapes, they require filing and sanding to fully prepare them for use, so I am going to start by explaining how to properly prepare a piece of metal to be transformed into a unique piece of jewelry.
How to Prepare a Copper Jewelry Blank…
There are 3 steps for preparing a copper blank: punch holes, file, and sand. Here’s a video to get you going…
Click here to watch the video I mentioned about how to properly set up your hole punch pliers and learn more details about how I use a grinding bur fitted in a pin vise to debur the holes you punch.
Tools you’ll need…
As you enter into the world of working with metal you’ll find that these are some of the most basic and essential supplies you’ll need to acquire: (To read what we have to say in our Tool Reference Section for each tool, just click on the item in red lettering to link over to that page)
- Ultra-fine tip sharpie marker – retractable version recommended
- Rubbing alcohol – to remove the sharpie
- Graph ruler
- 1.5mm Hole Punch Pliers (or other similar size hole punch like the double hole punch)
- Pin vise
- 3mm Round bur
- Silicone lubricant
- Jewelry grade file – #4 cut half round hand file (or a needle file if you are looking to keep costs down)
- Emery paper – 400 and 600 grit should be good to get you started
- 3M Sanding Sponges – superfine, ultrafine, and microfine
You can shop my blanks here…
Now that you know how to prepare your ‘canvas’, it’s time to introduce you to the art of patina using liver of sulfur…
As I mentioned above, you can capture beautiful bronze tones with this patina process. Here’s a video showing you my process including how you can use a sharpie marker as a resist to achieve multiple tones…
Supplies you’ll need for working with the liver of sulfur patina:
- Copper blanks 2. Rubber gloves 3. Cardstock or an old file folder (to protect your work surface while sanding) 4. Emery paper (400 and 600 grit should suffice) 5. 3M Sanding Sponges (superfine, ultrafine, and microfine grits) 6. Toothbrush 7. Bar Keeper’s Friend soft cleanser 8. Dawn dish soap 9. Paper towels 10. Sharpie marker – ultra fine tip (and perhaps others depending on your design) 11. Wire hooks to hang your pieces (scrap copper wire?/ paperclip?) 12. 3 small containers for the patina and water (big enough to swish around your components) 13. Liver of Sulfur Extended Life Gel (also known as Liver of Sulfur XL Gel, or the nugget form of Liver of Sulfur if you prefer) 14. Plastic spoon to stir with 15. Box or cardboard for spraying clear coat sealant, 16. Nikolas #2105 Clear Lacquer, ProtectaClear Crystal Clear Coating, or some other reputable clear coating for metals (Tip: check out what metal sculptors are using)
Materials you’ll need… (To make earrings)
Not only will you need copper blanks, you’ll also need findings to assemble your components into jewelry. Here are some recommendations:
- Copper Blanks – 24 gauge blanks are available through a wide array of jewelry supply sources. They are often listed as stamping blanks. I have found shapes I like at Lima Bead, SJ Jewelry Supply, Stamping Out Loud, and even your local craft store with a jewelry section may have some. And of course, you can check out what we have to offer here at Jewelry Classes with Jen.
- Ear Wires – Lots of people have a sensitivity to copper, so I do not recommend using ear wires made from actual copper even if you coat them. I like the copper-colored niobium ear wires made by TierraCast. Niobium is a hypo-allergenic wire that they color using an anodizing method. You can find the ear wires through Lima Bead.
- Jump Rings
- Unicorne teardrop glass beads