I am currently working on a new silver necklace. The main feature of the piece will be two silver branches modeled after manzanita which interlock to form the clasp of the piece. The branches will each have 4 stones set into the front to add a little sparkle. However, for it to be a necklace I have to have something to go around the neck. So, I made a handmade chain. I documented the steps up until finishing to give you an idea of how a chain like this is made.
The first step is to get some metal to work with. I went to my tin of silver and found a couple small pieces to melt down. This is part of the beauty of being a goldsmith–everything is recyclable. What was once a spoon becomes chain. I put my metal into a small ceramic crucible so that I can melt it and then pour it into an ingot mold. The mold will give me a piece of metal that I can begin to work.
After the ingot is poured I need to remove all of the flashing the hangs off the seams so that my final piece doesn't have flakes coming off it. After I do that it is time for the rolling mill.
After rolling a few times, the metal become stiff and hard to work. This means that it needs to be annealed. Annealing is the process of heating up metal and then treating it so that it becomes soft and malleable again.
After the metal is annealed it needs to be cleaned so that the final product will be easy to finish. This is done using something jewelers call a pickle. The pickle is simply a heated milk acid bath which cleans the metal.
After the metal is pickled I continue to repeat the process again and again. Roll, anneal, pickle. Roll anneal pickle...Eventually though, the piece will be small enough for the next step: drawing wire. Before I can draw the wire I have to point the end of the metal so that I can fit it through the draw plate.
Next I begin to draw the wire.
Just like rolling I have to periodically anneal and pickle my wire as I draw it down.
Once I get my metal to the desired gauge I am ready to start forming links. Once I found a rod that had a good diameter for the chain I am making, I begin to wrap a tight coil.
After my coil is wrapped the first time I anneal it again and then tighten it up so that it is more uniform.
Once my coil is nice and tight I wrap it in tape to keep it in place.
Then I cut the coil. Because this one is so big, I am using a cutting disk to separate my links. Normally I just use my jewelers saw.
The product of the coil: chain links.
Next I clean up the cut in each link and then push them together.
Next I put some flux on each joint and get my solder out. The flux keeps the joint clean and makes the solder flow.
I only solder about half of the rings to begin with so that I can use the other ones to link the chain together.
I continue to link the pieces until I have them all together.
Every other loop is still open, so now I go through and solder all of those pieces together.
One everything is soldered the whole chain will be pickled again. Then the loops are formed into ovals.
Now the piece is ready for finishing. Stay tuned because I will be posting the final chain and piece as soon as I finish it. If you are interested in more of my metal and chain work check out my online portfolio. I specifically think that you will enjoy this Etruscan chain.
- Graceson Aufderheide
My name is Graceson Aufderheide, but you have probably figured that out already. I am currently a senior in high school who photographs, teaches, and makes jewelry. I have always been creating, that is what I do.
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