10+ Approaches to Textured Metal Jewelry
If you want your jewelry to catch someone’s eye, texture the metal. If it looks velvety, people can’t help but imagine it feels soft to the touch, even though they know it’s not. Rougher surfaces can bring the outdoors to mind. Sharp lines in polished metal make the light glint with the slightest change of direction: who can resist turning toward that? Even a smooth surface attracts attention when it serves to highlight color, contrast, or other design aspect. Besides, textured metal is just plain fun.
ABOVE: Erica Stice’s Textured Silver on Copper Fish Pendant, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, April 2017; photo: Jim Lawson
Here are 10 ways Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist contributors have used metal texture in their designs. You’ll also find some helpful tips from the artists on the how and why of their techniques.
A Study in Textured Metal Jewelry
One look at the aquatic design above and you can see it’s all about texture. As jewelry artist Erica Stice explains, she started out responding to a challenge to use silver tubing, but then . . . “I love texturing metal, and also made this a study in texturing. Texture the spear with a cross pein hammer to resemble wood, the tube reshaped into a square using a planishing and ball pein hammer, the copper back plate forged, and the silver fish textured with a diamond bit.”
Texture Before Forming
A couple of years back, Jeff Fulkerson developed anticlastic forming disks to simplify getting the curves right for nesting spinner bangles. But the device does put certain limitations on how you build a piece. “Everything has to be complete before you form the bangle in the disks.”
So, Jeff continues, “If you want to put a high polish on your pieces, now is the time. If you want to patinate them with liver of sulfur, do it now. I patinated mine with liver of sulfur, then sanded with 300 grit to bring out the texture, and finally used the brass brush to give the pieces a nice sheen. All of this work can cause your pieces to lose their shape.”
Before and After
Lexi Erickson went to town on this wine-homage pendant project, complete with textured grape leaves. If you want to use a rolling mill for this operation, she instructs, commit to it right after you draw out the leaf shapes. “Run the metal through the rolling mill with soft paper, like crumpled bath tissue. It gives a soft pattern for the leaves, more naturalistic than some of the ‘in your face’ patterns from brass sheets. Note that if you wait until after you’ve cut your leaves, they will be elongated by the rolling mill.”
But there’s always another way: “If you plan to hammer-texture the leaves, you can do that after they’re cut out,” adds Lexi.
How you bring out the texture is as important as its nature. “Finish with the patina of your choice. I like the greenish leaves from copper patinas, but the dark silver patina also highlights certain areas. Hit some of the highlights with a high polish pink silicone wheel or 3M 9 micron finishing film,” she suggests.
About this petrified wood pendant, she says, “I used regular bathroom tissue, crumpled and wrapped around the metal, so there was a texture on both sides. Don’t use the type with lotion or aloe,” she warns, “or you may have to clean up a sticky mess on your rolling mill.”
This heavenly pin deserved a custom texture paper to use in the mill. “I chose a piece of heavy vellum and punched little divots in it with my center punch. It gives a sense of stars sprinkled across a sky — but so subtly you can see it only if you look closely.”
Chiseled Good Looks
“You can texture the sheet many ways,” advises Sam Patania in his silver cuff cleverly set with a “floating” turquoise. “Experiment on copper or brass with chisels or grinding wheels until you are really satisfied. I used a sharp, straight chisel to texture my back piece by striking it with a mallet, which keeps the back piece from warping much. A warped back plate will make soldering on the overlay more difficult.”
Sometimes you don’t want to rough up your surface with a roll mill but stretch the metal out. Roger Halas takes advantage of this distortion when patterning his mokumé gané to look like snakeskin.
“When you can see the initial pattern, go back to the mill. With each pass, you’ll notice the pattern elongate. Remember to keep annealing the piece to keep it flexible.”
Tom Werkheiser uses the mill’s force to inlay one metal in another in this understated cuff. “Run the wires through the rolling mill in four small passes, or until you sense you are at the hardening limits for the cuff. I start rolling with the silver wire up in order to steady the cuff through the mill.”
“After about four passes, the silver should be just short of inlaid, but note that the number of rolling mill passes can vary depending on how aggressive you want to be before annealing.”
Keep the Rough Spots, But in Check
Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Noël Yovovich smacks bits of scrap with a hammer to create “splats” she then fuses to a cuff form. It looks spontaneous and kind of is, but there are often bumps along the way. Noël has an answer for that. “If there are parts of your fused piece that are too thick, spiky, or textured, a quick pass through a rolling mill will even things out,” she suggests.
Actually, she has two anwers for that. “Alternatively, it can be planished with a polished hammer. This may be especially helpful before adding a new layer.”
And here’s a good point from Debora Mauser, for one of those things that are obvious . . . except for when they aren’t. “If you want to use the rolling mill to texture the pieces, place your silver right side up against a brass texture plate and roll.”
Who’d ever get that wrong! Hands?
Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.
Try These Textured Metal Projects
Each of these outstanding jewelry projects is available as a single project download. All 10 have also recently been released by the editors of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist in an attractively priced collection eBook, 10 Textured Metal Jewelry Projects: Enhance Surfaces With or Without a Rolling Mill.
Really Get Acquainted with the Rolling Mill
Whether you’ve owned and used a rolling mill for years or are just looking at one, you can learn a lot about this piece of equipment from extraordinary metals instructor Richard Sweetman. Yes, jewelry makers love using a roll mill to add texture to metal, but it can do a lot more. Benefit from his decades of experience both making and teaching in Get the Most Out of Your Rolling Mill with Richard Sweetman, available as an online workshop or video.
Learn with Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist
Subscribe to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and find inspiring stories and designs, technical and business advice, and detailed jewelry making projects in every issue.