Beyond Rivets: The Other Cold Connections

I'll be honest: I'd never heard the term "cold connections" until I became the lucky girl editor of Jewelry Making Daily. I'd always just called them connections, cold joins or by their "given" names, like rivets, screws, jump rings etc. Those terms are all still accurate, but it seems they're more often referred to in the industry as cold connections, a whole category of connections that are grouped together because they don't require heat.

The lack of heat (and flame) provides a variety of options for making joins in jewelry when a torch either won't work (because the materials involved might burn or melt, for example) or for those who prefer not to solder.

For better jewelry, if I'm using all precious metals or a mixture of precious and "base" metals with or without gemstones, I usually connect pieces by soldering. But sometimes my jewelry making projects meander more toward the artsy/craftsy side, incorporating mixed-media elements, resin, enamel, stamped metal components, vintage whoknowswhats, etc., and it can be nearly impossible to solder a variety of mixed materials like that without melting something or worse. In those cases, I rely on a cold-connection method, such as brads or even epoxy resin as an adhesive. If you've ever messed up a resin project and tried to remove the resin from the bezel to salvage any possible parts, you know what a great adhesive resin can be!

Here's a quick rundown of different kinds of cold connections.  

rivets, by Kim St. Jean

Rivets: Rivets are basically wire pins or tubes (tube rivets) that are flared/flattened on one end, inserted in the holes of the pieces you're connecting, and then flared/flattened on the opposite end to close the rivet and secure the pieces together. Tube rivets are easier for me than regular or pin rivets; though I know the process, I haven't mastered it and still seem to have trouble getting the heads of the rivets to flatten out (terminate) properly sometimes. Rivets are handy for connecting layered metal pieces that can still move or spin. Their heads also create interesting design elements when they're in place, similar to that of brads, below.

tabs, by Helen Driggs

Tabs: Simply put, tabs act like big and/or wide prongs to hold pieces together. Tabs can be a bit labor-intensive, especially if you're making them yourself. Whether your piece calls for several or just a few tabs, you have to cut them and then finish all those cut edges. For this reason, whenever I consider tabs, I try to make sure that the design or the mechanics of the piece won't suffer if I only use three tabs. An odd but balanced number, three is a good number design-wise because it appeals to the eye and mechanics-wise because it's generally enough to secure the item, such as a stone or another metal component.  

tube rivets, by Helen Driggs

Screws and Nuts/Bolts: These are the cold connections I use least often. It's probably user error, but I never feel that the nuts I put on the backs of the bolts are secure enough, especially if I'm selling the piece I'm making. As for screws, their pointed ends turn me off them right away. I know I can always saw or sand off the point, but that gets into more trouble and effort than I want to expend on a casual cold connection. If any of you like using screws as cold connections, I'd love to hear why and how you like to use them.

stitching, by Helen Driggs

Wire Weaving/Stitching or Jump Rings: This is probably the broadest cold-connection option. If you use wire to tie/knot, weave, sew/stitch, loop, coil, wrap, or otherwise attach two pieces together, you've made a wired cold connection. But the stitches and rings don't have to be made of wire; you can use silk or other cord, fabric, leather, ribbon, rubber, plastic, etc.

some of my moveable brads

Brads: I saved the easiest one for last. Brads have become my recent favorite cold connection, because they give a finished, well-made look without hardly any effort at all. Plus, thanks to their one-time popularity in scrapbooking, I have tons and tons of them in every size, shape, and color. If you don't have a stash from other crafts, don't worry–they're inexpensive and easy to find. To use them, just punch holes in your pieces (if no holes exist already), insert the brads, spread the back "wings" and you're done. Brads are ideal if you're mixing paper or fabric with metal and when the back will be hidden by a base piece. Then no one will even know it's a brad!

I learned a great tip for making brads "fit in" and look better with other metal pieces last summer: Once your brad is in place, tap the head of it with the tip of a riveting hammer. It improves the brad's appearance and sets it more securely.

If you'd like to try your hand at any of these cold-connection techniques, eProjects are a great way to dip your toe in gradually. Plus, how about a bonus? Enjoy this free riveting project by Karen Dougherty, author of Metal Style: 20 Jewelry Designs with Cold Join Techniques.

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