Broken China Jewelry: Use Low-Temp Soldering Techniques to Make Jewelry with Laura Beth Love
Low-temp soldering (or “soft soldering”) has been a popular jewelry-making technique for awhile now, so it’s no surprise that Laura Beth Love’s low-temp soldering book Soldered Alchemy, was much anticipated and very popular when it was released earlier this year. Now we have even more good news: For those of you who prefer to learn in video format, Laura has created a low-temp soldering video tutorial, Make Vintage and Upcycled Jewelry: Dishfunctional Plate Necklace.
In the new video, Laura shares how to safely cut and prepare a piece of a plate, how to wrap it in copper foil, and how to use a soldering iron to apply the low-temp “soft” solder for a type of bezel. She even shows how to use the low-temp solder to attach jump rings to the piece of china, and later the chain and clasp, to turn it into a beautiful necklace, plus how to manipulate the temperature of the iron and the wire just right to create tricky decorative solder droplets. She covers each step and supply in detail, including the low-temp soldering iron, which is the most important tool in this process. As Laura explains in the video, you’ll use a soldering iron like those used for making stained glass.
Laura recommends using a soldering iron of at least 100 watts with a separate rheostat, though some soldering irons have a rheostat built in. The rheostat controls the electrical current, allowing you to adjust the temperature of your soldering iron to suit your needs and to create the best finish in the low-temp solder.
Soft solder is a silver alloy that melts at a low temperature. You’ll use lead-free, low-temp soft solder wire to make soft-soldered jewelry. Soft solder can be shaped (such as into decorative balls) and moved with the soldering iron (almost like applying paint on a canvas) to form a bezel around an object, such as a piece of a plate or broken china.
This technique couldn’t be more different from the type of soldering we usually talk about for jewelry making. You don’t use a torch for this type of soldering, so there is no flame, and the soldering wire is a different type of wire than traditional wire solder. Another way it’s vastly different is that low-temp soft soldering allows you to work with materials that would burn or melt under a torch flame, such as crystals, lace or paper sandwiched between glass, beach glass, wood, pebbles, and many other found objects.
There are so many meaningful (or just plain beautiful) ways to use broken china in jewelry. Spot a pretty but chipped teacup or saucer at a flea market? Rescue it and give it new life as a focal piece in upcycled china jewelry. Fallen in love with a china pattern (or several!) that’s beyond your budget? Buy a small, affordable piece and turn it into jewelry you can enjoy. Someone broke a piece of Grandma’s china? Turn the pieces into necklaces or other jewelry for all the ladies in your family. You can turn an heirloom dish into heirloom jewelry with Laura’s low-temp soldering technique. Once you’ve mastered the basic technique, you can use it to create all types of broken china jewelry: necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets and charms.