Metalsmithing: Quick & Easy Jewelry Gifts Celebrating Milestones
I express many feelings, thoughts, and sentiments through the jewelry gifts I make. Those who receive a gift know it’s from the heart. They may not know all that went into its creation, though. I don’t mean the how-to and time, I mean the thought behind the design, the reasons I made it just for them. This recent design in particular raises up this concern as it is, after all, just a sterling silver blank, a bezel, a set stone, and some stamped numbers.
Thanks to this little sticking point, I balked and held onto the charms until I could come up with a message that would be sure to tell the recipients just what I was feeling and why I had made the gift for them. I came up with this sentiment:
Behind the Design
As makers, I wanted to share the other parts not conveyed in my note to help explain how I arrived at this design, as again, it’s simple. Here’s how I got there:
- The size of the sterling silver blank is based on metal clay charms I made and shared previously with this same group of women.
- The color of the stone represents our school colors (blue and gold — I chose to forgo the gold).
- I knew I wanted to set a stone and keep the design simple — or add their children’s initials. I tested both. Neither worked.
- In the end, one late night, I came up with the idea to use the stone as the zero in 2017, the graduation year.
- The font of the numbers was chosen to match the overall feel of those same metal clay charms. The numbers represent the graduation year.
- I really wanted to make a design that was simple and a strong reminder of the child’s graduation date.
Graduation is quite a milestone for each young adult. It’s also a wonderful time to reflect on all you went through with your child — all those wonderful memories and maybe the challenges and harder times you worked through as a family.
Set up your soldering station. Clean the metal so it’s free of any grease and dirt. Paint the blank with flux (I used a self-pickling flux liquid).
Coat the underside of the bezel with paste solder using a soldering pick or similar fine-tipped tool. I used easy paste solder for this charm as it’s just one solder joint.
Place the blank onto a soldering block. Place the bezel onto the blank. Heat with a torch (I used a micro-torch).
Carefully lift the hot blank with tweezers and quench in pickle. (Yes my pickle is green — that’s real pickle juice in my pickle pot!)
Once the piece has sat in the pickle long enough, remove and rinse clean. Place the blank onto a steel bench block and stamp with the appropriate numerals.
I chose to tumble polish the charms with steel shot in a rotary tumbler but you don’t have to.
Add a jumpring. Add a patina, if desired. (You want to make sure to add the jumpring before you add a patina so the metals match). I used a liver-of-sulfur gel patina then tumbled again for a final finish.
Place the stone into the bezel. (The tool shown is the Tanto by Crystal Ninja).
Place the bezel setting tool (I LOVE this tool!) onto the bezel then tap with a mallet or hammer to set the stone.
Side Note: This bezel setting tool is sized to fit the bezel. Place the tool over the bezel. Lightly strike the tool with a mallet and the bezel is evenly compressed to hold the stone in place. It’s really that simple!
Once complete, I wired the charms to the card then dropped them off.
The gift may be simple and the process very basic, but the gifts you can make with these skills can mean and say so much. This process can also be used to create elaborate pieces. Add onto these basic skills and you can create even more elaborate jewelry gifts!
Turn to any of the books listed below to find what you need to make a new design for you or for your next gift.
Editor, Bead & Jewelry Group
Expand your metalsmithing skills with these great books: