Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jewelry creation 101- silver head pins

I'm currently working on a top-end piece of jewelry that involved sterling silver wire, aquamarine gemstones crystals and seed pearls. In making this, I grew frustrated at the cost of sterling silver head pins, usually sold in 10 packs. I needed, like, a hundred of these very simple, but essential items for my necklace.
I had tried using a spiral at the end of my pearl bead drops, but the finished look seemed not as professional as I wanted for my piece.
I'm the type of person that will completely take apart an item If it's not quite what I wanted it to be.... This was one of those items that I'm not going to accept anything but what I really want it to be!
I'd taken the time and expense to order the top drilled, dagger style, aquamarine nuggets from an artisan supplier on

So- I wanted the finished look to be a certain way, not sloppy, or amatur. I set about creating my own silver ball tipped head pins. These tiny silver balls are what the bead rests on, with a spiral wrapped loop at the top. The loop attaches to the necklace in some fashion.

I started with 24 guage sterling silver wire. I cut 10 pieces of wire about 1 1/2" long. I summarily took these to the barn and had Jim start up the hand held propane torch... (cause he's a man- and it's a man skill- right?)

I held the wire in the hottest part of the torches fire, easily creating a molten ball of silver. Trial and error found that you have to hold the wire pretty much vertical, with the molten ball on the bottom to get the ball to center on the wire, and not be off center. These first 10 pins were burnt and tarnished looking, but for all apparent purposes, it seemed to be just what I wanted.

I had a silver polishing cloth that I took my dainty treasures to. I polished for more than an hour to get all the brownish tan tarnish of the pins shaft, and the darker charcoal color off the ball itself. That's not very cost effective.
Not willing to give up, I cut a larger handful of the wire to about 1 1/4" length, a more managable size for the tiny seed pearls anyway. If I was going to make the effort, I might as well make it worth while. The bundle of wire was only about 9 bucks. and the cost of the headpins to purchase them, would have been closer to double that... you do the math.

So, off to the barn I went. You can see in the pictures below what wire I started with, How I held the pin in the flame (I photoshopped in the wite line so you can better see where the pin was held in the fire), and the finished result. What you don't see is how I got the headpins to be silver, and with very little carbon burn or tarnish!
Ahhh trial an error again. I had made one pin that had the silver molten ball harden a little off center. I just stuck it back into the flame for a second more and took it out pretty quick, not wanting to over heat it and make the ball too big. I noticed that where it had been re-heated to cherry for that little second was shiny clean! The carbon film on the outside had been burnt away!
the Ah-Ha moment had arrived.
I reheated each of those pins just to the point of cherry glow, then removed them from the fire before they were molten. All were nearly perfect!
Joy! Let the endless wire wrapping begin!

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