One of the first custom jobs for PepperBox was a pair of chandelier earrings. This style of earring requires a great deal of time, careful soldering and attention to detail but the results are well worth the time and effort. It was a great treat to be able to create a new pair of earrings in this style. Here is what happened.
First a scale drawing is made up. The drawing will serve as a guide during the fabrication process as it is the actual size that the finished earrings will be.
Some of the pieces that make up the earrings are repeated and there for cast using a mold. The original pieces are fabricated from scratch and then molded up. This allows the repeated elements of the design to be produced in a more efficient manner.
The cast elements of the earrings are very small and require fine steel burs to clean them up. Here a pointed reamer is being used to clean up the open spaces of this piece.
Now for the assembly. The first step is to solder the center elements together. Here the pieces sit on a ceramic soldering block waiting to be soldered with a torch.
While the center elements soak in an acid bath that cleans them, pliers are used to draw some sterling silver wire through a steel draw plate. This is forms the wire down to a thickness which will work well for the filigree in the earrings.
The wire is drawn down until has a thickens of 22 gauge. The gauge system for wire works like this, the larger the number the is the thinner the wire is. 22 gauge will be thin enough to form the filigree but thick enough to provide enough strength for the earrings.
The drawing down causes the wire to be springy and not ideal for forming curves and curly cues. Here there wire is being heated in order to anneal it. The annealing will cause the wire to loose it’s springiness and allow it to be formed into the intricate shapes required for the filigree design.
The first bends of the wire are very simple. The bend is made using simple pliers.
The parts are done formed and soldered in steps. So here, eight wires that will make the first of the curves are formed according to the design and are ready to be soldered.
All eight wires are soldered onto the center components.
The wire are then bent into place so that they match the design.
More soldering is done in order to for the wires to keep their form and to add additional strength.
These curves are formed using more specialized pliers that are better suited to bending curves. Here the first to the curves that will make up the filigree pattern are finished.
These steel forming pliers have a very fine tip that allow the creation of the very small curly cues.
Here these smaller curves are about to be soldered on.
Now the pattern is really starting to take shape.
After each soldering operation the pieces are soaked in an acid bath that jewelers call pickle. The pickle removes and flux and oxides that are left over from the soldering process.
Now that the interior wires are all attached, the final wires are form and prepared for soldering.
Here the wire are being soldering on using a fine torch. Heat control is crucial during these soldering processes, a mistake can melt previously attached wire and cause a massive set back to the job.
The wires are formed and soldered into place according to the drawing.
This earring design requires many small jump rings. Here the same pair of small forming pliers are used to curl sterling silver wire into a long coil.
Now secured in a wooden ring clamp, a jewelers saw is used to cut down the middle of the coil. This will create all the jump rings needed for the project.
Boom! Jump rings!
A ring is soldered to to each teardrop shape. Steal locking tweezers are used to hold the pieces in place for soldering.
Once rings have been soldered onto the main assemblies, the tear drops are attached using pliers.
To ensure safe connections all of the jump rings are soldered closed using a very fine torch and small pieces of solder.
Now that everything is attached, the earrings are cleaned up using abrasive wheels that remove any excess solder and create smooth surfaces for the final polish.
The fronts of the earrings are given a preliminary polish by using small brushed and polishing compound. The brushes are used to get into the intricate details with out removing or damaging the filigree work.
Before the final polish, the earring are soaked in a darkening solution until they turn black.
The darkening of the silver will highlight all the fine detail that is in the earrings.
A more aggressive polishing compound is used first to remove most of the dark finish on the silver.
The earring wires are then bent into shape.
Finally the earrings are given a high polish with a soft buff and fine polishing compound.
Shazam!! All the meticulous and patience pays off once the earrings are finished and ready to be delivered to the customer. Merry Christmas guys!
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