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Three-tiered metal clay earrings

Put layered panels in motion with these earrings, designed to sway a bit so that light reflects off the panels’ textured surfaces.
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This side view of one of the earrings shows how the jump rings and panels are assembled. When the earrings are viewed from the front, the connecting jump rings are hidden by the panels. 

Sometimes jewelry makers want to showcase how they put a piece together. Other times attaching the components calls for a little sleight of hand. The tiered panels of these earrings are cleverly linked with a concealed series of jump rings. The result is a clean, sleek look. 

SUPPLIES 

  • Metal clay: 16 g
  • Sterling silver ear posts: 1/16-in. (1.5 mm)-diameter pads, ear nuts
  • Sterling silver jump rings, 18-gauge (1.0 mm)
    • 6 mm OD, 4
    • 5 mm OD, 4–6
    • 10 mm OD, 2–4 (soldered)
  • Sterling silver ear wires, 2 (optional)
  • Texture sheet: linear pattern
  • Lightbox (optional)
  • Olive oil or natural hand balm
  • Flexible Teflon sheet
  • Acrylic roller
  • Playing cards
  • Tissue blade
  • Sponge: flat
  • Plexiglas: 2 x 3 in.(51 x 76 mm)
  • Paintbrush: fine tip
  • Craft knife
  • Sandpaper: 400 grit; or fine-grit emery board
  • Needle tool
  • Rotary engraver (optional)
  • Drill bits: 1 mm, 1.5 mm
  • Kiln, kiln shelf
  • Brass brush
  • Flex shaft
  • Wooden dapping block, dapping punch
  • Rawhide mallet
  • Burnisher: steel or agate
  • Tumbler, steel shot, burnishing compound (optional)
  • Soldering station: torch, hard solder, fire-resistant surface (soldering pad, firebrick, or charcoal block), pickle pot with pickle, copper tongs, flux (self-pickling, optional) cross-locking tweezers
  • Chainnose pliers, 2

INSTRUCTIONS

In this project, you’ll make a photocopy of a favorite linear texture sheet and use it to make a template for the earring components. After firing and then dapping the components to give them a subtle curve, you’ll solder sterling silver posts to the back of square accent components. Or, instead of attaching posts, you can use purchased or handmade ear wires. In the final steps, you’ll connect the components with sterling silver jump rings.

To begin the project using a linear texture sheet, refer to the color-coded, downloadable Template!

Earring components

Covert operation_step 1
Step 1
Covert operation_step 2
Step 2

Roll and texturize the clay. Lightly oil your hands, an acrylic roller, a flexible Teflon sheet, and the texture sheet that you photocopied. Roll 8 g of metal clay to 2 playing cards thick [STEP 1].

Use the flexible Teflon sheet to transfer the rolled clay to the texture sheet. Roll the clay again to 2 playing cards thick [STEP 2].

Covert operation_step 3
Step 3
Covert operation_step 4
Step 4

Position the clay on the template. Turn the rolled clay so that its textured side is facing up, keeping the flexible Teflon sheet beneath the clay. Then place the flexible Teflon sheet withthe rolled clay on the template, aligning the clay’s textured pattern with the photocopied image of the texture plate.Cut out the clay components. Use a tissue blade to cut the textured clay along the template guidelines [STEP 3]. 

Remove the excess clay, reroll and texturize it, and position it on the template as you did before. Use the tissue blade to cut more rectangles. Repeat until you have a total of three A rectangles and three B rectangles. (I made more guides than necessary to accommodate the irregular shape of the rolled-out clay.)

Cut two 1⁄2 x 1⁄2-in. (13 x 13 mm) textured square components. (I use the 1⁄2-in. [13 mm] width of the B components as a guide). You’ll attach earring posts to the squares in a later step. Set all the components on a flat sponge until they are mostly dry [STEP 4].

Covert operation_step 5
Step 5
Covert operation_step 6
Step 6

Add metal clay accents. Lightly oil a 2 x 3-in. (51 x 76 mm) piece of Plexiglas, and use it to roll a snake of metal clay approximately 1⁄16 in. (1.5 mm) in diameter and 1 in. (25.5 mm) long [STEP 5]. Position the snake on one rectangle so that the snake runs from one corner of the rectangle to the rectangle’s edge, following the direction of the texture [STEP 6].

Use a fine-tip paintbrush to apply water along the side of the snake to secure it to the rectangle. Use a craft knife to cut off the length of snake that extends beyond the rectangle. Repeat to add snake accents to the remaining five rectangles. Set them all aside until they’re completely dry.

Refine the components. Use 400-grit sandpaper or a fine-grit emery board to slightly round the corners of all the components and to smooth any rough edges. I used a sharp needle tool to sign the back of each rectangle. (Alternatively, I use a rotary engraver to add my signature after firing the components).

Covert operation_step 7
Step 7
Covert operation_step 8
Step 8

Drill holes in the rectangles. The short end of each rectangle that is closest to the snake accent is the bottom of the rectangle. Place one rectangle texture-side down on your work surface. Use a pencil to make a centered mark 2 mm from the top edge of the rectangle. Hold a 1 mm drill bit in your hand, and without exerting pressure, twist it to make a hole at the mark [STEP 7]. Repeat to mark and drill a hole through the top of the remaining five rectangles.

Drill holes in the squares. Position the squares texture-side up on your work surface, making sure that the texture is oriented in the same direction on each square. Turn the squares over, again keeping the texture oriented the same on each square. Make a mark on the back of one square, 2 mm from the edge of one corner. Use the drill bit to makea 1 mm-diameter hole through the mark. Repeat to mark and drill a hole in the corresponding corner of the second square.
 
Fire the components and enlarge the holes. Fire the components according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the components are cool, use a brass brush and soapy water to polish them. Because the components will have shrunk during firing, use a flex shaft with a 1.5 mm drill bit to enlarge the holes to fit 18-gauge (1.0 mm) jump rings.

Shape the components. Place a component texture-side down into a 2-in. (51 mm) recess of a wooden dapping block. Use a wooden dapping punch and a rawhide mallet to give the component a very slight curve [STEP 8]. Repeat to curve all the remaining components.

For the rest of the instructions, including assembly, burnishing and soldering, please view our free, downloadable PDF which includes step-by-step instructions. 

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