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Gold and pearl earrings

Make gold earrings accented with rubies and pearls

Gold can be an intimidating material; many jewelry makers imagine it wreaking havoc on their nerves and budget. But making your first piece of gold jewelry is often a milestone in a jewelry maker’s career. Before starting this project, remember that gold is very similar to brass in malleability but is far easier to solder. Two advantages to using gold are that it does not firescale like silver does and that it can be easily recycled. The 6 grams of gold that is needed to make the featured earrings cost less than $100 at press time.

Below are step-by-step instructions on making the ear wires for this project; for the complete instructions, click here for the free project PDF.

Materials

  • Gold wire:
    - 18k, 18-gauge (1.0mm), round, half-hard, 6 in. (15.2cm)
    - 14k, 20-gauge (0.8mm), square, half-hard, 2 in. (51mm)
  • 2 14k heads: low base, four prongs (for 25-point gemstones)
  • 8 14k gold jump rings: 22-gauge (0.6mm), unsoldered, 1.6mm inside diameter
  • Solder: 14k gold medium
  • Rubies: 1 matched pair, 3.75–4mm round = approximately.60ct total weight
  • Pearls: 1 matched pair, 8.5–9mm, top drilled, teardrop shape, pale rose to peach luster

Tools & supplies

  • Soldering station: torch, solder (medium and easy), fire-resistant surface (soldering pad, firebrick, charcoal block), compressed charcoal block, pickle pot with pickle, flux, anti-flux (correction fluid), steel tweezers (cross locking and precision), copper tongs, pick
  • Flush cutters
  • Burs: 4mm ball, cup, 45° setting, 90° hart
  • Pin vise
  • Hand file: #1-cut barrette
  • Sanding sticks: 400 to 1500 grit
  • Pliers: chainnose, forming, 2 pairs of roundnose, vise-grip
  • Hammer: planishing (optional)
  • Anvil (optional)
  • Drill bits: various sizes
  • Dowel (1⁄2-in. [13mm] diameter) and sealing wax; or dapping stick
  • Spring gauge
  • Flex shaft
  • Craft knife (optional)
  • Vise
  • Cyanoacrylate glue
  • Fingernail-polish remover (optional)
  • Radial bristle abrasive wheels, various grits
  • Muslin buffs
  • Fabuluster polishing compound
Instructions
Gold and pearl earrings 1
Photo 1
Gold and pearl earrings 2
Photo 2
Ear wires

Make gold balls. Make an ingot mold by holding a 4mm ball bur in your fingers and grinding it into a compressed charcoal block [1]. A compressed charcoal block is denser than a standard charcoal block and holds up through multiple heatings.

Cut pieces of 18-gauge (1.0mm) gold wire or pieces from your recycled gold scraps. Fit the gold pieces into the ingot mold [2].

Flux the gold, and heat it until it forms a molten ball. Remove the heat, and allow the ball to cool. Tip over the charcoal block to remove the ball. Pickle and rinse the ball. Repeat to make a second ball.

Gold and pearl earrings 3
Photo 3
Solder an ear wire to a gold ball. Cut a 2-in. (51mm) piece of 18-gauge (1.0mm) wire. Flux the wire and grasp it in cross-locking tweezers. Ball a pallion of 14k medium gold solder and allow it to flow (sweat solder) onto one end of the wire. Flux a gold ball and heat it. As the flux turns clear, touch the wire end to the ball [3]. When the solder flows, remove the heat. Quench, pickle, and rinse the ear wire. Repeat to solder the second ear wire.
Gold and pearl earrings 4
Photo 4
Gold and pearl earrings 5
Photo 5
Shape the gold balls. Clamp an ear wire in a pin vise so only the ball is visible. Use a hand file to create a pyramid shape with four flat sides. The pictured #1-cut barrette file is my favorite [4], but other flat-sided files work just as well. Sand the pyramid against sanding sticks [5] of increasingly finer grits, beginning with 400 grit and ending with 1500 grit. Repeat to shape the second ball.
Gold and pearl earrings 6
Photo 6
Gold and pearl earrings 7
Photo 7

Shape the ear wires. Working with 18k half-hard gold wire feels more like working with hardened silver or half-hard brass wire. To compensate, use two pairs of roundnose pliers in opposition to shape the ear wire [6]. Use forming pliers to contour the arch of the ear wire [7]. Planish the shaped ear wire with a planishing hammer to work-harden it and confirm the shape. Repeat to shape the second ear wire.

For the remaining instructions, click here for the free project PDF.

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