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Serendipity earrings

Assemble fine-silver water-cast components and 24k gold balls to make an earthy pair of earrings

One of the best things about water-cast components is their individuality; it’s not just unlikely that you’ll repeat yourself when you make or use them, it’s impossible. While you have some measure of control over the size of the components you produce, all in all, it’s an exercise in random creation, and it’s up to you as a designer to assemble these random elements into a pleasing whole. The entire process gives you the opportunity to create highly distinctive, truly one-of-a-kind jewelry. 

Read on for instructions on how to make the dangles. For the complete instructions, click here for the free project PDF.

Materials

  • Fine-silver water-cast components: 4–8
  • 24k gold balls: 2 mm, 2
  • Sterling silver wire:
    - 18-gauge (1.0 mm), round, 30 mm (1 1⁄4 in.)
    - 20-gauge (0.8 mm), round, 60 mm (2 1⁄2 in.)
  • Sterling silver earring backs: 2

Toolboxes

Suppliers

Instructions
Serendipity earrings 1
Photo 1
DANGLES

Select your components. Lay out a number of drop-shaped water-cast components. Arrange the components until you’ve found three pairs (small, medium, and large) of roughly the same size and shape. Don’t worry about matching them too closely; the asymmetry of the finished earrings is part of their charm.

You’ll solder earring posts to the medium pair, and the large pair will dangle below. To add visual interest, you’ll solder small components inside the large pair and add 24k gold balls within the small components. Here are my mocked-up earrings; the medium component on the left wasn’t as textured as the one on the right, so I put a tiny water-cast piece within it that I’ll also solder in place [1].

Tip!
Make sure you select sturdy components that don’t have any thin spots — thin spots could melt as you’re making the earrings. I kind of manhandle the components a bit to make sure that they’re tough enough to stand up to wear. I’d rather have a piece bend or break now than after I’ve completed my earrings.
Serendipity earrings 2
Photo 2
Serendipity earrings 3
Photo 3

Pre-solder the small components. Separate one dangle into its three parts: large component, small component, and gold ball [2]. If it matters for your design, make sure to keep the left and right earring components separate.

Place the small component convex-side up on a soldering block. Flux it and place a medium/large pallion of hard solder on top. It’s okay to use more solder than you normally would; you won’t see it here.

Heat the component evenly until the solder has melted just enough to adhere to the component [3]. Do not allow the solder to flow completely. Remove the heat, and place the component aside — no need to pickle it. Repeat to pre-solder the other small component.

Serendipity earrings 4
Photo 4
Serendipity earrings 5
Photo 5

Join the small and large components. Place a large component concave-side up on the soldering block. Flux the inside bottom of the bowl, and place a pre-soldered small component inside it.

Heat the outside of the large component until the solder on the small component flows and joins the two pieces. If necessary, use a soldering pick to adjust the placement of the components [4]. Allow the assembly to cool, and repeat to join the other dangle components.

Form bails for the dangles. Cut two pieces of 18-gauge (1.0 mm) wire about 15 mm (9⁄16 in.) long. Using half-round or roundnose pliers, form the wires into matching U shapes.

Fit the bail wires. Using tweezers, hold a U-shaped wire against the top of a large component. If necessary, use flush cutters to trim one or both ends of the wire until the ends fit flush against the component. Repeat to fit the other bail and large component.

Tip!

You may need to angle one or both ends of the bail wires to achieve a good fit.

Pre-solder the bail wires. Place one bail wire on the soldering block, flux each end of the wire, and place a small pallion of medium solder at each end. Heat each end until the solder flows just enough to adhere to the wire [5]. Remove the heat and let the wire cool. Repeat to pre-solder the other bail wire.

Serendipity earrings 6a
Photo 6 (two views)
Serendipity earrings 6b

Attach the bails. Using a third hand, steady the assembled dangle component on the soldering block. Flux the top of the dangle component where you’d like the bail to go. Grip the bail wire with insulated cross-locking tweezers, and hold it ready.

Gently heat the dangle component until the flux turns clear and glassy; this means soldering temperature has been reached. As soon as the flux is clear, guide the bail wire down, touching the pre-soldered ends to the dangle component.

Heat the assembly until the solder flows [6]. Immediately remove the flame, but hold the bail in place until the molten solder solidifies. Quench, pickle, and rinse the assembly. Repeat to attach the other dangle component’s bail.

Serendipity earrings 7a
Photo 7a
Serendipity earrings 7b
Photo 7b
Pre-solder the gold balls. Use the soldering pick to create a tiny divot in the soldering block. Place a gold ball in the divot; this ensures that the ball won’t roll away. Flux the ball, and place a small pallion of silver solder on top of it [7a].
If you’re soldering gold to gold, use gold solder. But if you’re soldering gold to silver, you can save money and use silver solder.

Heat the ball just until the solder flows onto it [7b]. Don’t heat it too much, or the solder will cover up the gold. Set the ball aside to cool, and repeat to pre-solder the other ball.

Serendipity earrings 8
Photo 8

Solder the gold balls in place. Place a dangle component on the soldering block concave-side up. Lightly flux the interior of the small inner component, and place the gold ball within, pre-soldered-side down.

With your torch, gently warm up the assembly until the flux stops bubbling, and check the position of the ball. The ball may jump around because of the bubbling solder; if necessary, use your solder pick to reposition the ball so the solder is down.

Heat the assembly, avoiding the thin bail, until the solder flows and joins the gold ball to the dangle component. You may have to use your soldering pick to hold the ball in place [8].

Quench, pickle, and rinse the dangle. Check that the ball and component are joined securely; re-solder as necessary. Repeat to attach the other dangle component’s gold ball.

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