Inlaid silver jewellery combines the colour of semiprecious stones with the natural beauty of silver with a smoothness that is hard to achieve with cut stones. Inlay materials are made from stones such as turquoise, malachite, lapis, onyx and coral that have been crushed or ground into fine particles. If you have the basic skills to cut, solder and shape silver, creating silver inlay jewellery is a simple and natural extension of your hobby.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Drill bit
- Jewellery saw
- Silver solder
- Soldering station
- Oxy-acetylene torch
- 2 sets of tongs
- Pickle solution
- 220-grit sandpaper
- Inlay stone
- Metal dapping set
- Two-part epoxy
- Waxed paper
- Grinding wheel
- Buffing wheel
Cut two pieces of silver sheeting the same size---specific size depends on the jewellery item you want to make. Drill or use a jewellery saw to cut the design you want to inlay into one of the pieces of silver. File down any sharp edges.
Paint the uncut sheet of silver with flux and add a few pieces of silver solder, then paint the back of the cut piece with flux and align the two pieces exactly with the solder in between.
Place the two pieces on the raised mesh platform in your soldering station and solder them together with an oxyacetylene torch, applying even heat to the top and bottom of the piece. Keep the torch moving in small circles until the solder is melted and the silver pieces are firmly welded together.
Pick up the silver piece with tongs and place it in the pickle solution, which cleans the soldering residue.
Remove the silver from the pickle with fresh tongs, dry it and sand any impurities or sharp edges with 220-grit wet/dry sandpaper.
Pour a small amount of your inlay stone into one of the hollows of a metal dapping block and use a large dap to crush the stone pieces into a fine powder. (Most inlay stone is sold in pieces too large to give a truly smooth inlay.) You may also be able to use a mortar and pestle, depending on the hardness of the stone you are using and the type of mortar and pestle.
Mix up a small amount of 2-part epoxy on a piece of waxed paper, using a toothpick to stir. Follow the epoxy package's directions exactly.
Pour the powdered stone on the waxed paper next to the epoxy, then slowly mix the two together with the toothpick, adding only enough epoxy to make the stone clump together like a thick dough.
Spread the stone mixture into the cut out portion of your silver with the toothpick, making sure to fill the opening all the way flush with the level of the silver. Adding a little extra is helpful in case the epoxy shrinks as it sets.
Allow the epoxy to dry completely, usually 24 hours. Grind away any excess stone with a grinding wheel, sand any scratches and buff the finished piece with a buffing wheel.
Tips and warnings
- If your stone comes out when you grind, the epoxy mixture needs more hardener. Clean out the remaining inlay stone and try the inlay again using more hardener and less resin.
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