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[Advanced Project] granulated fine silver earrings


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ADVANCED PROJECT GRANULATED FINE SILVER EARRINGS

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Granulation is the process of fusing tiny metal spheres of
silver or gold, in a decorative pattern, to a surface of the same
metal. It is an ancient technique, that produces a beautiful,
delicate effect. When making Granulated jewelry, all connections
are fused instead of soldered.

This project is to make a pair of round earrings in Fine Silver,
with a granulated pattern on the surface and a small stone set in
the center. It is an advanced level project, and assumes basic
skills such as soldering, stone setting, etc.

It is important to read the entire set of instructions before
starting out, to get an overview of what you will be doing. Then
go back to the beginning and take it step by step.

OVERVIEW OF FUSING Fusing involves raising the temperature of
both the backsheet and the granules and wires to be fused, to the
point at which they melt just enough so that they will adhere
permanently to one another. This is a very delicate operation.
If the correct temperature is not reached, the items to be fused
will not hold properly, necessitating the reheating of the whole
piece, in order to replace them. If the temperature gets too
high, too fast, meltdown can occur, which is irreversible.
Therefore, lots of patience is needed and both the backsheet and
the object to be fused need to be brought to the appropriate
temperature very slowly.

Items to be fused in this project are the bezel ends, bezel to
backsheet, circular wires around bezel and outside rim of
earring, and the granules, and will be done in the following
order:

1. Bezel ends 
2. Bezel to backsheet 
3. Round wire around bezel and around outside rim of earrings 
  1. Granules

General Process for Placing Items for Fusing

  1. Prepare a mixture of 10 drops of water, 2 drops of hide glue
    and 3 drops of liquid flux. This will be applied sparingly to all
    surfaces to be fused, and act as temporary glue to hold the items
    in place until they are heated. Once heated, the hide glue burns
    off and the items are no longer glued down.

  2. Turn up a corner of the backsheet with a small pliers, so
    that it can be easily grasped with tweezers. This will enable
    you to move it easily and without tipping it. This piece will
    eventually be cut off.

  3. Using the 000 sable brush, apply the mixture to the item to
    be fused before placing it on the backsheet. This mixture is
    also water soluble, so if you want to make a correction in
    placement, flood it with a small amount of water. This will
    dissolve the glue and you will be able to move the piece.

  4. After placing the item, give it a little time to
    dry–especially when placing the granules–so it cannot be easily
    moved by accident.

  5. Once the item to be fused is air dried, start the heating
    process very gradually:

a) Put the earring on the small piece of ceramic tile and place
it under the kiln for a few minutes to warm up.

b) Place the metal kiln cover on the kiln, and put the tile with
the earring on it for two or three minutes to continue to raise
the heat gradually.

c) Then, remove the tile and allow the earring to rest directly
on the metal cap of the kiln until the glue mixture begins to
turn brown.

d) As it heats up, the hide glue will begin to turn dark brown.
(Don’t worry, this will burn off). Place the earring in the kiln
and cover it with the metal cap while you light the torch. Check
it fairly quickly to see if all the glue has burned off. Once
the glue has burned off, the earring will look radiantly silver,
but the object on top of the backsheet are all unglued and loose,
so don’t jar the kiln or move anything too suddenly.

The next step will be fusing the bezel and wires to the
backsheet. General Information for FUSING

  1. Use the torch tip that will produce a large, soft flame.
    Keep your arm high above the kiln with the torch at right angles
    to the surface so that only the very feathery tip of the flame
    touches the earring.

  2. Start to heat the entire piece with a slow, circular motion
    around the outside of the periphery of the backsheet. This will
    build up a cone of heat around and above the entire piece,
    allowing it all to rise to the same temperature at the same time,
    while the kiln is providing the necessary bottom heat.

  3. When the outer edge of the silver begins to show signs of
    shimmering, pass the tip of the flame closer into the area you
    wish to fuse. Use a gentle, sweeping motion and do not
    concentrate the flame in any one spot. As you do this you will
    actually see the surface of the silver shine and “run” -a little
    like solder does- and you can usually see the surface change
    right up to the edge that needs to be fused. Withdraw the heat
    quickly and turn off the torch. . 4. Give the piece a few seconds
    to cool, then quench in cold water. Test the parts that were
    fused with a sharp pointed instrument (tweezers etc) to see if
    they have been completely fused. If some areas are still
    unfused, repeat the whole procedure over again as many times as
    necessary to get everything solidly fused.

TIP: Do not try to hurry the heating process by bringing the
flame in close, or concentrating on any one spot. Work slowly and
carefully.

STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS

STEP 1. Preparing the Back Sheet

  1. Cut two pieces of 24 gauge Fine Silver sheet, each one
    approx. 1 1/2-inch square.

  2. Flatten the squares between two steel blocks, annealing them
    if necessary. Be sure that they are perfectly flat.

  3. Sand and tripoli the backsheet, eliminating all scratches.
    Then clean it very well, making sure to remove all traces of the
    tripoli. From here on in, try not to get fingerprints on it.
    Any extraneous material on the surface of the metal, such as
    fingerprints or polish can interfere with the fusing process.

  4. Coat the back of the backsheet with ochre to prevent
    overheating the piece when fusing takes place.

STEP 2: Preparing and Fusing the Bezel

In this sample, we are using 6 mm. garnet cabs.

  1. Cut the bezel wire to the correct size to contain the stone,
    but make it slightly higher than you will need. This will give
    you an extra edge of metal in case the bezel becomes deformed by
    the flame during repeated heating. The bezel can be filed or
    sanded down to size before setting the stone. FUSE the ends of
    the bezel together. This can be done on a piece of charcoal
    outside the kiln if the kiln is too hot for the thin bezel.
    Please read the section on Fusing before continuing. Do not
    solder the ends. Since fusing occurs at a higher temperature than
    soldering, all fusing operations must be completed before any
    soldering takes place.

  2. To fuse the wire into a bezel, abut the ends just as you
    would if you were soldering them. Place them in the kiln, which
    has been heated, or on charcoal. Using only the feathery tip of
    the large flame, heat the bezel piece by creating a circle of
    heat around it and then gently and quickly pull the very tip of
    the flame over the seam. The silver becomes shiny and you can
    see the silver shimmer and run together. Quickly remove
    flame–all this happens very fast!

  3. File gently over the seam in the bezel until it disappears.
    Tripoli the bezel itself until the scratches are removed and it
    looks shiny and finished. Once it is fused to the back sheet, it
    will be very difficult to correct any blemishes.

  4. Gently ochre the very top rim of the bezel. Since you will
    probably heat and reheat the piece several times, this will help
    prevent the bezel from accidentally burning around the top. 5.
    Find the exact center of the backsheet and mark it to indicate
    where the bezel should be placed.

  5. Fuse the bezel in the center of the square of silver.

STEP 3: Preparing and Fusing the Decorative Wires.

You will need two circles made of round wire. One will surround
the bezel; the other will be at the outer circumference of the
earring.

  1. Using the 22 ga. round wire, shape a ring that will fit
    exactly around the bezel.

  2. Fuse the ends together and reshape it on a mandrel to be sure
    it is perfectly round.

  3. Check the fit of the ring around the bezel. To fuse properly,
    it must be an exact fit, leaving no spaces either around the
    bezel or between it and the backsheet. If necessary, flatten the
    ring between two steel blocks.

  4. Place it over the bezel and fuse it to the backsheet. Fig.1

  5. Using the 22 ga. wire, make a ring with a diameter of 7/8"
    and fuse the ends together. This will demarcate the outer edge of
    the finished earrings.

  6. Shape on a mandrel so that it is a perfect circle and if
    necessary, flatten it between two steel blocks so it lies
    perfectly flat on the backsheet. 7. Place it on the backsheet so
    that it forms the outer edge of the earring. Make sure that it is
    placed so that the bezel is at the EXACT center of the outer
    ring.

  7. Paste it down temporarily with the Hide Glue mixture as
    described in the section on Fusing.

  8. Fuse the larger ring to the backsheet.Fig.2

The next step will be Granulation.

GRANULATION

Overview
Granulation involves placing and fusing tiny balls of silver on
the surface of the backsheet in a preplanned design. The mixture
of Hide Glue, flux and water is used to temporarily hold the
granules in place until they are fused.

STEP 4: Acquiring the Granules

Granules can be either bought or made by hand. The obvious
advantage to buying granules is that you save a great deal of
time that you would otherwise spend in making them, and that they
will be very uniform in size. Uniformity is important because it
affects the final look of the design. The downside is that they
are expensive, and usually need to be purchased in larger
quantities than you would need for one project. For this project
you would need about 3 Dwt. of Fine Silver granules. They
generally come in 3 sizes- Large (.032) Medium (.024) and Small
(really tiny–.016) The large size was used for these earrings.
(See supply list for source of granules).

Making your own:

The main advantage to making your own granules is cost. After
some experimenting, you can also make granules of different
sizes, and find the size that suits your work better than those
that are purchased. You can also make as many as you need, as you
need them. Some experimentation and practice is very helpful.
The downside is time and getting uniformity

Granules are made by coiling fine silver wire around a pin stem
or needle that is used as a mandrel. The final size is a
variable of the thickness of the wire, the diameter of the
’mandrel’ that is used for coiling the wire, and the point on the
curve of the coil where the wire is cut. To maintain
uniformity, the wire should be cut at the precisely the same
point in the curve each time.

  1. Using a pin stem or needle as a mandrel, and 26 ga. round
    wire, wrap the wire around it in a tight coil.

  2. Remove the coil from the pin, and stretch it out slightly so
    that you can get a small cutting tool between the loops. Snip the
    top of each loop (do a few and see if you are getting the size
    you want) .

  3. Spread the little curls out on a charcoal block, --don’t put
    them too close to each other or they will tend to roll around and
    merge when they are heated, giving you granules that are much too
    big.

TIP: It is helpful to carve a ridge around the top of the
charcoal block, about =BC from the edges. This provides a channel
for the granules to roll into and makes them easy to retrieve.

  1. Using a small tip on your torch, heat each granule briefly
    until it turns into a perfect ball. Try not to bring the flame
    too close to the granules because the force of the flame will
    blow the granules around, sometimes causing them to collide or to
    fly off the charcoal. Remove the heat promptly when the ball is
    formed.

5.Once you have found the correct size continue to make granules
until you have as many as you need. As mentioned before, you
don’t need to do them all at once but can make them up in batches
as you need them.

STEP 5: PLACING THE GRANULES

  1. Make sure the backsheet is flat, clean and as smooth as you
    can get it. Pickle it and then be sure to clean it in hot soapy
    water and rinse in clear water to remove any traces of pickle.
    Try not to get any fingerprints on it.

  2. Have handy the Hide Glue mixture, a small amount of water,
    the 000 brush and either another fine brush or fine tweezers. It
    is helpful to work on a clean piece of paper toweling.

  3. Pick up a small amount of Hide Glue mixture on the brush, and
    then pick up a few granules. Place them on the backsheet,
    starting at the outside wire. Place a row of granules all around
    the inside of that wire. This will form the first line of your
    pattern. Use the Hide Glue sparingly, and dilute it with a little
    water on your brush when necessary. Give the granules a chance
    to dry a little before going on to the next line. This will
    help prevent them moving about when you continue the pattern. I
    have found it helpful to work on both earrings at the same
    time-alternating them-do the outer circle on one earring, set it
    aside and do the other, and then go back to the first one, etc.

  4. Making the triangles: Place five granules under the first
    row. Make sure the granules touch each other and the row above
    them. They will settle into the angles made by the joining of
    the above granules. Next place four granules below them, then
    three, then two and then one. That completes the first triangle.
    Fig.3

  5. To start the second triangle, skip one granule space, and
    then repeat the procedure. The pattern will look different
    depending on where you place each triangle. Try to be consistent
    in how far apart they will be.

  6. Continue making the triangles all around the piece.

  7. Place a row of granules around the wire that surrounds the
    bezel. Then make small triangles of three granules each, spacing
    them evenly so that the point of the little triangle points to
    the opening between two larger ones. Fig.4

  8. Set the earrings aside and let them air dry for about 5 to 10
    minutes.

STEP 6:Fusing the Granules: 1. Wait until the kiln is very hot.
Do one earring at a time. Place the earrings on the small piece
of ceramic tile and place the tile under the kiln so that the
heat from the kiln will begin to dry the glue mixture.

  1. Next, put the cover on the kiln, and place the tile with the
    first earring on it on top of the cover. Let this heat up for a
    few minutes. DO NOT RUSH THIS PROCESS! When the glue mixture
    starts to turn a little brown, gently and carefully slip the
    metal piece off the tile and onto the kiln cover. Try not to jar
    it, as the granules become loose as the glue mixture burns off.

  2. When the glue mixture turns dark brown (don’t get alarmed)
    carefully lift off the backsheet holding it perfectly horizontal
    so as not to disturb the granules, and place it in the hottest
    part of the kiln (usually there is a bright hot spot which is
    visible).

  3. Cover the kiln for a few seconds while lighting your torch.
    Remember to use a large tip with a very soft flame. Check the
    piece to see whether the glue has all burned off. When the piece
    looks silvery again, it is time to begin heating the granules to
    fuse them. (Sometimes the glue will send up black smoke as it is
    burning off-do not worry about this.)

  4. Use the same technique as described before. Hold the flame at
    right angles to the piece, and allow only the feathery tip to
    come in contact with the metal. Start by slowly describing a
    circle around the outside of the piece, to allow the heat to
    build up evenly while the kiln provides bottom heat. Every once
    in awhile, pass the tip of the flame over the metal piece
    itself-in a kind of sweeping, swooping motion that does not
    concentrate the heat in any one place. DON’T TRY TO RUSH THIS
    PROCESS EITHER! Work slowly and methodically, heating around and
    then over the piece.

  5. When the metal begins to shimmer and the granules start to
    look like they are lighting up, gently stroke over each section
    of the granules until you have covered the entire area. Withdraw
    the heat quickly, and remove the piece from the kiln, letting it
    air-cool for awhile, Repeat the same process for the second
    earring.

  6. Now comes the really hard part. It is essential to make sure
    that all the granules are in fact, fused to the backsheet. With
    a sharp tool, such as tweezers or a scribe, push each granule to
    see if it is securely fused. It is not unusual for one or two or
    several granules to come off even when others right next to it
    are fused. Remove any granules that are not fused, reglue them
    and repeat the whole process. It takes some practice and
    experience to determine the exact point of fusing.

TIP: Until you get experience in determining whether fusing has
taken place while the piece is hot, it is probably better to
underestimate the time and then repeat the process if necessary.
If the piece gets overheated, the granules will melt and the
piece will not be salvageable.

STEP 7: Finishing the Earrings

  1. Trim the excess metal from the backsheet by snipping around
    the outside wire ring. Keep the cutters at right angles to the
    piece and move the piece into the cutter to avoid any undercut.
    File and sand around the outside edge to get a perfect circle.
    Fig.5

  2. Remove the ochre from the back of the piece by painting it
    with paste flux and heating it until the flux becomes shiny.
    While hot, plunge it in pickle, then rinse and use a brass brush
    to clean off residual ochre. This may have to be repeated a few
    times.

  3. To bring up the fine silver and give the piece a soft look,
    use paste flux, heat to a shine and pickle. Then use a brass
    brush to bring out the sheen. Rouge can also be used on the
    granulated surface, but NOT TRIPOLI or any abrasive as that will
    erode the granules.

  4. Sand the back of the piece and polish to a satisfactory
    shine. Solder the posts with medium solder. This should be the
    last operation before setting the stone.

  5. Set the stones.

TIP: because the earrings are fairly heavy, they will hang best
when clutches are used on the posts. If you prefer, an Omega
earring back could also be used.

  1. Sit back and enjoy your beautiful granulated earrings.

For an excellent article on high karat Gold granulation, see Bauer, Ceceli=
a,
and Granulation in the Hoover and Strong Catalogue, 1996-1997, p 21. For =
an
excellent article on Sterling Silver granulation, See Cogswell, John, Ster=
ling
Granulation in Metals Technic, Brynmorgen Press, l992. P.3.

.

Sandra Buchholz
Fine Silver Granulation SUPPLY LIST

SUPPLIES NEEDED

Fine Silver sheet-24 gauge: two pieces approx. 1 1/4 inches square
Fine Silver round wire-22 gauge
Fine Silver-26 gauge bezel wire or make your own bezel
Fine Silver granules. * or 26 gauge fine silver wire
Two 6mm. stones
Ochre
Steel bench blocks
Usual materials for sanding, filing and polishing

TO PASTE GRANULES ON BACKSHEET
Hide Glue **
Liquid Flux
Eyedropper
One or two 000 paint brushes
Fine tweezers (optional)

TO FUSE GRANULES
Torch with large tip (#I Tip for Smith torch; #7 for Little Torch)
Lightweight jeweler’s kiln (sometimes called Trinket kiln) ***
Charcoal block
Small piece of ceramic tile
Tweezers

TO FINISH EARRINGS
Either posts or wire hooks
Medium solder
Stone setting tools

  • A reliable source for granules is: STM (914-273-5500/fax 914-273-2065)
    They are located in Armonk, NY, and have a brochure detailing size, costs
    etc., which they will send upon request.

** Available from Rio Grande, NM, or Metalliferous, NY (212-944-0909)

*** Available in hardware stores