I am new to the list and a hobby silversmith. I like to work with
natural stones and crystals and I have seen some of these capped in
what looks like either electroplating or wax molded, althought the
finished look is a little too loose I think to be wax molded and then
cast. The surface of the finished metal capping, etc, is a bit bumpy,
lumpy, rough, etc. I am not sure of the process. I have some stones
which are impossible to cap in the normal cut and solder way because
of their irregularities or protrustions.
Can any one on the list tell me how this other process is done that
I have seen'the overall effect is not as clean looking as it would be
with the normal cutting and soldering so I am assuming it must be
electroplating over wax or something similar that makes the silver
or gold mold itself nicely into all the irregular nooks and crannies
of the crystals and stone, forming a snug fit between the metal and
the stones. I've seen this process used on the metaphysical crystal
wands as well.
Any help would be greatly appreciated. I have looked in my books but
can't find anything that talks of this process or shows finished
pieces which look like the ones I have seen.
Thanks in advance for any help and advice.
June- It's called electro forming. The same process as bronzing baby
Anything you can coat with bronzing powder you can electro form.
I've even done a petrified lizard.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
if i understand what you are asking..(big if...) one takes a crystal
that has been soaked in oxalic acid to remove iron oxides and make
it as clear as possible,- the granular radiator cleaner you find at
auto stores is cheapest and easy to get, the directions are for
radiator flushing but use a plastic 5 gallon bucket and fill 1/3 with
water then add the acid about a half a cannister if badly iron
oxidised- stir with a paint mixing stick and submerge the crystals.
In the sun works best, with a screen on top to keep animals and birds
out a no brainer ! (then rinse!).
To get a "cap" you need a flat top- 2 ways to do it :
1) use a diamond cut-off wheel, keep it lubricated and cut the
2) buy a machine cut crystal (that's probably what you are talking
about in "wands", pendants, etc. they seem too perfect-because they
are cut and polished on diamond laps. and don't look like natural
growth at all..
After one side is flat- presuming you want a pointed side: you can
wrap the top of the crystal in, cel-u-clay (basically ground paper
for making sculptures lightweight) cork clay, or even leather to get
a shape you can deal with. or use some other material to level it
off. leather strips need to be glued down, you may not want glue-
the other two mould to the surface and when dry stay- Much like using
dried boxwood under a turquoise cab to level it in a bezel as SW
silversmiths do/did. don't use plastics, friendly plastic,
thermoplastic (jett-sett) etc may conform in a thin-ish layer to the
piece but will be bad news if one has to repair it down the road.
then use calipers to measure the top of the crystal and make a shape
that fits perfectly. measure it a few times to make sure you get the
same measurement from many angles ( digital callipers are
inexpensive and accurate, more so than brass ones).Then using a split
strip, bezel strip or otherwise sheet of whatever metal you want,
solder it to the cap (which if turned upside down would be the
backing plate of your setting) file, or clean up with whatever you
like (an abrasive pin, film in a mandrel, wheel, grinder, radial
bristle disc, etc.) the "cap" flat as possible around the edges to
deburr, etc., then make sure your split strip, etc. fits tight- you
should see no light anywhere when fitted together. Flux and put
paillions inside the "cap",put on a tripod and heat from below if you
can do it. less risk of ruining thinner metal around the top. Use
hard as you'll probably want to add embellishments, or a top to the
"cap" once it's ready to set..
you can use metal clays- they now come in a variety of 14 kt gold
colours, and high kt gold as well and silvers of different purities
too..(or base metals, like bronze, steels, etc. but don't combine
with high karat golds or silvers easily.) and can be decorated as far
as your design skills take you. Some crystals can be fired with the
cap on (few specimens/varieties though, and you'll need as perfect a
crystal as possible - no inclusions that are significant, and no
rutilated quartzes. the needles sometimes go through the point all
the way and can blow in a kiln or explode) but consult a reliable
list, use a loupe to inspect and then consider the safety of firing
It rather depends on the kind of cap you want as to what to do next-
if its a simple one, then attaching a bail or tube or whatever set-up
to string it to wear you like. if its not for wearing, then you may
want a hilt as for a knife added to the cap. In that case use thicker
sheet same measurements + addition of the thickness to get right size
to connect perfectly with the cap you just made. Otherwise you can
set the cap you made with some forming pliers, a wooden mallet and
non-marring jeweller's hammer (lightweight) to tighten the sides and
burnish around the crystal...
If you have questions contact off list unless someone gives you
better direction/ideas than I did. rer
Electroforming on wax is what you have seen.
I am fairly sure that you hit the nail on the head with the
I did it once by applying a stained glass technique. I used coper
foil tape and then over laid the tape with lead free silver solder.
I attached a sterling headpin into the solder to attach it to a
necklace. I am sure that you could work with an electroplater to get
the fluid version of the copper conductor and then have the stones
plated with either silver or gold.
I hope this helps!!
The publisher of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine also
produce how-to DVD's. They have one on electroforming. I beleive
Interweave is the name of the publisher, you can do a web search.
Vicki K, SoCal
You are correct, the process is electroforming. I would have got
into it years ago, for the same application, but I've never
discovered a good source of nice crystals.
Electroforming. I don't wallow in regret as I grow really old, but a
big sorrow is that I was a student at Temple University when Stanley
Lechtzin was exploring electroforming and doing marvelous work. I did
not participate. In my next lifetime, I'll make better choices.
I am a great fan of his creations.
Teresa Ellis Cetto