Hardening 18k earwires

Hi All-

This is my first post at large but I am just starting to use 18k and
know that I will most likely learn by experience (but I can’t afford
much ‘experience’ with the current price of gold!!!) but I am trying
to figure out how to harden long earwires, not posts. I intend to
ball up the end and add my beads/gems/etc then form the wire. I know
there must be a way but I’d love to hear how all of you 'old hands’
go about it. Thanks!

ps- just setting up my studio, if anyone is selling tools (rolling
mill, tumbler, tumble vibe, torch or mini torch set up, etc) please
please please let me know! I am doing this on a very tight budget as
I just gave up my ‘real job’ to follow my art dream. Thanks again.


There are only two ways to harden precious metal: work harden or air
harden. Air hardening is when you heat the metal to a specific
temperature and then let it cool - generally its not greatly
effective but is better than nothing, and it only works for certain

Work hardening works for all alloys. As the metal is deformed (or
"worked") it gets harder and harder until, unless it is annealed, it
eventually cracks or breaks. Whenever you change the shape of the
(cold) metal (bend it, twist it, hammer it, etc.) it gets harder.
Many people instinctively use this property to break a rod or piece
of wire when no tools are available - they bend it back and forth,
back and forth, until it eventually snaps.

To work harden wire, the traditional way is to twist it. Hold one
end securely, grasp the other end with pliers, and twist. To check
progress, release the pliers and “ping” the end of the wire - if its
not springy enough just continue twisting.

You can often see this effect in the pins of old broaches. After the
swivel had been soldered the wire got annealed and was too soft to
work properly as a pin, so it was twisted to work harden it. Because
the twist distorts the surface of the pin a little it increases the
friction between it and the fabric on which it is worn, thus
achieving three things: springiness, increased friction, and it it
also looks more interesting.

Another way to work harden is by bead or sand blasting. It is very
much a surface effect and, although reasonably effect for resisting
surface abrasion does little to increase the resistance to bending.

Not all alloys harden to the same extent; its no use, for example,
attempting to make a spring clasp from an alloy designed for bezels.

Regards, Gary Wooding


The best way I know to harden ear wires is to draw down the wire in
a drawplate to the desired diameter, and then do not anneal the wire.
It will come out of the drawplate polished and very straight. Make
your bends with the hardened wire, carefully around mandrils, and you
are finished.

Ear posts can be hardened sucessfully after soldering by putting the
very tip into a pin vise, and tightening by hand. Twist the pin vise,
which will twist the ear post, and harden it in the process. Twist by
feel, until it feels tight. If you over twist, you’ll break off the

Good luck.
Jay Whaley

to figure out how to harden long earwires, not posts. 

Probably there will be many ideas. The easiest way is to pull it
through the drawplate a couple of holes or even one hole. If you’re
buying wire, you can probably buy it hard, too. If you ball the end
quickly it will only soften a bit up the wire, and that will be
covered by your beads…

If you do not buy your wire drawn hard, you can purchase your wire a
couple of gauges larger than you need for your ear wires and draw
down the wire through a draw plate to the desired gauge, which will
harden it. Do not overheat the wire when you then ball the end; just
in and out with the torch to form the ball and not soften the wire
above the ball.

Rai; Her is a simple way that works on any type of wire. First put a
line with a felt tip pen down one side of the wire as a visual aid.
Insert the non-balled end in your flex shaft. Hold the other end with
pliers and slowly turn you want it so the spiral visible with the
black marker is similar to what you’d see on a barber pole. The
tighter the wind the harder the metal. Practice a couple of times
with a piece of silver wire to get the hang of it.