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How does one make the sturdiest earring posts?


#1

Hello everyone and happy Spring.

I am now in the exciting time where my hobby has become more
serious, thanks to what I have learned in part by all who have shared
here as well as archived in the past. I have a special gratitude for
all the masters and hobbyists who have supported others as well as
entertained us.

Someone who owns an art gallery in Alaska where the cruise ships go
saw my work through Facebook thanks to my Uncle who works for the
state capital there. She asked me to send her a few pieces a month
and so far It’s been great for me. I am self taught, and only in my
4th year of what was just supposed to be a hobby. I feel I had to
explain this so that you’ll understand my question better or
understand my limited knowledge and still evolving skills. I have
only been making rings and pendants which are almost always of
sterling silver. I work full time and started a masters degree so I
only make jewelry as a small hobby. However, of the only 3 pieces I
make a month on average, and send to the gallery, I make them the
highest quality of components and finish I can. For the only 3
months I’ve been doing this, all of them have sold.

The gallery has recently told me that complete sets sell even better
so I should make matching earrings to go with my pendants and
necklaces. Now, I must point out I’ve never had a jewelry class and
have only learned from a few books and this forum. So finally my
question… In terms of sterling silver earrings, what is the
sturdiest possible posts I should use?

When I make any earrings in 14K I would think that 14K posts that
are at least .033 thick would stay pretty hard/strong after
soldering.

But I’m making more things in sterling right now. My designs are
usually of thick pieces so soldering a sterling post to one of my
earrings will require a lot of heat and will soften the posts. Who
here on the forum knows the sturdiest earring posts I can buy as
components to solder to the back of my designs? I imagine surgical
steel posts soldered to sterling silver would stay the stiffest after
soldering. Is this the best way to get very strong pre-made earring
posts?

If so, who sells the best surgical steel earring posts for soldering
to my own designs? Or, if there is a very heavy duty sterling silver
earring post component that holds up well if I use easy solder, then
that would be better for color match.

thank you for any help or advice,
Rick Powell


#2

Hello Rick,

Congrats on your success.

would caution you not to exceed 20 ga in thickness. I say that as a
wearer of pierced earrings. The hole in a person’s ear may not
accommodate a thicker/heavier post. An aside to heavy earrings, be
sure to provide large backs with them. helps keep the earring from
’drooping’ on the ear.

That said, sterling posts do soften with soldering, BUT you can
work-harden the posts after soldering by simply twisting them a half
turn or so. That also double-checks your solder joint, as the post
will come off if the joint is inadequate. Therefore, grab the end of
the post with flat-nose pliers and hang on to the earring with your
other hand. Pull away from the earring with the pliers to put a
little tension on the post, and rotate 180 degrees/half-turn. This
technique will also straighten the wire. IF the post still seems
soft, twist a little more.

14K white gold posts are another alternative, and they do not soften
as much as sterling when soldered on to the earring. Be sure to use a
white gold alloy that contains NO nickel, as there are folks allergic
to Ni.

Hope this helps, Judy in Kansas, who planted some Huechera yesterday
and woke up to an inch of snow this am. Mother Nature’s fickleness
shows itself again!


#3

Hello Rick, If the earrings are sterling, the posts should be
sterling. If possible, solder the post into a small hole you’ve
drilled somewhere in theback of the earring. Afterwards, hold the
earring in one hand and the tip of the post in pliars. Twist the post
back and forth a quarter turn about three times. This will work
harden the post making it quite stiff. Use silver wire about .8mm
thick and 11mm long or buy the heavyweight posts. Congratulations on
your terrific progress and the selling of yourart. Have fun. Tom Arnold


#4

hi there rick

there are a few things you need to consider when putting together a
line and producing more than one item at a time as well as what is
going to be practical. Here are a few pointers that i hope you will
find helpful.

Im not sure what your experience level is so forgive me if i state
the obvious.

you mentioned that your earring are heavy. have you had someone were
them for a long period of time so you know if they are to heavy to
be comfortable. it has been my experience that although heavy looks
good in a lot of cases it is not comfortable and practical to were.
in the end unless your client has asked you to produce something
that will stretch the earring holes out, more than 2 grams of
material per earring is going to be to heavy and in lots of cases 2
grams is to much. In the end you want these to turn into the
favorites that are worn all the time so the person that purchases
them will refer friends.

In saying that, surgical steel soldered to sterling poses real
issues. Using the right amount of flux, getting the metals to
welding temperature without melting the silver cleaning in pickle
after are just a few. My suggestion is to continue using sterling
silver posts and find yourself a steel shot tumbler. once the posts
are welded in place you tumble the earrings in steel shot for a few
days to harden up the posts and planish your earrings. After this
step if you are not happy with the finish you can polish.

Les


#5

Ah, the infamous twist approach, this makes sense. I did read about
that but was not sure if it was only twisted if the post was made
from scratch onlyor if pre made posts had this approach as well.

May I ask, how do you guys and gals keep from crushing and marring
the posts when you twist to work harden? Do you use plastic dipped
pliers? How do you not destroy the notches at the ends that are
crucial for function?

Rick Powell


#6

Thank you. When I say heavy, I dont believe to the point of being
uncomfortable. What I mean is heavy walled components, enough so
that if I solder sterling posts onto them, the required heat will
probably soften the posts. Of course, my heat control i not the best
Im sure, being that I am self taught. (probably a few bad habits,
but I read lots of books to try and reduce)

I will try everyone’s advice and see which works best for me. Thank
you.

Rick Powell


#7
once the posts are welded in place you tumble the earrings in steel
shot for a few days to harden up the posts and planish your
earrings. After this step if you are not happy with the finish you
can polish. 

the trouble with this is that although this will slightly harden the
surfaces of the posts, the work hardening only goes to a very shallow
depth, giving you a slightly hardened surface, but a post that is
almost as easy to bend as before.

Much more effective is to twist the wire. This stretches and bends
and distorts the metal through the whole thickness of the wire. In
and the process, if you hold the wire by it’s tip only, the wire
twists the most where the wire is softest, work hardening that area
the most. Thus you end up with a wire that’s pretty uniform in
hardness throughout it’s length, and the length and dimensions of the
wire don’t change when you do this. In some cases, you may find a
slight twist marking on the wire, if it had any striations from the
wire drawing process, and if this bothers you, THEN tumble, which
will mostly get rid of that mark.

There is a widely held (and oft repeated on this list) misconception
that steel shot tumbling offers a lot of work hardening. It doesn’t.
While there IS some hardening, it’s a thin surface effect only,
affecting resistance to wear perhaps, but not appreciably changing
the ease with which metal would bend or be prone to distortion,
stretching, etc, in use. Work hardening requires that the metal be
distorted enough past it’s elastic limit that the metal crystals are
permanently changed in shape, and the crystal boundaries stretched
and distorted. Usual steel shot tumbling simply does not exert enough
force on the metal to do that beyond that very thin surface layer.

There’s a similar misconception I sometimes see here where someone
(usually someone with some limitations in experience and training,
though not always) will claim that hitting the metal with a soft
(rawhide, etc) mallet will harden sheet metal. Again, no it doesn’t.
It may surprise the metal and spill it’s cup of coffee, but it
doesn’t sufficiently distort the crystal structure, even if it may
slightly serve to flatten a slightly warped shape. Do the same thing
with a metal planishing hammer though, which measurably thins the
metal as well as leaving nice attractive (sometimes)
hammer/planishing marks on the metal, and then you get fairly quick
work hardening, as the effect on the crystal structure is much the
same as you’d get with a rolling mill thinning the metal (though the
latter is more directional than planishing)

Hope that’s useful
Peter Rowe


#8

Pin vise is best.


#9

I have watched this thread with great interest. I tried to harden
silver pin on a brooch using the twist method, but the wire ended up
twisting and separating (at an apparent weak spot that the process
formed/revealed) before it got any real spring built back into it.
Would going back and forth rather than in the same direction have
avoided this? Does this process only really work on shorter lengths
of wire? Do you use any push or pull while performing the turns?

Thank you in advance for you insight,

Donna W
Huntsville, AL


#10

Another little helpful thing I do to prevent melting posts
(especially if your torch control isn’t too developed yet) is to hold
the post in a cross locking tweezers and use it as a soldering pick.
Keeping the tweezers low on the post will sink the heat from the
post. Heat the tip of the post to pick up your solder (definitely pre
drill a small hole where the post is going) and make your connection
but don’t remove the tweezers until your solder has flowed. Do not
use easy solder! Then do the pull and twist to harden.
Congratulations on your success and best of luck in your future!


#11

Once you have your ear post soldered on securely, either into a hole
in the metal or by using a post with a pad on the bottom ( to have
greater surface area for the soldered joint), take a pin vise that
will hold the ear post very tightly, and tighten it onto the end of
the ear post. Before twisting the ear post with the pin vise, take a
felt-tip pen and put a long stripe up the entire length of the ear
post. Now, as you begin to twist the pin vise with attached post,
you should see the stripe on the post begin to twist around the
post. You must feel for the twisting to get stiff, which may mean a
few revolutions of the wire, but at this point, you must STOP
twisting, or you will break off the post. You should see a “barber
pole” effect on the ear post from the twisting, and the pin vise
should not mar the ear post appreciably.

This is an easy and fast way to harden up ear posts, which soften
from the soldering process.

Jay Whaley


#12

Hi Richard, A simple solution would be to use Argentium posts
andheat harden the earrings in an oven after soldering and before
pickling. Iuse Argentium exclusively for my silver pieces and it
allows me to do things that would be impossible with.925 sterling.
The twist method may work but it seems a bit dodgy to me as it could
be easy to over-do it and make your posts unacceptably brittle. If
you were to do that however don’t worry about marring the wire all
you need to do is cut the posts about 4or 5 mm longer than you want
and then cut off the ends that get squashed by the pliers. Tumbling
also works well in my experience, even if the hardening only occurs
at the surface it does make a huge difference in overall hardness
especially with thinner gauge material like posts. Best wishes,
Douglas


#13

I’m surprised no one has mentioned heat hardening.

https://orchid.ganoksin.com/t/heat-hardening-silver

#14

but. first lesson I learned was how to harden the post on an earring.
And that was to hold the post (fairly close to the bottom) in a pair
of pliers, gently but firmly, and twist while pulling ever so gently.
Always hardened up the post, if one wasn’t soldered on well, it came
off. Always good to know too. Now that being said, one didn’t have to
twist very much, just a tad.


#15

Silver is only going to be so hard which is not much. Gold is better
but not huge amount. Gold costs more, you need to choose.


#16

If you want strong and hypoallergenic just do the stainless. Get a
pack of them, you will have to order a bunch at once. Rio probably
has them.


#17
Does this process only really work on shorter lengths of wire? Do
you use any push or pull while performing the turns? 

I regularly make brooches that have 2" to 3" pins. I create fibula
style backs (think safety pin with two loops for the spring) that
gets soldered to the piece. I cut the wire long enough that I can
put a short right angle bend at the end of the pin, this gives me a
solid grip with the pliers. After soldering I open the pin so it is
perpendicular to the brooch (open it too far hyper extending the
spring so it sticks straight out, like a tie tack or pushpin). I
then grab the spring with a round nose pliers and pull while
performing (3) 180 degree turns. The pulling is important so that
the wire stays straight. Then I snip off the bend at the end, shape
a point with a 4" cratexwheel, and bend the spring back to its
regular position.

Epaul


#18

Stainless steel earposts are the sturdiest. After having to remove
cabs to put on new earposts and resetting the stones for a few pairs
of earrings (mostly other people’s jewelry, I learned early on
stainless steel posts were the best. After 20 odd years, the steel
posts are still unbroken on my older earrings. it is getting harder
to find the stainless steel posts with a small pad, but I manage. Joy


#19

I wanted to say thank you for all the good on earring
posts. Itook the advice and just pre-drilled with a.032 inch drill
bit and soldered well made.5 inch long.033 sterling earring posts.
At.5 inches there isextra room to sink the posts deep. Soldering is
easy this way and I can twist them straight like you explained. I
don’t know why I was so worried asit turns out making earrings is
far easier than making rings, at least for abeginner like me.

I was also able to try my first shellac handles. That is also a very
eye opening moment in jewelry tooling. I did read about the newer
materials but alocal supply had shellac flakes so I tried that
first. I already had dowelrods so I used that to make one for each
earring I am working on. I was amazed at the holding strength of the
earring embedded partially in hardened shellac. I kept expecting the
earring to fly off when I took it to the buffing machine. They
stayed on during all stages of buffing compounds. Whoever was the
first guy or girl to think of shellac for holding small things was a
prodigy.

Thank you Orchid and all the good people that make it what it is.

If there are any typos it is from an Ipad gmail glitch so I
apologize.

Rick Powell