Laser cutting sterling silver

Does anyone know of a way to laser cut sterling silver? the people I
have spoken with say there is too much reflection of light from the
cut, so options like coating the surface with a non-reflective
substance will not work. If it cannot be done, is there another
mechanical way of piercing detailed pattern out of sterling silver?
thanks for your thoughts, Karin

Hi Karin,

If it cannot be done, is there another mechanical way of piercing
detailed pattern out of sterling silver? 

You might want to try water jet cutting.

Water jet cutting mixes a garnet sand with water under extremely
high pressure, squirts it through a nozzle & through the item to be

Typically, the water jet is computer controller & moved in the xy
dimensions to cut the pattern desired. The computer requires a file
containing the pattern to be cut. The file can be created using any
one of a number of CAD programs. Usually, the file is output in a
DXF format.

Generally the kerf left by a water jet is wider than that left by a

Companies doing water jet cutting may be listed in the yellow pages.
If none can be found check with several machine shops, they may know
of a local water jet cutter.


Hi Karen, I have heard of people having their silver cut with a
water jet machine. It used in industry to cut shaped out of steel
etc. I know of a company in Everett, WA. If you are interested,
email me at @Vincent_LaRochelle. I can get the phone number.
Vince, Eugene, OR

Abrasive waterjet cutting will do it. Same accuracy as laser but
much less picky about material being cut. They cut everything from
stainless steels to marble and granite. – Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160

Member of the Better Business Bureau

Abrasive waterjet cutting could certainly achieve what you want, but
it may take some research and careful design. I went through this a
couple of years ago. Keep in mind that these companies are accustomed
to working with industrial materials - anything from steel to glass.
The company I worked with had to fiddle with the settings to get a
clean cut through such thin sheet metal (20-ga.). They were able to
get brass for me in large sheets, but you may have to supply them
with silver. Their usual suppliers do not have access to it. The
typical 6-inch-wide sheets of silver are not the best use of the huge
machine - it is more economical to set up the machine to cut stuff
out of a much larger sheet at a time. Sorry to sound negative about
this experience; the cutting company did do a great job, but I had
to work extensively with them to get my design into a vector graphics
format that would work with their equipment. The designs had to
incorporate a tab to keep the part attached to the sheet instead of
getting blown into the huge water tank, and the cut did leave a bur
that I had to remove by hand on several thousand pieces. This was
also a very expensive process, and brought the sales price of the
earrings and necklaces I made to a level that the market would not

The best part of the whole adventure was getting the opportunity to
watch the cutting machine in action. Incredible. I was, frankly, very
small potatoes for this company. They treated me very well, but their
main business involves large orders and precision tolerances and
many, many dollars. :slight_smile: They were looking for a few small jobs like
mine to keep the machine busy between regular jobs; a multi-million
dollar machine like that loses money by sitting still.

After investing several thousand dollars in parts, I found a company
that could acid-etch designs out of thin sheet metal. This would
require two tabs in the design, but would not have the same bur on
the finished part. I got a quote from them, which turned out to cost
just as much as the waterjet-cutting, but the time savings in not
having to debur would have been worth it if I had actually been able
to sell any of the jewelry. :slight_smile: They sent me a free package of
samples they had done, and were very nice on the phone. I am still
keeping them in mind for the future. Eastern Reproduction
Corporation, 1250 Main St. Waltham, Mass. 02454-9050 (781) 893-0555.

Best of luck, and please let us know how it turns out!

— Laurie Cavanaugh