View Full Version : ear wire advice

22-04-2018, 03:32 PM
I'm attempting to make some earrings using 0.8mm hard sterling silver wire & antique buttons - a simple enough design but actually making it look good is proving tricky.

The main problem is threading the wire neatly enough. I've managed to get an almost matching pair but its taken a few wasted attempts with mis-shapen & marked wires and its more by luck than refining the technique that I've got an almost matching pair, though the balled end is still noticably longer on one than the other. It probably wouldn't be obvious when worn but when you look at them side by side (like you would on a craft fair display) its not the level of quality I'm aiming for. (Wrinkly balls will be avoided by switching to argentium wire when I restock.)

11173 11174 11175

So, the balled end adds a neater finish to the wire and makes it look a bit more 'crafted' rather than something you could do at home yourself (which is often what I'm guilty of thinking when I wander round craft fairs!) but it doesn't fit through the button holes.
If I thread the wire before balling the end that creates two potential problems - 1) risk of melting the antique bakelite buttons and 2) i don't know how they'd cope with a pickle bath.

If I used softer wire it would be easier to thread but compromising on the strength of the earring.

So, what do you think might be the best approach? Use softer wire? Anneal part of it when balling the ends? Maybe a different technique for finishing the wire ends?

22-04-2018, 04:28 PM
I think the problem is hard wire for this particular project. There is too much bending to be able to do it cleanly and without marking the wire. I'm surprised you managed to get it as good as they look. Did your wire not anneal anyway when you balled it? I just harden my soldered wires again on a base plate with the hide mallet until they ping a bit when you gently pull them apart.
Nice earrings Hazel, I have a very large button collection:)

22-04-2018, 05:31 PM
Hi Hazel, the wire is the same sterling, whether hard or soft, so you might as well anneal it to make it easier.

Then when balled and threaded the remaining wire can be re-hardened before making the ear loop, by tapping as suggested by Caroline above, or by giving it a half turn twist every cm or so along its length, using smooth flat pliers.

Bending the ear wires around a rod gives a good even result.

The threaded wire might also lie more neatly, by giving the button holes a slight angle with a bead reamer and rounding the edges of the holes. https://www.spoiltrottenbeads.co.uk/product/beadsmith-budget-4-piece-diamond-tip-bead-reamer-set/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIgK2znKPO2gIVNSjTCh2MOgUjEAQYBCA BEgLH8fD_BwE

22-04-2018, 06:58 PM
hi Caroline & Dennis, I deliberately didn't let the wires anneal when I balled this batch, just did the ends because I was originally using them for this project and it was more useful to keep them hard...
11176 But then I got distracted by pretty buttons.

I'll try annealing some properly then see how I get on with hardening them up afterwards. Bead reamer seems a good option too, I'll get one ordered. Thanks :)
If I can get a decent enough finish on a couple of projects like this the plan is to make up a batch and have a stall every few months at a local vintage & craft fair - these sort of things should sell well there and it will help fund the hobby whilst I'm learning silversmith skills for more advanced projects. :)

28-04-2018, 09:41 PM
Well the argentium wire arrived and it really is the perfect material for this project. It was already soft so didn't need annealing, it balls without turning into a wrinkly tarnished blob and hardens up into nice firm wires once I've got it into the right position.
So now I can get on with making a batch of button & felt earrings for the vintage fair :)