For this post, I thought I’d give you a brief overview of the process of making an elephant pendant from Argentium sterling silver (with lots of photos of course). There are so many steps involved in making these pendants and so much time goes into all of the sanding, polishing and finishing.
The process all starts with an idea that I then put onto paper. In this case, I wanted to create a special piece for my niece who loves elephants.
After spending a lot of time working out how I wanted my elephant to look (trunk up/down? simple or detailed? interior detail or just an outline? should it be smiling? …), this is the sketch I ended up with. This sketch was then scanned so that I can print multiple copies in all different sizes.
The next step is to print out the design in the correct size (I always print a few options as I like to see it on paper rather than on the screen), then glue this design onto the sheet of sterling silver, ready to cut it out.
I then cut out the elephant using a jeweler’s saw with a very fine blade, and drilled a hole for the eye.
Here is the elephant after it has been cut out and the paper washed off the silver.
I then cut out a small triangle of silver from the sheet to attach to the back of the pendant as a bail. Once this piece is correctly shaped, I place it on the elephant with a small amount of solder paste, then solder it in place.
Here is the bail ready to be soldered.
Once the bail has been soldered, I do a bit of cleaning up – filing the edges and making sure everything is perfect before the pendant is baked in a very hot oven.
Yes, that’s right, I bake my silver jewellery in the oven (twice, actually). One of the fantastic features of Argentium silver is that it hardens if if is baked in a very hot oven for a couple of hours. It is very important to harden sterling silver as otherwise it is a very soft metal and is easily bent out of shape.
After baking, it is time to finish the pendant by sanding and polishing. This process takes ages to get it just perfect, particularly if I am creating a shiny finish like I decided to do on this pendant. Any tiny scratch will show up on the final surface, so I sand and polish it over and over again using progressively finer grits to achieve the final finish.
In the second photo above I am using my flex shaft tool with polishing discs to create the final surface on the pendant. I am holding the pendant with tweezers rather than with my fingers because the pendant gets super hot from the friction. Hot enough to burn yourself – ouch!
After the polishing is complete and the surface is perfectly smooth and shiny, the pendant is baked in the oven again, this time on the lowest temperature setting. Another fantastic feature of Argentium silver is that it creates an invisible germanium oxide layer on the surface which makes the silver highly resistant to tarnish. This layer is self-renewing over time. However, it is completely removed during all of the sanding and polishing. Baking the item in a cool oven speeds up the creation of a new protective layer.
Here is the pendant before baking in a cool oven.
After baking for a second time, the pendant is finally complete and ready to go to it’s new home.
Yes, I have one very spoilt niece (well, a few actually). For anyone in my family reading this, please don’t show this post to her until after Christmas. We wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise!
I’m really happy with the final pendant and am in the process of making another elephant pendant and matching stud earrings to list in my online stores.