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Art Metal Jewelry

( Originally Published 1932 )

If we would look for the source of the jeweler and his craft, we must turn back the pages of history.

This prehistoric days. Some of our earliest specimens of ancient jewelry came from Troy and Crete, dating back to 2500 B.C.

In America, its history begins with Robert Sander-son (1608-93), a London silversmith who settled in Boston, and before 1800 we find over a hundred and fifty of these artists registered in that city alone. Our own national hero, Paul Revere, achieved considerable prominence for his exquisite work.

To the girl of today—especially to the patient girl —art metal jewelry offers an inexhaustible field of exploration, with the added opportunity of creating individual expression through the designing of her own pieces. Nothing is so lovely and satisfying as a piece of hand-wrought gold, silver, pewter, brass, or copper, when the work has been accomplished by one's own hands.

While the entire subject is impossible to cover in a single chapter, the work given for instruction purposes has been carefully chosen with a view of covering as many of the important steps as seems advisable. A bracelet, ring, and a_ more elaborate pendant are shown. Step-by-step instructions are given for making each, and if they are carefully mastered, any girl should find herself in a position to turn out beautiful and worth-while jewelry.

As the bracelet is the most simple problem of these, its construction will be given first. The various materials and tools used in the work will be discussed as their use becomes necessary. All the tools and materials mentioned can be purchased from any art metal supply house. The names and addresses of such houses may be obtained by applying to your nearest library or from your art teacher, or from the "Dealers List" in the back of this book.

Before attempting anything in metal, a drawing of it should be made. This will give a picture of how the finished article will look, and if the drawing is made full-size, as it should be, it may be used as a pattern from which to work. For our bracelet, the drawing should be six inches long and one inch wide. This is shown in Figure 39, B. When the drawing is completed, it should be cut out—ready to be traced on the metal.

For jewelry work, gold, silver, copper, brass, or German silver may be used, but for the beginner, the latter is recommended, as it costs the least. It is especially adaptable to bracelets. When purchasing it or any metals, the desired thickness should be specified by "gauge" number. Our bracelet is constructed of twenty-gauge German silver. The gauge number simply means that the thickness of the metal will exactly fill the opening in the metal gauge under that particular number. A number of metal gauges are used, but the Browne & Sharpe wire gauge is known to all dealers. The smaller the gauge number, the thicker. the metal. However, the beginner need not worry over metal gauges, as practically all work she may become interested in will require either eighteen or twenty-gauge metal.

All metals are sold by the ounce. Gold, silver, German silver, or pewter may be bought cut to specified sizes, while copper and brass are sometimes sold by the sheet.

Obtain a piece of German silver six inches long and one inch wide. Graphite paper is used for tracing the outline of the piece, as well as the design, on the metal. The rounded corners of the bracelet are now traced on the metal from our original drawing. The design is not traced at this time. When finished, the corners are formed with metal shears, as shown in Figure 39, A. The portions to be cut away are shown in solid black in Figure 39, B. We now have a piece six inches long and one inch wide, with its four corners rounded.

Before metals were rolled by machinery, the silver-smith had to hammer his metal until it became a thin sheet, and the hammer marks left by this process denoted "hammered silver." While our metal comes to us in smooth sheets, we desire this same effect, and for this reason it is "surfaced." This means that the surface of the metal is hammered until it assumes the appearance of the old hammered ware.

This delightful hammered texture leaves the surface covered all over with brilliant facets. The process is called "planishing," and is usually done with a planishing hammer. Such a hammer has a slightly curved surface, and much skill is required for its proper use. If the head of the hammer fails to strike the surface squarely, its edge is apt to leave an unsightly dent in the metal. For this reason, a ball-pein hammer is substituted and recommended. Its round end eliminates any danger of the novice ruining her work, and the finished effect is quite as good.

An anvil on which to place the work while it is being planished, is also needed. Any block of steel, old flat iron, or the manufactured article may be used. Both the ball-pein hammer and the anvil block are illustrated in Figure 44, A. Place the piece flat on the anvil and tap it lightly with the rounded end of the hammer head until the entire surface is covered with small hammer marks. Hold the hammer fairly well back with the forefinger resting on top of the handle, as shown. The motion should be of the entire forearm rather than the usual wrist movement, as this gives better control and is less tiring.

The design is now traced on our metal piece. This is not done before, as the hammer marks would have obliterated all trace of the lines. Turn the piece over and trace the design on its back. This is done with the aid of graphite paper in the usual manner.

We are now ready to decorate the bracelet. There are three main methods of working a design on metal etching, chasing, and repoussé. A discussion on etching will be found in the chapter on "Art Met-aicraft," while chasing is explained later in this one. The work we are now doing is decorated by repoussé.

"Repoussé" is a French word meaning literally "thrust out." It is used in metal work to indicate a method of beating or pressing up a design from the reverse side. To do this, the metal must be placed on a flat surface, which is of such a nature as to allow the raised parts of the design to sink into it, and yet strong enough to withstand the hammering. A lead block or a cross-section of hard wood serves splendidly. The former is best, if obtainable. Such a block may be made by melting any old scraps of lead into the form of a block.

The tools used for repoussé work are called "dap-ping" tools. They are shown in Figure 46, A, B, C, and D. For creating the repoussé work of the design on our bracelet, only two of these are required. With "A" tool, we make the small circular areas, while "D" is used to obtain the oblong effects.

It shows how this work is done. The hammer is held in the right hand, while the left hand holds the dapping tool. Note that the hammer is held much in the same manner as when doing planishing, although the hand rests slightly closer to the head of the hammer.

Strike the dapping tool rather hard, until each part of the design is raised on the right side of the piece to the desired height. It is now filed. When planishing any metal along its edge, the force of the hammer is apt to push the metal out, which leaves an irregular edge. This fault should be corrected at this time with the aid of a flat file. When finished, the edge around the entire piece should be rounded with the same file. In Figure 46 will be seen only the ends of the most commonly used files, which are shown merely as a guide for the novice. Various types of work require differently shaped files, and the choice of them is largely a matter of convenience to the user.

Our metal is now given the form which turns it into a bracelet. The steel block on which this is done is called a "bracelet mandrel."

The tapering form is given it so that any size of bracelet may be formed on it. A wooden mallet is used with it, and the process is quite simple. Place the reverse side of the bracelet against the mandrel at its base. Lightly tap the ends of the piece until they begin to take shape. Keep moving the metal up the mandrel—continuing to force it to the form of the mandrel, as you proceed.

When you believe it has acquired the proper size, remove it, and test by placing the bracelet on your wrist. If too large, continue the process until the de-sired size is obtained. When this is completed, it is ready to be polished.

Polishing metal work is accomplished by the use of steel wool. This treatment is followed by a final polishing with oil and powdered pumice.

With the steel wool, scrub the piece thoroughly until all edges become smooth. When completed, wipe a little oil over the surface. Sprinkle powdered pumice over this, and with a piece of leather polish the metal until it becomes brilliant. Wipe on a soft cloth, and the bracelet is ready to be worn. If oil and pumice are difficult to obtain for any reason, splendid results may be had by substituting any cold cream and scouring powder.

All steps in the making of the following two pieces of jewelry, which have already been covered, will not be repeated, but reference will be made to them. With this in mind, it will pay the novice to master the construction of the bracelet thoroughly before attempting the ring and pendant.


In the making of the ring chosen for instruction purposes, three interesting and important jewelry operations are involved, which the making of the brace-let does not embrace. These are "pierced work," "soldering," and "stone setting." All three of these should be practiced by the beginner on scrap material before attempting the work on jewelry pieces. All steps of each process are covered, and while any girl should experience little trouble with them, they do require care and understanding. For this reason, use scrap material on first attempts, remembering that "practice makes perfect."

Before starting even the drawing of our ring, it is necessary to determine the exact size we wish it to be. This may be done by wrapping a piece of string around your ring finger. Do not pull it too tightly, or the ring will be too small to slip over your knuckle. If you have a ring you are already wearing, the string may be placed around it, and then measured. This is called the circumference of the ring. The circumference of a circle is the distance around it. It is necessary to obtain this distance so that our metal may be cut to proper size before it is bent and soldered.

A drawing of the ring, as we wish it to appear when finished, is now made. Three views are made, as will be seen.

Eighteen gauge silver or German silver is used for the ring. Obtain a piece slightly longer than is required for it, and trace the outline of the ring, as well as that of the design, on the metal, as shown in Figure 41, B. It is now ready to be cut. The parts shown in solid black in Figure 41, C are those which are to be removed.

This work is done with a jeweler's saw and drill. The former is equipped with a No. 0 blade. Both the saw frame and the blades may be bought from any jeweler's supply house. Blades are sold by the dozen, and while they are made in many sizes, the No. 0 blade is best for all-around work. To set the blade in the frame, clamp it at the top first, with the teeth pointing down, or toward the handle, spring the frame, and then attach it in the bottom clamp.

The blade should be held at a fairly high tension, as this assists cutting. The work is done on a V-shaped piece of wood, which is cut and screwed to the bench. The saw should be held straight up and down, and as the teeth point down, all cutting is done on the down stroke. These jeweler's blades are so small that cutting curves, squared corners, or circles are quite easy after a little practice has been had. The saw frame, blade, V-shaped wood, and method of using them are all. Note how the right hand holds the saw, while the left manipulates the metal.

The outline of the ring is now cut, and when finished, the inside design is cut. This is known as "pierced work," and to accomplish this, we need the drill. A small hand drill is best suited for the boring of metal jewelry. Tiny Swiss drill points are used with them. Inside cutting, or "pierced work," is done by drilling one or two holes through the portion to be removed. These must be large enough to allow the small saw blade to enter. The blade is unfastened from its frame, slipped through the bored hole, re-fastened, and the outline of that part of the design is cut away. Great care must be taken to saw along the lines accurately as a slip might ruin the piece.

The design used on our ring has six such parts to be removed—three on each side of the stone. This means that the saw blade must be replaced six times, and at least six holes bored. In Figure 42, A the hand drill is shown, as well as the proper way to handle it when drilling. Practice both the drilling and sawing operations on scrap metal before attempting them on your ring material.

Another hole is bored and enlarged with the saw in the center of the ring blank. This acts as a rear "window" for the stone when in place. Care must be taken to see that it is smaller than the stone, as the base of the stone rests on its edge when attached to the ring.

All edges are now filed smooth and clean, and the piece is finished with No. 00 emery cloth. For the outer edge of the piece, use a flat file (Figure 46, L), and for the pierced parts a triangular file should be used. (Figure 46, Q.)

We now have what might be termed a "finished blank." The outline of the ring is cut and polished, as well as the design, so it is ready to be curved. Before this is done, the blank should be cut to exact length. It will be remembered that we cut our original piece of metal slightly longer than we wish our finished ring circumference. The reason for this will be shown presently.

For example, let us assume that we must have a circumference of one inch for our ring, which we have already determined through the use of a length of string. The length of our metal on which we have been working must now be cut exactly one inch long.

To do this, locate the center of the hole drilled for your stone, and measure half an inch on each side of it. With any sharp instrument, mark these two points. The distance between them will be one inch, or the circumference desired for the finished ring. The excess end metal is not cut at this time, but the process of bending the blank into the form of a ring is done. For this, a ring mandrel is used. (Figure 41, L.) Place the blank against the mandrel and tap its ends with the wooden mallet until the desired form is obtained. (Figure 41, D and E.) Continue the forming until the ends of the blank overlap each other and the two scratched marks meet.

This overlapped joint is now sawed through along the scratched marks, which insures an exact fit of the two ends. It was for this reason that the original piece of metal was cut slightly longer than the desired circumference of the ring.

It is now prepared for soldering. When two pieces of metal are being soldered together, they must be in contact with each other. As in the case of our ring, before its ends can be soldered, they must be brought together and held there while the soldering is being done. To accomplish this, they are bound together with wire.

Iron binding wire which has been annealed, is used for this purpose. It may be purchased on spools, and should be about twenty-two gauge for general work. Wrap the wire around the ring, and with round-nose pliers, twist it until the ends meet. The joint they form is now permanently joined by soldering.

Soldering simply means the joining of two separate parts by using an alloy metal which melts at a lower temperature than the parts being so joined. For soldering, we will require several materials and tools which we have not as yet used. In the first place, we must have heat, as our work must be brought to a red-hot heat, before our solder will melt and fuse with the metal to be joined.

A regular alcohol soldering lamp, a Bunsen burner, or a gas burner may be used. As it is necessary to concentrate the heat on the point being soldered, these heating units should be used in connection with a tool called a mouth blow-pipe. This consists of a hollow tube through which a steady flow of air is blown by the operator. It not only directs the flame, but produces a high temperature by accelerating the combustion. It is conical in shape, with its small end curved at a right angle. The small end is placed in the flame, the large end blown into, and the resulting finger of flame directed on the point to be soldered.

As a scale called "oxide" forms on metals when they are subjected to heat, a preventive is used to offset this action. It is called a "flux," and while there are many of these used for various purposes, that which we use is borax. A small slate is used for mixing our flux. As has been said before, all materials, instruments, or apparatus may be purchased from any art metal or jeweler's supply house.

The solder we use is a silver solder, and can be bought by the ounce. When purchasing it, ask for "easy flowing silver solder." We also require a small camel-hair brush with which to apply the flux.

The surface on which the metal is soldered consists of a charcoal block. Such a block can be purchased or one can be easily made. Saw a three-inch thick piece of wood from the end of a small log. Thoroughly char it on one side with your lamp or torch, and the block is ready for use. Such a base is used because of its heating qualities. The metal on such a block not only obtains heat from the flame, but also gets it from the charcoal surface after it has once become hot.

Before any soldering is done, the metal should be thoroughly cleaned. This process is called "pickling."

The pickle solution consists of one part sulphuric acid to fifty parts of water, which is placed in a cop-per or brass pan and brought to a boiling point. Handling the ring with-pliers, hold it in the pickle bath about a minute. It will turn the silver pure white. When once cleaned, it should not be touched again with the hands before soldering.

Mix a little of the borax with a few drops of water until a thin, creamy substance results. Using the small brush, coat the joint of the ring with it. The solder is now cut into tiny pieces with the metal shears. These should not be larger than a sixteenth of an inch square. Place them on the side of your mixing slate, as shown in Figure 41, K. They are now covered with the borax solution. With the aid of the brush, pick them up and place them over the joint of the ring.

If an intense heat should be immediately applied, the water in the borax would boil into small bubbles, and their spluttering might dislodge the tiny soldering pieces. Because of this possibility, a moderate heat is applied to the joint until the water has fully evaporated. When this occurs, the entire ring is heated in the same manner, and then, with the aid of the blow-pipe, an intense flame is quickly focused directly on the joint. Bring the metal to a red-hot heat, which will melt the solder and allow it to run into the joint.

If the solder should run to the side, it indicates that that part of the surface is the hottest, as the solder will always run to the hottest points. An even heating of the surface is therefore desirable.

When the soldering has been completed, allow it to cool, and again place it in the pickle bath. Leave it submerged for two or three minutes, so that it will be thoroughly cleaned.

It is now placed on the ring mandrel and hammered with the wooden mallet until it becomes perfectly round. Test it on the finger. If it should prove to be a little small, hammering the band will increase its circumference. If too large, the joint must be melted, a piece sawed from one end, and then resoldered.

File the soldered joint until smooth and then polish with emery cloth. We are now ready to make the setting for our stone. At the end of this chapter will be found a list of semi-precious stones and their colors, together with a list of the birthstones and the months they represent. From this list can be chosen the stone you wish to set in your ring, and it can then be bought from your nearest jeweler.

A stone is not "attached" to jewelry—it is "set," and the method by which it is done is called the "setting." There are a number of settings popular among jewelers, but that which we use is called a "bezel" setting. It is the simplest known, and for this reason recommended to beginners.

A bezel setting consists of a narrow band of silver about an eighth of an inch wide and just long enough to fit snugly around the base of the stone. It is constructed of the same gauge and'material as the ring.

This is now made, G. Cut the strip and bend it around the stone. Mark the joint where the ends meet, and cut it at that point. Squeeze it gently into shape with flat-nose pliers until its ends meet. It is now soldered as already explained. When finished, file one edge flat by using a flat file. The opposite edge is filed in a slight curve to coincide with the curve on the top of the ring.

Place it on the ring mandrel and tap it with the mallet until perfectly round. It is then squeezed to any desired shape with the pliers until it fits the stone perfectly.

When fitted to your satisfaction, the bezel is wired in place on the ring. It should come directly over the center hole. When a joint is to be soldered on a piece already having one or more soldered joints, the latter must be guarded in some manner so that the heat of the last soldering operation will not melt them.

This is the position our ring is in at this time. We have two joints already soldered—the ring itself and the bezel. If we should apply heat to these, they would melt and our joints break. To avoid such a disaster, such joints are covered with a substance known as "ocher," which prevents the heat from reaching them. It comes in a yellow, powdered form, and should be mixed with water until a heavy paste results. It is then painted over the joints with a small brush such as used for flux.

When our soldered joints have been guarded in this manner, proceed to solder the bezel in place on the ring. Lay the tiny pieces of solder inside the bezel. When completed, the wire should be removed and the ring submerged in the pickle bath for a thorough cleaning. Always remove the wires when placing work in the sulphuric solution, as they will cause discoloration if left on.

Drop the stone into place, and test the height of the bezel. If it is too high, file it down with the flat file. The entire ring is now polished with emery cloth, until all joints, edges, and design marks are smooth and clean. It is again placed in the bath for a final cleaning.

The stone is now set in the bezel setting. Place it in position, making sure that its base rests tightly against the ring. The bezel is now pressed or tapped against the sides of the stone. This must be done with great care so as not to chip the stone. A small piece of wood about the diameter of a lead pencil and not over four inches long serves perfectly for this work. Place the end of the stick against the bezel and tap it with your mallet. Now place it exactly across from this point and tap again. Proceed in this manner until the stone is tightly held. A final polishing completes the work, and the ring is ready to wear.


As has been pointed out before, the three pieces of jewelry discussed in this chapter have been carefully chosen with a view of covering practically all the important steps in art metal jewelry making. For the same reason, they have been given in this order, and therefore it is vitally necessary that the beginner masters each step of the work of the preceding pieces before attempting this final one.

In the work so far discussed, most of the steps for the pendant have already been explained in detail. There are one or two important operations which were not used in the bracelet or ring, which will be fully considered in this work. For instruction purposes, practically all the steps in making this last and most difficult piece are illustrated. Not only the actual operation is shown, but with each step appears a smaller drawing of the piece as it should look when that particular step is completed.

Our pendant is cut from a two-inch square of silver or German silver. The usual drawing of it is made, and then traced on our metal. This is followed by the drilling of holes preparatory for sawing, as shown in Figure 42, A. In Figure 42, B will be seen the piece as it should look when this operation is completed. The large hole at the top is to accommodate the neck chain, while the four smaller holes are for the saw blade. All these holes are shown in solid black.

The piece is now sawed out. A shows this being done, while Figure 43, B gives an idea of how the piece will look when the sawing operation is completed. All black areas are removed.

It is now planished. This is seen in Figure 44, A, and full instructions for this work have already been given. Figure 44, B shows how our piece should look after it has been "surfaced," or "planished," with the ball-pein hammer.

After the edges of our piece have been carefully filed and scrubbed with emery cloth, as explained before, we are ready to "chase" the design. This is done with "chasing" tools, a few of which are shown in Figure 46, E, F, G, H, I, and J. As our pendant has both chasing and repoussé work on it, the latter operation should be done first, which is shown in Figure 45, A. While the method has already been covered, instructions showing the proper location for the repoussé work on the pendant might prove helpful.

With this in mind, Figure 46, X is given showing the location of both the repoussé and the chasing work. The various tools used on the parts are indicated by their letters, with arrows pointing to the parts of the pendant on which they are used.

Study this illustration carefully. The center circle holds the stone. Note the four small leaves that stir-round it. These are the first to be worked, and they are raised slightly. This is done on your lead block with dapping tool "B." Remember that all repoussé work must be done on the reverse side. When these are raised, the small ball in each of these leaves is raised with dapping tool "C." These must extend above the raised leaves on which they are located. To complete the repoussé work, the four small balls on the outer area of the pendant are raised with the same tool. Note the arrows pointing to these balls on Figure 46, X leading from letter "C," which indicates they are done with dapping tool "C."

The chasing is now done. This work must be done on your steel block, or anvil. With chasing tool "0," the outlines of the small repoussé balls are made. This tool cuts a small circle, as shown in its end view. Place it directly over the ball and strike it a sharp blow with the flat end of your ball-pein hammer. This will leave a thin line around the raised ball, accentuating its roundness. When the eight balls have been out-lined, the outer four are stippled with chasing tool "E." This tool makes marks much like fine cross threads. Work the tool around each of the four balls, as shown.

The outlines of the center leaves are accentuated with the chasing tool "J," which cuts a short straight line. Move the tool along as you tap it, so that a continuous line will result. Note the arrow that points from "J," and use the tool on these outer points as well.

Note that the chasing tool "E" is used wherever tool "J" has cut an outline, such as around the four inner leaves, etc. This completes the repoussé and chasing decorations on our pendant.

The entire piece is now cleaned and polished in the manner already explained, and we are ready to set our stone. A round stone must be used, and should be picked from the list and ordered by name.

In Figure 47, A is shown the stone, and Figure 47, B shows the band used for the bezel setting. This is made in the same way the setting for the ring was done, except that it is finished off with prongs.

Figure 47, C shows the bezel soldered together, and in Figure 47, D can be seen the "prong" finish. This is done with a triangular file shown in Figure 46, M. Place the file across the exact center of the circle, and file two V-shaped dents at the same time. Continue this process until the entire circle is finished as shown in Figure 47, D.

This is now soldered, as already explained for the ring bezel, and the stone set in the bezel. This is shown in Figure 47, E. Figure 47, F shows how the setting appears after the small prongs have been pressed against the stone.

A final cleaning and polishing completes the pendant, and a small silver chain, bought from any jewelry store, may be added so that it can be worn.


As a guide for beginners, a few of the best-known semi-precious stones are given here with their coloring. Another list gives the birthstones and the months they are supposed to represent.

Amethyst Transparent purple
Aquamarine Pale blue to sea green
Bloodstone Dark green with spots of red
Coral Bright pink to dark red
Jade Light to dark green
Lapis Lazuli Azure-blue
Moonstone Transparent of light bluish tinge
Moss Agate Dark green
Opal Matrix Iridescent opal mixed with opal rock
Turmaline Red, green, and other colors
TurquoiseMatrix Blue turquoise mixed with turquoise rock
Garnet Red
Topaz Transparent yellow
Rock Crystal Transparent (Colorless)

January Garnet
February Amethyst
March Bloodstone or Jasper
April Diamond or Sapphire
May Emerald or Carnelian
June Agate or Chalcedony
July Ruby or Onyx
August Sardonyx
September Chrysolite
October Opal or Beryl
November Topaz
December Turquoise or Ruby

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