Thursday, May 7, 2009

How to Make a Personalized Mother's Necklace

I made this oxidized sterling necklace for my Mom stamped with the initials of each of her grandchildren. You can use the same principles to personalize jewelry using names or words as well. This project does require some basic jewelry-making experience, but with the right tools and supplies, I think anyone could create something like this.

Materials needed:

3/8" round sterling silver disks
1 1/2" 24 gauge sterling headpins
18 gauge sterling wire
18" sterling snake chain
Sterling jump rings
Small freshwater pearl beads
Jeweler's tool (like rounded needle-nose pliers)
Wire snips
Metal stamping kit
Heavy claw-tooth hammer
Chasing hammer
Metal block
Dremmel drill fitted with a very tiny bit
1 egg
Ziplock bag
Double-sided tape

1. Stamp the disks
I bought the little silver disks precut, since I don't have the tools to cut them myself. I then had my father-in-law, who is a dentist, bore small holes in each one. I am pretty sure this could be done with a Dremmel drill fitted with a very tiny bit, however. You can also buy metal pendants precut with a hole.

Use the metal stamping kit, hammer and metal block to stamp an initial on each disk. Center the stamp, hold it straight, and give one or two nice hard whacks with a heavy claw-tooth hammer. I like to use double sided tape on my block to hold the disks still while stamping, since they are so small. I made nine, since my mom currently has nine grandchildren.

2. Wire the pearls

I used small freshwater pearl beads and 1-1/2" 24 ga. sterling headpins. Thread the pearl onto the pin. Grasp the wire with the jewler's tool about 1/8" above the top of the pearl. Bend it away from yourself at a 90 deg. angle.

Grasp the wire about 1/4" from the bend and twist it back toward yourself, creating a round loop. Continue to wrap the wire back around itself to finish. I made nine of these, one for each grandchild.

3. Prepare a decorative loop.

Using the 18 ga. wire, make a large circle, about an inch in diameter. Loop the ends of the circle around, wrapping and cutting one end with the wire snips. Use the other end to form a smaller loop like the one at the top of each pearl. This will be where the pendant hangs from the chain, so make sure this loop is big enough for one end of the necklace to go through. Use the chasing hammer and metal block to flatten out the edges of the loop. This also hardens the piece.

Add other decorative touches as desired: I wrapped one piece of wire around itself in a circle, so that looked like a cable, or a piece of two-ply rope. I made a loop at the top, and hammered it flat as well. I attached this decorative element to the large loop using a jump ring.

4. Put the pieces all together.

The jump rings I bought were made like very small key rings. This is more secure than an open jump ring for hanging the disk pieces. I threaded one jump ring into the hole on a disk, threaded a pearl on behind it, and then threaded the whole thing onto my large pendant circle. I repeated this process 8 more times, making sure the initials showed on the front. Hang the pendant from the necklace.

5. Oxidize the silver.

If you want to leave the metal shiny, then you're done. Woo hoo!!

I like to oxidize my pieces to get the shiny finish off. Hard boil an egg. While it's still hot, put it in a ziplock bag, and mash it up (shell and all). Place the necklace inside, and leave it for about 30-40 minutes. Make sure the necklace is completely covered by the egg. Turn it from time to time to get an even coat. When the metal is the color you like, take it out and rinse it.

There are other ways to oxidize sterling silver, but this is by far the least messy and least expensive. You will have better results if you use a freshly-cooked egg. I have tried it with a hard-boiled egg reheated in the microwave, and the results are just not the same.

Some other ideas:

Sterling silver disks: etsy
Sterling wire, chains & freshwater pearls: eBay
Jewelery tools, sterling headpins, jump rings: Hobby Lobby
Remaining tools (hammer, stamping set): my garage

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