Friday, February 3, 2012

Tutorial - fold formed earrings

It's been a while since I did a tutorial. In part it is that I don't feel my skills are on that level that I can tell other people how to make something. And when you see how these earrings are made you will see that it is actually very easy.

For the first pair of these earrings I made I used sterling silver sheet, pretty thin - 0.3-0.4 mm. For the pair in this tutorial I used 0.3 mm fine silver, and it's extremely easy to work with. You don't have to worry about firescale either, which is very handy since there are multiple heating (annealing) steps involved. If you use sterling silver, you have to pickle in between, which is not necessary with fine silver.

So I start with cutting two pieces of my fine silver sheet. It is not necessary that they are absolutely identical, but approximately the same size.
I usually order my silver sheet dead soft, so I can fold the pieces of sheet directly as shown in picture 1 below. I can't fold the corners flat with my fingers, so I use my plastic mallet (wooden or rawhide mallet can also be used) on a wood surface to flatten the folded piece of sheet (picture 2).

I then cut a halfround-ish shape out of the sheet with my metal sheers, and try to cut approximately the same shape of both pieces of folded sheet (pictures 3 and 4). 
Now we start the hammering and forming of the earrings. On picture 5 you see that I'm using the sharp side of a riveting hammer on a steel block. I hammer perpendicular to the seam and do not hammer on the seam itself but on the rounded side. As you will do this again and again, remember to keep hammering perpendicular to the seam (it will curl into a croissant). I hammer one side, then turn it around and hammer the other side. Then I anneal the piece and redo the hammering on both sides until I'm happy with the curvature.

On picture 6 you can see the difference between having done one earring once on both sides, and the other earring twice on both sides. Sterling silver may need a little more hammering than fine silver.

When I am happy with the curvature of the croissants I will make room for an earring post on one side (picture 7) with round nose pliers. When you've hammered one side, the pattern on the other side will get smooshed by the steel block, so as a finishing step I hammer the smooshed side once more on a wood surface (picture 8).
I then solder earring posts to the earrings. I may reconsider when I do this step, since there is a risk that the solder flows between the two 'wings', so they can't be opened properly. I then pickle the earrings and open and shape them with my fingers, and this is the result:
I then throw them into the tumbler and out come a pair of shiny fold-formed earrings.
This blog post is part of the blogroll of the Aspiring Metalsmiths Etsy Team, so please check out the other blogs that contributed to this month's tutorial theme:

VCArtisanOriginals -
Sylvia Anderson -
Metals Addict -
Lilian Ginebra -
Esmeralda -
Amy Estelle –
Mary Anne Karren -
Stacy -
Shannon of Gifted Designs -
Pennee- All Wired Up Jewelry Designs -
Jessica @ Abella Blue -
Elizabeth Brown –


  1. They are so pretty! Thanks for sharing your process!!!

  2. Yup, great tutorial - that is basically how I did my heart for the last challenge. But after hammering and before opening it up, copper or sterling silver needs to be annealed or it won't open well. Thanks, Esme!

  3. Woohoo! I love fold forming! Thank you Esme!

  4. I love your fold formed leaves! I've done a few in copper (too chicken to try in silver).

  5. Esme - those are so beautiful! I love seeing you work and seeing your process! Thanks so much for the tutorial - this is definitely one of many wonderful skills that you have!

  6. These are so great. Do you have a close up pic of the posts soldered to the earrings? I always have trouble soldering posts and would to see yours up close. thanks


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