Making custom metal jewelry is a time-honored art, and one that anyone can learn. From simple wire wrapping to the delicate process of etching patterns into metal, this step by step guide will teach you how to make stunning jewelry pieces from scratch. With some basic tools and a little bit of time and patience, even beginners can create something truly beautiful for themselves or their loved ones.
Etching Metal for Jewelry
Whether you are making a pendant, ring, brooch or bracelet, it is important to first choose the right material. Silver, gold and copper are best for jewelry design because they work well with the acid etching process. To figure out which metal will work best for you, consider how the piece is going to be worn.
Find a Piece of Metal
It can be any size or shape. You can even use copper pennies if you just have a few. Place the metal piece in your etching solution. You will need about two ounces for a single test run. You will also need to add about five spoons of borax, foot powder or dishwashing detergent per gallon of etching solution to help stop the base metal from oxidizing. If there are any air bubbles in your metal, you can use a toothpick to remove them.
This metal piece was about the size of a quarter and it worked perfectly for my test run. I also used one of the silver charms from my bracelet to see how it would turn out.
Place Your Metal Piece
You need to be certain that your metal is completely flat on the bottom, so that it doesn’t warp or become misshapen during the etching process. The piece I used was very small, so it didn’t take much to flatten out the bottom. If yours is larger than a standard stamp or coin, you may have to find something flat and heavy enough to press it down.
The most important thing is to remember where the top of your shaped piece starts, because you will want to know where to start etching. It usually takes about five minutes for one side of the metal to become soft and blacken in color from being in contact with the etching solution. Once that happens, it is time to turn it over.
There are three key points to remember when etching metal jewelry pieces:
Etching metal jewelry can be a little tricky because the etching solution is a very caustic substance. Always work with in a well-ventilated area, use eye protection and gloves (if you are using silver or gold) and make sure that you have plenty of clean water at hand to rinse the piece off if needed.
The metal should be completely submerged in the etching solution, and make sure that your piece is not more than one-third submerged. It is usually best to take a small test run to ensure that you don’t harm the metal or make it unusable.
I wanted to see how the etch would develop on this yellowed piece of silver knot, but I accidentally flipped it over while trying to place it in my container. so I tried to fix it with a little bit of the etching solution. I then let that sit for about two minutes and flipped it over to see what would happen.
I quickly realized that I had made a mistake! The exposed portion of the metal is where the design will show up on your finished piece, so I needed to move fast to try and remedy my error.