Monday, June 6, 2016

06.06.16 The Magic of Argentium - It's a Snap!

Mom's vintage hoops - snap bars added
As you will recall, I love hoop earrings - and my favorites have snap bar closures.  I don't like hoops on posts because when I'm on the phone, they cut into the back of my ears.  I'm okay with hoops that have a wire or loop closure - but the best by far are the snaps.

Ronda's argentium curriculum is a full six weeks (I encourage to you check her website and find a place to take it, or order her videos) - but I could only afford to take the time off for one - and I chose the earring class because I was bound and determined to learn how to make my own snap bars (especially after having several pairs converted by a jeweler).

Days 4 and 5 were devoted to a project described by Ronda - correctly - as the most complex thing we would do, and frankly a bit of a leap from the previous projects.  The first steps included using a pattern to make four uniformly shaped pieces of rectangular wire (square wire that had been flattened in the rolling mill), then fusing those pieces to form the frames for our earrings.

After making the frames - the next step, and learning exercise - involved using masking mud (which you will soon be able to buy from Ronda) to isolate areas for fusing decorative wire into the middle of the frames.

This is a tricky task, even with the mud - and mine didn't turn out so well - I melted one of the center wires.  Fortunately, because it was an just an exercise, I sawed those pieces out later (with Ronda's blessing). If I'd wanted to I could have gone in an fused new decorative wire...because as long as you haven't put any solder on your piece, you can re-fuse it.

After assembling our earrings - we got to the good stuff - making our own snap bars!

In addition to the detailed instructions she provided us, she drew a great diagram explaining how to form and attach the components of the mechanism.  Once you get the hang of it - she told us - it would be easy...

Well, it certainly wasn't easy the first time - but it was a very satisfying thing to accomplish.

To create the hinge, you fabricate an exterior frame and an ear wire on a "paddle".  The frame is fused on to the earring, you then align, shape and drill through the pieces so that they can be riveted together.

The "U" shaped catch is formed out of narrow (20 gauge) wire and soldered to the opposite side of the earring.

...and then we were done...a week had flown by, and I had four pairs of new earrings, gained knowledge than I can begin to articulate, and a made some wonderful friendships to boot.

If you aren't fortunate enough to find yourself someplace where Ronda is teaching,  you can purchase her courses - and all the materials we used in class - at Rio Grande Jewelry Supply.

Until next time.

PS. The next time I went to open studio, I converted the twisted hoop earrings from posts to snap bars - and it was a lot easier the second time!

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