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Domed metal clay earrings

Improve your craft à la carte in this technique-packed earring project

Whether you want to learn how to bezel-set a cabochon, create textured dome forms, add notes of gold to your next metal clay project, or solder earring posts to fired metal clay, this project will teach it all.

The dome shape has become a standby form for metal clay artisans. By incorporating a bezel-set cabochon and keum-boo accents, you can take this shape into new territory. I use a recessed- bezel construction technique with traditional fine-silver bezel wire to showcase my favorite matched cabochons.

When I add gold foil to create a keum-boo pattern, I use a simple solder operation to attach premade earring posts to my earrings. If I skip the keum-boo, I skip the soldering and attach my posts with metal clay oil paste and then fire the earrings in my kiln. (Keum-boo is rendered invisible by the sustained heat of a kiln.) 

For the metal clay portion of the project, see the instructions below. To see the complete project instructions, click here for the free project PDF.

Materials

  • Fine-silver bezel wire: 28-gauge (0.32 mm), 3 x 1⁄8 in. (76 x 3 mm)
  • 2 12 mm round cabochons
  • Metal clay paste
  • Metal clay: low-shrinkage formula, 25 g
  • Gold foil
  • Metal clay oil paste (optional)
  • 2 sterling silver earring posts with pads
  • 2 sterling silver ear nuts

Additional tools & supplies

  • 4 small lightbulbs
  • Drafting template: circles
  • Hotplate
  • Klyr-Fire enameling adhesive
  • Leather gloves
  • Soldering station: handheld butane torch, fire-resistant surface (soldering pad, firebrick, or charcoal block), pickle pot with pickle, copper tongs, easy paste solder

Toolboxes

Instructions
Domed metal clay earrings figure 1
Figure 1
Metal clay components

Each earring has three metal clay components: a domed front panel, a domed ring that holds the bezel, and a back panel that you’ll attach an earring post to [Figure 1].

Prepare your tools. Using natural hand balm or olive oil, lightly oil a texture stamp, a flexible Teflon sheet, four small lightbulbs, a plastic roller, and your hands. Prop up the lightbulbs by setting them in a small cup.

Roll out and texture the clay. On the flexible Teflon sheet, roll out 25 g of metal clay to 3 playing cards thick. Apply a texture to the clay, using your texture sheet.

Domed metal clay earrings 1
Photo 1
Domed metal clay earrings 2
Photo 2

Make the front panels. Using a craft knife and a drafting template, cut out two 1 1⁄8-in. (29 mm) circles from the textured metal clay sheet [1]. Carefully transfer each circle to a lightbulb [2]. Allow the domed front panels to air-dry until they’re mostly dry.

Determine the inside diameter of the domed rings. You’ll make a metal clay ring to surround the bezel for each earring. The inside diameter of the rings must take into account the shrinkage of the clay you’re using. (For example, the bezels around my 12 mm cabochons require a ring opening that’s 15 mm/19⁄32 in. in diameter to account for the approximately 12 percent shrinkage of the clay that I’m using.)

Domed metal clay earrings 3
Photo 3
Domed metal clay earrings 4
Photo 4

Make the rings. Use a craft knife and a drafting template to cut two 5 mm (3⁄16-in.) circles from the metal clay sheet. Then, using the template, cut out the appropriate-sized circle from the center of each clay circle to make a ring [3]. Carefully transfer the rings to a lightbulb. Allow the rings to air-dry until they’re mostly dry.

Tip!
When you’re cutting and shaping several components from a sheet of wet clay, be sure to hydrate the excess clay and store it in an airtight container.

Make the back panels. Roll out metal clay to 2 cards thick and 1 1⁄4-in. (32 mm) square. Use the template to cut out a 1-in. (25.5 mm) circle. Cut out a 1⁄4-in. (6.5 mm) strip from the center of the circle to make the two flat back panels [4]. Allow the flat panels to air-dry until they’re mostly dry.

Domed metal clay earrings 5
Photo 5
Domed metal clay earrings 6
Photo 6

Make holes in the front panels. Use a pencil to mark the center of one front panel. Using a 1.5 mm drill bit, carefully hand-drill a hole through the mark. Use a round file to enlarge the hole to 1⁄4 in.(6.5 mm) [5]. Repeat to make a hole in the other front panel.

Refine the components. Use an emery board or sanding sponges to smooth and refine the edges of the components.

Attach the back panels to the front panels. Place one front panel texture-side down on your work surface. Using a fine-tip paintbrush, apply a bead of metal clay paste along the edge of the front panel as shown [6, left]. Use the tip of a clean paintbrush to moisten the edge of one back panel [6, right].

Press the moistened side of the back panel into the paste, aligning the edges of the two components. Dampen a finger with water and run it along the join to smooth the edges. Allow the assembly to dry completely. Use metal clay paste anda syringe to fill in any gaps along the join. Smooth the join with a dampened finger. Allow to the assembly to dry completely.

Refine the edges with an emery board or with sanding sponges. Repeat the steps to join and smooth the second pair of front and back panels.

Attach a ring. Using a fine-tip paintbrush, apply a layer of paste to the back (untextured side) of one ring. Using a clean paintbrush, dab some water on the front of one front panel. Position the ring paste-side down onto the center of the front panel, and press down gently. Use a clean paintbrush to run a bead of water around the edges of the ring. Use a dry paintbrush to remove any excess paste.
Domed metal clay earrings figure 2
Figure 2
Domed metal clay earrings 7
Photo 7
Attach a bezel. Coat one edge of a bezel with paste, and center the bezel within the ring [Figure 2]. Use the paintbrush to run a bead of water between the outside wall of the bezel and the inner edge of the ring. Use a clean paintbrush to remove any excess paste [7].
Domed metal clay earrings figure 3
Figure 3
Domed metal clay earrings 8
Photo 8

Allow the assembly to dry completely [Figure 3].

Repeat the steps to attach the remaining ring and bezel to the other assembly.

Fire the assemblies. Arrange strips of fiber blanket into a square on a kiln shelf and fill the square with vermiculite. Or, fill a kiln-safe bowl with vermiculite. Set the earring assemblies bezel-side up on the vermiculite [8]. Place the shelf (or bowl) in the kiln, and fire according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the earring assemblies to cool completely.

Domed metal clay earrings 9
Photo 9

Check the bezel height. Place the cabochons in their respective bezels to check the height of the bezels [9]. If the bezels are too high for the stones, remove the stones; then use a flat file to gently file off enough metal to make the bezels the proper height.

For the rest of the instructions, click here for the free project PDF.

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