SHARE IT
Pin this on Pinterest

Gold and pearl earrings

Make gold earrings accented with rubies and pearls.
Figure 1
View the instructions below on when to reference Figures 1 and 2!
Figure 2

Before starting this project, remember that gold is very similar to brass in malleability but is far easier to solder. The 6 grams of gold that is needed to make the featured earrings cost less than $100 at press time.

SUPPLIES

  • Gold wire
    • 18k, 18-gauge (1.0mm), round, half-hard, 6 in. (15.2cm)
    • 14k, 20-gauge (0.8mm), square, half-hard, 2 in. (51mm)
  • 2 14k heads: low base, four prongs (for 25-point gemstones)
  • 8 14k gold jump rings: 22-gauge (0.6mm), unsoldered, 1.6mm inside diameter
  • Solder: 14k gold medium
  • Rubies: 1 matched pair, 3.75–4mm round = approximately .60ct total weight
  • Pearls: 1 matched pair, 8.5–9mm, top drilled, teardrop shape, pale rose to peach luster
  • Soldering station: torch, solder (medium and easy), fire-resistant surface (soldering pad, firebrick, charcoal block), compressed charcoal block, pickle pot with pickle, flux, anti-flux (correction fluid), steel tweezers (cross locking and precision), copper tongs, pick
  • Flush cutters
  • Burs: 4mm ball, cup, 45° setting, 90° hart
  • Pin vise
  • Hand file: #1-cut barrette
  • Sanding sticks: 400 to 1500 grit
  • Pliers: chainnose, forming, 2 pairs of roundnose, vise-grip
  • Hammer: planishing (optional)
  • Anvil (optional)
  • Drill bits: various sizes
  • Dowel (1⁄2-in. [13mm] diameter) and sealing wax; or dapping stick
  • Spring gauge
  • Flex shaft
  • Craft knife (optional)
  • Vise
  • Cyanoacrylate glue
  • Fingernail-polish remover (optional)
  • Radial bristle abrasive wheels, various grits
  • Muslin buffs
  • Fabuluster polishing compound
INSTRUCTIONS
Ear wires

If you have a broken gold chain, earrings, or a ring, you can reuse that gold to make the decorative pyramids on the featured ear wires. 

Make gold balls. Make an ingot mold by holding a 4mm ball bur in your fingers and grinding it into a compressed charcoal block [PHOTO 1]. A compressed charcoal block is denser than a standard charcoal block and holds up through multiple heatings. 

Cut pieces of 18-gauge (1.0mm) gold wire or pieces from your recycled gold scraps. Fit the gold pieces into the ingot mold [PHOTO 2]

Flux the gold, and heat it until it forms a molten ball. Remove the heat, and allow the ball to cool. Tip over the charcoal block to remove the ball. Pickle and rinse the ball. Repeat to make a second ball.

Gold and pearl earrings_step 1
PHOTO 1
Gold and pearl earrings_step 2
PHOTO 2
Gold and pearl earrings_step 3
PHOTO 3
Gold and pearl earrings_step 4
PHOTO 4
Solder an ear wire to a gold ball. Cut a 2-in. (51mm) piece of 18-gauge (1.0mm) wire. Flux the wire and grasp it in cross-locking tweezers. Ball a pallion of 14k medium gold solder and allow it to flow (sweat solder) onto one end of the wire. Flux a gold ball and heat it. As the flux turns clear, touch the wire end to the ball [PHOTO 3]. When the solder flows, remove the heat. Quench, pickle, and rinse the ear wire. Repeat to solder the second ear wire.

Shape the gold balls. Clamp an ear wire in a pin vise so only the ball is visible. Usea hand file to create a pyramid shape with four flat sides. The pictured #1-cut barrette file is my favorite [PHOTO 4], but other flat-sided files work just as well.
Gold and pearl earrings_step 5
PHOTO 5
Gold and pearl earrings_step 6
PHOTO 6
Sand the pyramid against sanding sticks [PHOTO 5] of increasingly finer grits, beginning with 400 grit and ending with 1500 grit. Repeat to shape the second ball.

Shape the ear wires. Working with 18k half-hard gold wire feels more like working with hardened silver or half-hard brass wire. To compensate, use two pairs of roundnose pliers in opposition to shape the ear wire [PHOTO 6].
Gold and pearl earrings_step 7
PHOTO 7
Gold and pearl earrings_step 8
PHOTO 8
Use forming pliers to contour the arch of the ear wire [PHOTO 7]. Planish the shaped ear wire with a planishing hammer to work-harden it and confirm the shape [PHOTO 8]. Repeat to shape the second ear wire.
Prong-set rubies

Solder jump rings to four-prong heads. Manually drill four holes in the charcoal block so that the holes fit the prongs of a four-prong head [PHOTO 9]. These holes will hold the head and jump rings in place during soldering. 

Place the head, prongs-down, into the holes. I soldered the jump rings to the base of the prongs, but soldering the jump rings between the prongs works just as well.
Flux and sweat 14k medium solder to opposing sides of the head. Flux two 1.6mm inside diameter (ID) jump rings and place them against the sweat solder spots on the head. Heat the entire assembly until the solder flows. 

(I like to have a spare ball of solder on my soldering pick in case the sweat solder doesn’t catch the tiny jump ring [PHOTO 10].

Gold melts at a higher temperature and doesn’t oxidize as quickly as sterling silver does, giving you a bit more time to solder. 

Remove the heat, and then quench, pickle, and rinse the head. Repeat to solder jump rings to the second head.

Gold and pearl earrings_step 9
PHOTO 9
Gold and pearl earrings_step 10
PHOTO 10
Gold and pearl earrings_step 11
PHOTO 11
Gold and pearl earrings_step 12
PHOTO 12

Prepare the heads. Melt enough sealing wax to cover one end of a 1⁄2-in. (13mm)-diameter dowel. You’ll use the dowel as a dapping stick to hold the head while you cut the seat and set the ruby. 

Grasp the head in tweezers and use the torch to gently heat the head.

Place the warm head in the wax, holding it steady until it cools.

Measure a ruby with a spring gauge to get an exact measurement of the ruby’s girdle [PHOTO 11].

 

 

 

 

Set the rubies. When you’re cutting the seat in the prongs, don’t cut through more than 40 percent of each prong. Cutting the seat too deeply leaves the prong weak and susceptible to breaking. 

To make the first cuts in the prongs, use a flex shaft and a 45° setting bur that corresponds to the ruby’s girdle measurement [PHOTO 12 and Figure 1 - above].

Gold and pearl earrings_step 13
PHOTO 13
Gold and pearl earrings_step 14
PHOTO 14

To finish cutting the seat, use a 90° hart bur that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the ruby [PHOTO 13 and Figure 2 - above]

To remove the head from the dapping stick, gently heat the head while using tweezers to remove it. Remove any sealing-wax residue either by heating the head or by using a craft knife to chip off fragments of remaining wax. 

Place a ruby in the seat, and use chainnose pliers to gently squeeze the prongs onto the ruby [PHOTO 14]
Gold and pearl earrings_step 15
PHOTO 15
Gold and pearl earrings_step 16
PHOTO 16
Use the flat side of your flush cutters to trim excess prong tips if necessary [PHOTO 15]. Taking care not to chip the ruby’s facets, round off the prong tips with a cup bur [PHOTO 16]. Repeat to set the second ruby in the remaining head.
Pearl drops

Make the screw-eye pegs. The size of the holes in pearls varies, so insert a piece of scrap wire or a drill bit into your pearl to determine the corresponding gauge of wire you need for making the pegs. I used 20-gauge (0.8mm) square gold wire.

Grip one end of a 2-in. (51mm) piece of wire in a vise, and grip the other end with vise-grip pliers [PHOTO 17]. Twist the wire, remove it from the vises, and trim the untwisted wire ends.

Gold and pearl earrings_step 17
PHOTO 17
Gold and pearl earrings_step 18
PHOTO 18
Gold and pearl earrings_step 19
PHOTO 19

Place two 1.6mm ID jump rings on the soldering pad and flux them. Sweat 14k medium solder to each end of the twisted wire. Solder each end of the twisted wire to a jump ring [PHOTO 18]

On each end, cut the twisted wire 7mm (1⁄4 in.) from the jump ring. Check the length of the screw-eye peg in the pearl hole [PHOTO 19]. The jump ring should be flush with the top of the pearl. If necessary, trim the peg to fit. 

Once the fit is exact, add a drop of cyanoacrylate glue to the peg and use your fingers to twist the peg into the pearl. 

Do not grasp the join with pliers or apply torque to the join, as this may cause the jump ring to break off, leaving the gold post in your pearl. If this happens, see the below tip, “Get the Post Out.”

Repeat to set the remaining screw-eye peg into the hole of the second pearl.

Tip!
Every jewelry maker has a slightly different way to tackle the too-common problem of removing a glued post from a pearl. 

The general consensus is to soak the pearl in fingernail-polish remover overnight to dissolve the cyanoacrylate glue.

Then, using a drill bit that is smaller than the screw peg, carefully drill into the peg. Use a larger drill bit to remove the remaining peg. 

This is a very difficult and delicate procedure, so unless the matched pearls are extremely valuable, I recommend replacing the pearl instead.

Want to learn more about working with gold? View our article touching all the golden points about gold!
FIND MORE: earrings , metal

Want to leave a comment?

Only registered members of FacetJewelry.com are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
PRODUCTS YOU MIGHT LIKE
DIGITAL DOWNLOAD
$1.99
SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER
Get awesome news, tips, & free stuff!