Professional Jeweler Archive: Manufacturing Custom Earrings

April 2005

Bench | Manufacturing Up Close & Welding Technologies


Manufacturing Custom Earrings

Knowing tips and techniques using Foredom tools and accessories and ABI welding technology contributes to higher levels of quality and proficiency for your shop

By Mark B. Mann


Materials used in these custom earrings include 14k yellow gold, 14k white gold settings, diamonds and tourmaline cabochons.

1. The customer has ordered the custom earrings shown in this rough sketch. The top is cast, the bottom is hand-fabricated and the two are joined by wire links.
2. I form the bezels using 14k yellow gold wire measuring 3mm by 1mm. The bezels are slightly smaller than planned, so I use a Foredom CeramCut Blue™ Stone to enlarge the inside dimension. I also use the new Foredom No. 20 quick-release handpiece, which allows fast, effortless tool changes. I find the handpiece most efficient to use with the lever pointed upward toward the collet.
3. To quickly release and change the accessories, I use my thumb to pull back the lever. This image shows the lever in the open position. The No. 20 quick-release handpiece is easy to use and fits comfortably in my hand. It costs $79, making it the most inexpensive quick-release handpiece on the market.
4. Foredom CeramCut Blue Stones come mounted on a 3/32 shank and are made of ceramic and aluminum oxide abrasive material. The stones are widely used on hard and precious metals. For me, they are the “go-to” tools because they maintain their shape and hold a superior cutting/grinding edge. With the wide selection of shapes and sizes available, I use them in a variety of applications.
5. I form the octagonal frames for the bottom of the earrings using 1.5mm-by-0.5mm square 14k yellow gold wire. First, I measure and scribe lines at evenly spaced intervals (on what will become the inside of the frames) on each wire. Then I file grooves about one-third of the depth into each wire at these marks. This facilitates precise bending and consistent sizes of the octagons.
6. Using parallel pliers, I form the wire frames, checking with the original sketch to duplicate the proportions and match the frames. I cast the pieces for the upper part of the earrings.
7. To quickly and precisely prefinish the flat-planed surfaces of the four earring components, I use the Foredom AllSet™ Sander and Planer, which is designed to be used with the Foredom No. 30 handpiece for grinding, shaping, sanding and polishing. It quickly and easily adjusts to any angle from 0° to 90°.

To hold the AllSet Sander and Planer, I use the new Foredom adapter, designed to fit onto the GRS mounting plate to allow hands-free operation. In this photo, I use the 45° and 90° angle guide (indicated by arrow) to ensure I have established a precise 90° angle for sanding.

8. To prefinish the octagonal frames, I use a sanding system that includes seven 2-in. discs with varying grits of 3M microfinishing abrasives that range from coarse to ultrafine. The 3M abrasive discs are PSA-backed so they are easy to remove when worn.

To support the proper sanding angle of the frame, I use the angle bracket supplied with the kit (indicated by arrow).

9. I adjust the table of the AllSet Sander and Planer for the correct angle of each set of facets on the top pieces. The Sander Planer is powered by my Foredom TX flexshaft, giving me ultimate torque and control at all speeds.
10. The upper piece of the earring on the right side of this image has been prefinished. Notice the flat, even and smooth surface.
11. Using the AllSet Sander and Planer, I cut the spacer wires for the lower octagon frame. I shape the top of the wire and mark the length on the wire using dividers. Then I place the wire in the groove on the Sander and Planer platform and cut each piece to length with a mounted diamond disc (indicated by arrow).

The No. 30 Foredom handpiece rotates on the AllSet guide and acts like a “chop-saw.” This tool configuration is also ideal to cut tubing.

12. With the upper and lower parts of the earrings prefinished, I begin the assembly by tacking spacers to the lower frames. For tacking, I use the ABI Tack II welder and double-pole tweezers.

To accommodate the sharp edges of the frame, I use a ball bur and make an indentation in one side of the tweezers for a better hold. (Note: Trying to tack the spacer to the frame without creating an indentation to accept the frame would likely result in a destructive arc).

13. To tack the spacers to the frame, I set the Tack II (the upper unit in the photo) to the low energy setting and use 35 volts of energy with the double-pole tweezers. After tacking the four spacers in each frame, I solder them using easy solder.
14. Next I tack the earring posts to the upper pieces. I use the ABI Tack II on the high energy setting at 35 volts. I use my pliers lead with a notch in both sides (indicated by arrows) to hold the post. Then I place the earring face-down on the graphite part of the contact pad. After tacking the earring posts, I solder them using easy solder.
15. After soldering, I place the earring face-up into a hole I drilled in the graphite and contact pad. Holding a 14k white gold setting with the notched brass tweezers, I tack the head. The ABI Tack II is set on 35 volts on the high energy setting. No part of the tweezers comes in contact with the earring (a destructive arc would result).

The ABI Tack II is an ideal unit for tack-welding because the pieces become prepared for soldering with no trace of the tack-welding visible. If the alignment is off slightly, the components may be easily dissembled and retacked.

16. I complete the setting and finishing. The last step is to pulse-arc-weld the connecting jump ring. To do this, I use the ABI Pulse Arc welder with the #1 tip and the unit on the high energy setting at 40 volts. I use three or four pulses of energy to weld the connector. After welding, I use a pumice wheel and a brush to polish the ring and complete the project.
17. Using Foredom’s tools and accessories and ABI’s welding technology allowed superior quality and efficient methods for completing this project.

For questions on this procedure, contact Mark B. Mann at (406) 961-4426 or mark@visualcominc.com.

This installment is cosponsored by Foredom, Bethel, CT, and ABI, Cranston, RI. For information on Foredom tools, equipment and accessories, contact Michael Zagielski at (203) 792-8622 or sales@foredom.com. For general information on ABI equipment and procedures or for a list of distributors, call Janet Kirk at (888) 494-2663.

This information is provided without warranty, either expressed or implied. The procedures can be harmful if not executed properly and are undertaken at the reader’s own risk. The publisher is not responsible for injuries, losses or other damages that may result from use of this information.

Photographs by Mark B. Mann
Visual Communications, Inc. © 2005

Copyright © 2005 by Bond Communications