Today I’m going to share with you how to Make Sterling Silver Chain Necklaces. This is how I make one of the most popular necklaces in our shop. In the Roberts and co online store. It’s a necklace made of a very fine style of chain called trace chain. This is just over two millimetres thick.
There’s meters of it here, it doesn’t look like it but it’s very fine chain.
Many of the necklaces and bracelets we make we make them entirely by hand. We often make every link. However for this very fine trace chain we have it machine made.
Sterling Silver Chain Necklaces
We use the company here in England in the Birmingham Jewellery quarter that have been in Birmingham for over a hundred years. And they can trace their company history back here in London over two hundred years. So they’re very good at what they do. You don’t stay in business for over two hundred years if you’re not. What we have to do is assemble this chain into wearable necklaces.
Many of the necklaces we make they’re available in different lengths. The most popular lengths for fine jewellery are 16″ 18″ and 20″. However the length possibilities are endless.
One of the most popular Styles we’ve been making recently are adjustable. And again we do them in different lengths. Today I’m making one that’s adjustable between 16″ 17″ and 18″.
Necklaces and pendants
And the reason they’re so popular is when you change your outfit you can change the style of your necklace. You can change the length so they’re especially popular for necklaces and pendants.
So we need to assemble this first which is a relatively straight forward process. We start by getting it to the right length. And then what’s not so simple we need to solder it all together. And for that we’ll be using a special piece of equipment.
We need to get these tiny components up to between 700 or 800 degrees for the jewellery grade solder to flow. We need to get them up to up to 700 or 800 degrees without melting them, Or becoming a solid blob of solder. so I’ll use a special soldering torch. A torch that can give us the heat we require with pinpoint accuracy.
Government approved ruler
But first of all let’s assemble this necklace. Now for this I need some tools and a ruler. Here in England to sell stuff by weight being a jeweller you need government-approved scales which we have. Also to sell stuff by length you need a government approved ruler. Which cost a fortune as do the scales. And they only do them in centimetres which is useless. So we’ll have to use that to double-check later that its the correct length. For now I’ll be using this ruler with inches on.
So we need to add three jump rings. Each one inch apart so this necklace can be adjusted and worn at either 16 inches 17 inches or 18 inches long. Also we need to add a clasp. Different styles of clasp are available. So for this necklace we’ll be using the style called a bolt ring.
Jewellery making pliers
So first we’re adding a five millimetre jump ring which will be the end of the necklace. So I’m using a pair of chain nose or snipe nose pliers and a pair of flat pliers. These are special jewellery making pliers. So the jaws are smooth unlike other pliers. So they’ll not mark the piece.
I’m using a headband magnifier for this so we get the perfect fit. The jump rings need to be opened and closed from side to side. So they stay perfectly round in shape. Also they need to be closed perfectly or we will not be able to solder them.
So the necklace is the correct length we fit three jump rings that will make the necklaces adjustable. First each jump ring is fitted one inch apart. Now we measure out the remaining main length of chain for the necklace. So then we can fit the clasp and tag. We fit this first without cutting to ensure we get the correct overall length. So if it needs adjustment it can be done now. Then once we’ve got the correct overall length we can cut the necklace from the length of chain.
So we’ve now got our necklace assembled at the correct length. it’s just a fraction over 18 inches long but if I remove another link it’ll be just under. It’s better to be a fraction over than a fraction under.
So now I can make the final cut to cut this necklace off the meters of chain. So then all we need to do is solder it together. To solder sterling silver chain links on this tiny scale we use a micro soldiering torch.
Aqua flame model 800
We have an aqua flame model 800 which is years old. They produce a very hot and precise flame. The machine passes electricity through distilled water producing hydrogen and oxygen gas by electrolysis. Which is then atomised through a solvent to reduce the temperature of the flame and make it a little more controllable.
These systems cost much more than most jewellery torches. However they are very efficient and environmentally friendly. You’re not storing any flammable gas just the water and liquid they use to produce the gas on demand. Also they are capable of producing the pinpoint flame hot enough to solder jewellery that we need. We can also change the torch tips to produce flames suitable for the smallest chain link up to rings and Bangles.
So now we have our necklace assembled I need to solder together two three millimetre jump rings that hold the bolt ring clasp onto this one. Other clasp styles are available on this one we’re using the bolt ring.
Health and safety
So I’ve got to solder the two three millimetre jump rings together. And then although there are three five millimetre jump rings on the adjustable end I’ll only solder together two. So one will be left friction fitted together for health and safety reasons. Because then if the necklaces does happen to get caught in a piece of industrial equipment it won’t take the wearer’s head off. Also being the strongest link it’s not going to give out in normal wear.
Now I’m gonna flux the joints with some borax. I’ve got the borax cone and dish here and just need to put some water in there mix up the borax. Borax will help the solder flow without using flux it will not work.
The micro welder will give us pinpoint accuracy. So we’ll be able to get the jump rings up to between seven and eight hundred degrees for the solder to flow. Also what we’ll use to place the solder is this piece of steel which I’ve filled in to a very fine point. So if you heat the solder up it will ball up with the micro welder and you can actually pick it up with the steel. It won’t flow on the steel just picks it up and then we can use this like a pencil to put the solder right where we need it.
Colour of the metal
We’ll get the jump rings actually up to the melting temperature of the solder. Which with experience you can tell by the colour of it. We’ll turn the light off and you actually tell the temperature by the colour of the metal. So once it’s up to the melting temperature of the solder I’ll then place the solder exactly where we want it.
And then the necklace will just need polishing but let’s get on with the soldering. So first I cut some small pallions of solder for all of the joints. We’re using jewellery grade silver solder which produces a permanent joint. We have to roll out the solder first using a rolling mill to make it much thinner than standard for these sized jump rings.
The silver solder shares many of the properties of the sterling silver components. So it’s similar in durability and a colour match however that also makes it flow at over 700 degrees centigrade. So we apply some borax flux to each joint to allow the solder to flow. And also to the surrounding areas to give them a little protection from the residual heat.
Apply a small ball of solder
We use the micro soldiering torch to get the jump rings up to the melting temperature of the solder first. And then I apply a small ball of solder using a steel pick. So the solder only flows precisely where we need it. And we only solder the joints together and not the links themselves.
Using the micro soldering torch we switch tip sizes until we get the right size flame for the joint. Also switching tip sizes during the process of making this necklace because the Rings its constructed with are different sizes.
So now we’ve soldered all of our jump rings together that require soldering together. Now I need to pickle the necklace to clean off the fire scale. And then it will require polishing.
The finished sterling silver adjustable Trace chain necklace
So here we have the finished sterling silver adjustable Trace chain necklace. When you adjust it from 18″ to either 17″ or 16 inches in length on this model which I’ve done there you get this interesting lariat feature down the back.
They are perfect to be worn on their own or with pendants. This one’s been assembled soldered together and cleaned. However this will still need final polishing before he can go to a customer. So I hope you enjoyed this look at how we make these sterling silver necklaces.
Check out images of the finished necklace in our online store