How Lila Rice Crafted Her Of a Kind Earrings
These tiny little studs take some serious work.
The miniature masterpieces.
“What’s really cool to me about the process of making these studs is that none of the steps require tools that are new-fangled or high-tech whatsoever,” explains Lila Rice Marshall of her ah-mazing Of a Kind edition. “These are very old metalsmithing techniques—the whole shebang could be done without plugging anything in. I think it’s amazing that you can work with metal using just fire, files, hammers, a saw and some elbow grease.” Well, guess what? So do we. And we can’t wait for Lila to show us how it’s done.
“I heat the metal with my oxyacetylene torch in order to anneal it, before adding texture. This heats and softens the metal—the heat loosens the molecular bonds in the metal, allowing it to be worked or textured more easily. There is a moment while heating the metal that you can see it ‘relax.’ Pretty cool.”
“Here, I’m cleaning the metal in an acid bath, called ‘pickle,’ in order to remove oxidation caused by the extreme temps needed to solder metal.”
“My favorite tool—the rolling mill! Here, I pass the sheet metal through the mill with a piece of mesh to print the texture directly onto the metal. I love using the rolling mill to add texture to the metal because no two pieces are alike. In that way, it’s different than stamping.”
“After drawing on the shape, I cut the metal. I use bone-cutting shears, intended for the kitchen.”
“I use a sanding disc to remove sharp edges.”
“Ta-da! This is the blank—the shape to which the ear wire will be soldered—for the stud.”
“Here, I’m soldering on the 14-karat gold-fill ear wire.”
“Next, I use a cup bur to round the tip of the wire so it’s not sharp.”
“This is the polishing machine, for cleaning and getting a brushed finish.”
“And then into the tumbler it goes—it gets many thousands of tiny beatings from the little bits of steel for a final polish and to harden the metal.”