Contrasting Textures - Copper And Silver Earrings

One thing that has always caught my eye when I look at metalwork jewellery is contrast and layers. That difference in texture between patterned and smooth and also the depth added by layers and overlaying.

I recently tried etching sterling silver firstly using copper nitrate and a battery. It worked but the results were unpredictable. By that I mean some pieces etched well within an hour and the next batch were hardly touched after 4 hours. A bit frustrating and not reliable enough for someone who isn't the world's most patient soul! So I decided to try ferric nitrate which is a bit more "hardcore" than the previous method and one I'd been hoping to avoid.

The sterling silver etched well with the ferric nitrate. I used vinyl/plastic stickers you can find in craft stores and left it for about 2.5 hours. The stickers worked well and the etch was really clean and quite deep.

 These earrings were hard to photograph because of their shiny shiny nature but the etched design shows up well. I soldered the etched piece to a plain piece to highlight the contrast in pattern and smoothness.

A copper and silver combination. I'm starting to feel a bit more confident when I solder as I try different things and work out how to get over those little problems they don't tell you about in the jewellery books. Positioning a piece so it won't move when you solder on loops and earwires for example. Fellow jewellery makers also help a lot (thanks for the tips Tania!)

These were made using the silver I etched using the copper nitrate and battery method and a rubber stamp design. I added the wavy edged smooth silver at the bottom as a contrast. I really like that look so will no doubt do it again!

A pair of little sterling studs with etched and smooth silver.

Copper "shields" with etched silver. Getting to know how much solder to use to attach the silver pieces to the copper is a challenge - too much and it can spread over the copper and cause a lot of cleaning up work (ask me how I know that). 
Ah well, it's all part of the learning process as they say!


  1. Ever pair of earrings you shared here is gorgeous! You are quite the talented designer!

  2. Beautiful earrings - I am in awe!
    Kristin :)
    p.s. I decided to take your advice and have taken the plunge. Today I placed an order for lots of soldering/metalwork tools. Wish me luck!

  3. I'm impressed! These are all such beautiful earrings. GORGEOUS! Yeah, I wish instructions would also tell you what to do if things go wrong!

  4. gorgeous work! your experiments turned out like you had done this for a long time -

  5. I agree with the comment looks like you have been doing this forever.. they are all so gorgeous. I love all the designs, especially the two metal combinations.

  6. Gorgeous work! Your skills are amazing! These pieces look like and expert created them. :)

  7. The earrings are really beautiful as it gives a attraction towards its beauty
    Sofia James

  8. These earrings are stunning! I love the contrast too.

    All the best, Alex

  9. Your jewellery are really, really good. The copper-silver combi (not a boiler, smiley face) are really beautiful and neat. You really are talented. Tried the combi once before and it was a disaster, and took a hike; the solder was all over the copper bit, took repeated trials to solder, and looked awful. Do share your tip for making it work. Also, what do you mean by vinyl stickers? Thank you.

  10. Thanks for your comment Antonia.

    I sweat soldered the silver onto the copper.
    The best piece of advice is don't use too much solder. Use less than you think and don't put it too close to the edge when you tin the back of the silver/top piece. Tinning/sweat soldering is when you flow solder onto the back of the top piece than flip it over and solder to the base piece. Apologies if you already knew that!
    It's ideal to have a line of solder all round the edge of the top piece of metal when you solder the two together but once you see the solder flow take the flame away otherwise you do risk the solder spreading onto the copper. I've done it many times!

    One of the shield earrings ended up with a HUGE blob of solder at the top of the silver piece which I had to sand off with my Dremel.

    The vinyl stickers are the type that card makers use and are usually silver or gold and are fairly fine. They use them for borders, etc. You can get them at The Range (assuming you're in the UK).

  11. Thanks Tracy. And no offence taken. I don't believe there's something like 'too much knowledge'. I think my problem is that I tend to want to do complicated stuff. I pierced the outline of a football on copper to make a pendant for my son and the solder overflowed in the negative spaces.
    Your stuff all look so lovely it's difficult to imagine that they didn't come out perfect the first time.
    Is the range an online shop? I live in London.
    By the way, I tried to do some enamelling this past weekend, thanks to your blog; not very successful, but will keep trying. Have a good week.


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