'Something's Fishy' Jewelry Pendant

Make an exotic fish metal jewelry piece that can be worn as a necklace or a pin.


Jewelry designer Victoria Lansford, of Atlanta, demonstrates how to create a metal fish-shaped jewelry element that can be worn as a pin or pendant. Prior knowledge of metalsmithing and jewelry making techniques is required.

Materials Needed:

  • acetylene torch
  • paste flux
  • medium silver solder and easy silver solder
  • soldering brick with mesh screen
  • solder pick
  • German charcoal block
  • small paintbrush
  • tweezers and wood-insulated cross tweezers
  • pickle
  • metal shears
  • jeweler's saw
  • 2/0 saw blades
  • 1/2 round/flat needle file
  • 20-gauge drill bit
  • round pliers, flat pliers and chain-nose pliers
  • flexible shaft machine
  • silicon wheels for the flex shaft in course, fine and high shine
  • muslin wheels for the flex shaft
  • screw top mandrels
  • polishing compound
  • hot plate
  • steel burnisher
  • thin cotton gloves
  • rolling mill
  • bezel pusher
  • agate burnisher
  • liver of sulfur
  • ammonia
  • 24-gauge sterling silver sheet
  • 10-gauge sterling silver round wire
  • 18-gauge sterling silver round wire
  • 22K gold bezel wire
  • 1-2 DWT of 24K gold casting grain or kum-boo leaf
  • stainless steel fishing wire
  • 3mm-5mm round stone
  • tea strainer
  • paper and pencil
  • jewelry files


1. Draw the sketch of the fish on paper.



2. Cut very small chips of sterling silver sheet (Image 1).

3. Scatter the silver chips on a charcoal block (Image 2).

4. Aim the torch at each chip until it melts and forms a ball. Let these cool on the charcoal block for a few minutes, rake them into a plastic tea strainer and place in the pickle for two minutes. Rinse and dry them on a paper towel. Set aside.



5. Roll the 18-gauge wire through the rolling mill to flatten slightly before bending it into the fish shape with pliers.



6. Lick (yes, lick) the sterling sheet and the bottom edge of the fish-shaped wires and place together on the charcoal block.

7. Heat the sheet until the surface mirrors and fuse the wires to the sterling sheet (Image 1). Quench and pickle.

8. Trim the excess metal from the outside of the fish (Image 2). This will make the next steps of soldering and fusing easier because there will be less metal.

9. Make the bezel setting for the stone (fish eye) by wrapping the bezel wire around the stone, measuring where it meets and cutting it.

10. Fuse the setting closed and solder together with medium solder to a small piece of sterling sheet and trim, leaving a 1mm ledge around the bezel. File the edges and place it on the fish.



11. Lick the fish and leave it wet. Place the granules (silver chips) on the fish with a small brush or tweezers, taking care not to place them too close to the eye (Image 1). Carefully remove the eye and leave to dry.

12. Fuse the granules (silver chips) onto the sheet using the torch (Image 2). Quench and pickle.

13. Place a small piece of medium solder on the back of the eye on the fish and heat the fish until the solder underneath the bezel has flowed (Image 1).

14. Solder on the bail and pin back.

15. Saw out the final shape, including any space between the body and fins. File the edges with a needle file and clean up the file marks with silicone wheels (Image 2).

16. Depletion-gild the fish by heating until just golden (below annealing temperature) and quenching in the pickle. Repeat this process 2-5 times until it turns mat white when heated. Clean well with soap and water and try not to touch the sheet inside the frame.

17. Melt 24K casting grain into one ball and roll through the rolling mill repeatedly until the rollers are almost together. Continue rolling four more times without changing the position of the rollers. Note: Kum-boo leaf is now available at metal retailer – gilder’s leaf from the craft store is too thin for this technique.

18. Cut strips of the 24K kum-boo leaf for the fins and tail accents.

19. Place the fish on the hot plate and arrange the kum-boo leaf to create stripes and fins. Wait until it is mat white. If it starts to oxidize, lower the temperature. Wearing the cotton gloves to protect your hands from the heat, hold the gold in place with the cross tweezers and burnish it with the steel burnisher. Note: If the metal is hot enough, the gold will adhere to the silver permanently by the process of eutectic bonding. Check the edges of the gold with the tweezers. Pickle when finished.



20. Set the stone (fish eye) in the bezel.

21. Patina the fish by dipping it in a warm solution of a few drops each of liver of sulphur and ammonia, diluted in water until the desired color spectrum is achieved. Stop the action with cold water.

22. Clean up the bezel using the silicon wheels on the flex shaft. Polish the outside and top edges of the frame with polishing compound and a muslin wheel on the flex shaft. Use a high-shine pink silicone wheel without the flex shaft like an eraser to remove the patina from the 24K gold embellishment.



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