Making jewelry out of genuine sterling silver flatware often starts with a trip to a second-hand shop where you’re likely to find it. For some jewelry designs, you may need to use a propane torch, which requires you to wear safety goggles and gloves.
Things You’ll Need
Needle-nose or jewelry pliers
Hammer, rubber hammer, rawhide mallet or bossing hammer
Hacksaw or metal snips
Rotary tool, with sanding or polishing wheels
Step 1: Choosing the Silverware
When picking silverware to fashion into jewelry, envision the finished piece. Full-size forks and spoons can be great to forge bracelets. Baby spoons and silverware handles work well for rings. Thicker silverware is harder to bend but creates finished pieces with higher-perceived quality.
Step 2: Design the Jewelry
A piece of silverware can be twisted and bent only so much before it breaks, so consider what’s possible before starting. If you’re unsure about how far to manipulate a piece of silverware, consider modeling the piece you want to make after an existing jewelry design. For a ring, you’ll need to know the size of the wearer’s finger.
Step 3: Hammering, Bending and Heating
Silverware bracelets and rings are created by hammering the flatware against a mandrel — a cylindrical work surface — and using pliers to bend the piece into shape. Depending on the weight of the silverware, heating with a propane torch may be necessary.
Step 4: Flattening the End
While some spoon bracelets leave the bowl end of the utensil curved, most silverware needs to have its end flattened to make jewelry. No one wants to be stuck with the tines of a fork or cut with a knife. In most cases, hammering the ends against a workbench or anvil accomplishes this. If you’re planning to cut off the end of a spoon with metal snips for a ring, there’s no need to flatten it.
Step 5: Forming the Bracelet or Ring
Tap the silverware against the mandrel with a rawhide mallet or bossing hammer. Reposition the silverware several times to tap it from different angles to create an appropriate curve.
To create a ring, hammer the spoon handle against a ring mandrel while holding it against a workbench or wooden block. Work down the mandrel to a section larger than the intended size, which makes the resulting piece rounder. Once the part of spoon you’re working with is curved as desired, cut off the excess and file down the rough edges.
Depending on the mandrel’s shape, you’ll need to tap the ring or bracelet a few more times to get it into the desired circular or oval shape.
Step 6: Heating the Silverware
If the silverware is heavy enough to require heating, use a propane torch to bend it. While you’ll need to apply heat throughout the process, you want to do it in quick applications at first. Wear safety gloves and goggles.
Base metals heat at a different rate than plated ones. Heat a silver or sterling base to a cherry red; plated metals only need to be salmon colored. If unsure, always under-heat.
Step 7: Bent Fork Jewelry
Bending the tines of a fork result in complex-looking silver jewelry. To create a piece of fork jewelry, plan the curls in advance. Using jewelry pliers and a strong wrist, twist all of the tines in the same direction to create a simple, flowery effect.
If you want to design something more detailed with a torch, you can create interlocking hearts. To do that, heat the tines of the fork and bend the center two outward like petals. Fold the outer two tines inward, into an “X” shape. Then curl the top of the far right and left tines back toward the center, and then the other two tines back over to create the hearts.
Step 8: Smoothing and Polishing Silverware
Bending silverware to make jewelry leaves divots, or marks. Deep divots can be smoothed with a rotary tool and scratching wheel. Use a fine-grit sanding wheel to polish finished pieces, and add shine with jewelry cleaner at the end.
If you don’t have a mandrel, you can saw a section of an old baseball bat to create one for a bracelet, or use the tip of an anvil for a ring.