MeritMade Lessons - How to Create a Silver Bead

Silversmithing techniques as we know them today date all the way back to 4685 BC.  Needless to say the craft and techniques are steeped in rich history and tradition.  However, many of these techniques are now being replaced by machines and computers. Like with all technological advancements this can save huge amounts of time and effort.  However at MeritMade, we strive to respect the craft and stay true to the process by performing many of these techniques in the same way that they have been for centuries. 

One particular technique that is rarely used anymore, is the process of hand fabricating hollow silver beads. Machine made silver beads are prevalent in today's market and can easily be purchased through any bead or craft store. If we look to our past though, we can see some amazing pieces created with hand fabricated beads. Some of the best examples being in Native American jewelry. In this post we will walk you step by step through the process used to create a silver bead.    

native american silver beads
native american jewelry

 STEP 1 - Cut out from thin gauge silver sheet the appropriately sized circle. 

discs cut from silver sheet

STEP 2 - Start shaping and doming the silver using punches and a dapping block (here is a great video by Rio Grande that explains the process)

Using a dapping block
slightly domed silver disc

STEP 3 - Gradually work the silver step by step into the smaller sections of the dapping block. Slowly the depth of the dome will increase. 

dome height comparison

STEP 4 - Repeat Step 3 as many times as needed to get to the desired dome height. As the metal starts to harden from the hammering, you will need to periodically stop between rounds and anneal it to make the silver soft again. (For a great annealing tutorial check out this video)

STEP 5 - Once the domes are the height you want them, use a flat surface and coarse sandpaper to sand the the flat side completely level.  

STEP 6 - Create a hole using a drill bit in each dome. Be sure to create the hole large enough for the chain or string that the bead will go on to. 

half domed silve with hole to become a bead

STEP 7 - Now you need to solder the two domed halves together. (Want to know more about soldering? This video is a good start)

soldeing a silver bead together

STEP 8 - Clean up the edges and any extra solder that might have melted in the wrong place.  Lastly perform any final finishing, polishing, and/or patina.  VIOLA! One Bead Done!!

I'd love to hear any feedback or questions about this post.  Was it interesting?  What other techniques or processes would you like to see? 

Interested in purchasing this silver bead necklace, hop on over to the shop! 

- Kelly