I thought I’d share with you one of my chains.
It’s very simple, and like most things creative, not unique to me, but if you’ve not tried making your own chains yet and fancy having a go, read on…
You will need about 4 ft of 19 gauge wire for this 18″ chain and simple soldering skills.
I used sterling silver because that’s all I had available in 19 gauge.
Of course you can use any gauge and ring diameter, but you will have to adjust for the amount of links, etc., accordingly. You can use copper if you prefer, but note that the solder tends to show more.
When making calculations for a different chain design or gauge I like to make a 4 or 5 link sample chain. This way I can measure how long that small piece of chain is and then multiply it for the actual amount of links I would need for the chain length I want.
I can also see at this time if I like the chain design and the gauge.
For this reason I’ve started making different sample chains out of copper for quick reference.
To calculate the length of wire needed for each chain I’ve found this handy interactive chart.
and for calculating millimeters into inches,
Jump ring sizes are measured using the inside diameter. To be sure that I actually have enough silver to complete the chain I measured the jump ring I want to use by the outside diameter.
Now for the chain…
Make 24 x 9.5mm jump rings.
Wrap them with tape.
And saw them apart trying not to slice your finger open – because it hurts.
After much experimenting I find it easiest to use long blade passes through the rings holding the rings just proud of the edge of a wooden block. Start sawing at an angle and once you’ve got a good purchase straighten up the blade so that it runs more or less perpendicular to the outside of the rings.
With practice it becomes easier and that’s actually the first time I’ve cut myself.
Must not have been paying attention.
Always pay attention…
Now make 26 x 3mm jump rings and do the same.
Beware as this is more fiddly and swear worthy.
Now solder the small jump rings together.
Note: I like the whole chain soldered, but you can skip soldering the small jump rings if you wish and just join the completed larger links together at the end.
For a completely soldered chain, however, I find it easiest to solder the small jump rings first.
For joining the jump rings I like to use chips of solder which I buy from Contenti.
I sprinkle a small batch directly onto my soldering board and use my pick to take them one at a time to the links.
You do not need flux or solder to join fine silver together.
You really only need one of these tiny chips to solder the 19 gauge jump ring together. The key, as always, is to make sure that the ends of your jump ring fit tight together.
There shouldn’t be much of a gap at all otherwise the solder will not flow across the two ends to join them.
Now they are all soldered you can slip two of them onto a larger jump ring and prepare to solder that closed also.
Always point the joins you want to solder in the same direction. This way takes the guess-work out of finding the join, especially if you’ve done a good job preparing them and they’re so tight you can’t find the join at all.
Now take two of the soldered links and join them together with a third, large link.
Solder these also.
Now you’ll have groups of three.
Which you’ll join together with another large link.
Although at this point it becomes easier to solder the whole chain together at once.
Continue in this way until you have used up all of your jump rings.
Now you could stop right here and you’d have a nice, large loop chain to clean up and buff.
You could leave the rings round or hammer them slightly to give them more character.
But I took a pair of round-nosed pliers and opened up the links.
If you do every other link in this way you’d once again have a nice, large loop chain to wear.
If you then took the oval links and squeezed them together so that their middles touched, you’d have yet another design of chain.
But I was going for the figure 8, which is achieved by holding a pair of flat nosed pliers at each end of the oval link and twisting it 180 degrees, making sure that you twist each link in the same direction.
So here’s another chain design.
You could also change it up by using a different size joining ring.
Your options are limitless…
If you continue to stretch the rest of the 9.5mm links you can go through the same process, making a different style of chain at each stage.
But, like I said, I was going for the figure 8 all the way…
Here it is after the pickle.
And once it has been dunked into the Black Max, or Liver of Sulphur. and buffed.
All ready and waiting to go.
You can see here that I also hammered the ends of the figure 8’s.
Now for the question.
How much would you charge for this chain?
Bear in mind that you have to accommodate for your experience. For example it’s not fair to set a price when it’s taken you all day to make something which, in fact, it should only take you 2 hours.
I’ve made quite a lot of them now and each time this particular chain takes me 1 hour 50 mins from start to finish.
No breaks. No daydreaming. Just exact timing carefully watching the clock.
Right now silver is $15.79 and so this piece has $4 worth of silver in it.
If you have a scale you can easily weigh the finished piece in troy ounces and then calculate the silver content.
You can find the current silver prices at the top of Rio Grande’s site.
I have a scale similar to this one.
So, what is your formula for pricing?
I used to just guesstimate, but as time has gone by I’ve begun to see how important my time is and how, in the past, I was almost giving my jewelry away.
This had always been o.k. with me insofar I was learning my craft as I went along, but if you are serious about making and selling your jewelry there comes a time when you should start to look into the real value of your work, if not you are not only underestimating your worth, but also undercutting the worth of other artists.
This is a simple formula that I like to use.
labor + materials + overhead + profit = wholesale price
wholesale price x 2 (minimum) = retail price
At the end of the calculation I then look at the figure and see if I think it’s fair and if I think the piece will actually sell for that.
I would be interest in your opinions about this and how you work out your prices