Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Silver Treatments on Glass

Silver Treatments on Glass Tutorial - First Published on Artisan Whimsey

Silver Treatments on Glass Beads

I originally published this tutorial at Artisan Whimsey - I'm recycling it today for your reading pleasure!
There are many ways to add silver to your glass beads!  I'll list a few here today, if you have any other suggestions, please post them in the comments! I'm always looking for new ideas!

The first way to add silver to your glass beads is with fine silver wire.  I'm not sure why, but you are supposed to use fine silver wire as opposed to the silver jewelry wire you might have on hand.  I order my fine silver wire from Monsterslayer.  I like them and they always have up-to-date pricing as the silver market is so volatile lately.  I use 30 gauge silver wire, but there are different gauges available.  I like 30 gauge because it's more delicate.  If you want to use higher gauge wire, you can get different effects, like actually placing thought-out dots on your bead!  

I cut easily usable lengths of silver wire (about 9 inches or so) and clip the hemos at the measure I want to use.  If I'm applying it to a round bead, I usually clip at about 2-3 inches.  Fine silver wire will disappear in your flame, so make sure you work waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out at the end of the flame.  Barely touch the silver wire to the bead under the flame, move the bead away, and quickly wrap the wire around the bead.  When you've reached the end of your clipped wire, flame cut the silver, and then very delicately melt the silver wire at the end of the flame into the bead.  This is how you get the trailing dots.  Here's a photo of beads I made with silver wire:

Next is using silver foil.  You can use silver foil, or silver leaf.  I like silver foil, because it's easier to handle and easier to cut with a scissors.  If you use leaf, you just have to be more careful with it, as it can easily blow around your bench due to your ventilation system, or passers-by!  I buy packets of 25 sheets of silver foil, usually from Robin Koza of Glass Diversions.  I cut the single sheet into the sizes I want (for a 12mm bead I usually use an eighth of a sheet).  Place your silver foil on your graphite marver, or other surface you use, on your bench.  When you are done making your bead, heat up the outside of the bead very slightly, and roll it on the marver to accept the foil.  Burnish it onto the bead (make sure your bead is not mushy!) with a tool - I use my brass stump shaper.  Then reintroduce the bead into the flame at the very end; you just want to melt the silver foil into the bead, not make the bead hot or mushy again.  Here's a photo of some beads I made with silver foil:

To make beads with silver foil and frit, just apply the silver foil as above.  When you are done with the above steps, heat the bead up again hot enough to accept the frit, roll the bead in frit, and melt it in as you usually do!  Here's a photo of a silver foil and frit bead!

Finally, I'll talk about silvered ivory stringer (SIS).  I enjoy this method, and there are many ways you can do it.  I'll just tell you about two of mine.  The first way I make SIS is to waft a one inch section at the end of an ivory rod in the flame, until it's hot enough to accept the silver foil.  Burnish the silver foil on with your torch mounted graphite marver, and then you are ready to pull stringer!  Melt a small blob on the end of the rod - here's where it's important to burnish very well, so the silver does not just disappear.  Pull with a tweezer or other pulling tool, and set aside on your table until cool enough to touch.  When you want to use it, hold your bead under the flame near the top, barely touch the end of the stringer in the flame and attach where you want it on your bead.  Then, under the flame but still in some heat, wrap the stringer until you are happy.  Flame cut or snap off!  Here's some beads with SIS:

And finally, you can make dots with SIS as well!  For this method, I like to use commercially pulled 2-3mm ivory stringer.  I simply wet my fingers with saliva and run them at the top of a stringer, and wrap the piece of foil around it.  You may have to wet your fingers multiple times to get the foil to stay.  I know, it sounds gross, but it works.  And it's not so gross!  You melt the germs off!  When I'm ready to use the stringer, I melt a very small blog at the end of the stringer rod, and apply to the bead just like any dot of glass.  To make round dots, use your brass stump shaper and push the dot gently into the bead, this will keep it round.  Then melt in as usual.  Here's a photo of beads using this method:

I hope you enjoyed this little post on silver.  There are many different designs you can do with silver - add enamel, baking soda, etc.  Again, if you have any other methods, I'd love to hear about them.  How about encasing silver wire?  Silver powder? 
Susan Kennedy


  1. These are quite lovely! The silver really gives them their own personality. Well done!

  2. Thank you Susan for doing this. I've been wanting to learn what gauge of silver wire to use, and the technique for wrapping beads, for a long time. You presentation is beautiful and well done, too! Will you be going to the ISGB Gathering in Alburquerque in a few weeks? Linda


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