Cold Connections in Jewelry: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Cold Connections in Jewelry: What Are They and How Do They Work?

The term “cold connection” refers to any joint between two pieces of metal, plastic, or other material that does not require using a torch to apply heat or solder. Many different approaches can be taken to manufacture them with the same result.

The raw beauty of a cold connection can be exploited in many contexts. Wire can be used as a rivet or to create loops. Like other types of cold connections, loops can join parts of your design. They can be used to complete designs as well. Very adaptable!

Should you be looking for cold connections in jewelry that you can use immediately, you’re in luck! Xinar has been selling high-quality cold connections in jewelry for over 20 years. Our online jewelry supplies catalog includes precious and semiprecious beads and findings, including 925 sterling silver findings, genuine copper findings, rose-gold filled findings, and gold-filled findings.

Rivets

Some cold connections in jewelry are fabricated from solid wire or hollow tubing stock, rivets are the most common type of cold connection used in the jewelry industry. These jewelry rivets and other cold connections can be any length, width, or thickness and help join various materials for jewelry-making. Unfortunately, rivets can also be camouflaged, shown, or invisible.

When a joint needs to be finished or completed, people turn to cold connections in jewelry like rivets, which are then fastened with pressure. Standard tools for this job include flaring tools and riveting hammers. When designing your jewelry, choose the rivet type that works best with the overall aesthetic.

Wire Rivets

Solid wire is used to make rivets, one of the most popular cold connections in jewelry. If you can get away with using thicker wire, do so. Only use wire with a gauge more significant than 20 for sensitive tasks. A wire rivet requires precise measurement of the gap between the joined materials.

This might be two metal sheets with whatever material you want to be sandwiched between them. If a material can be drilled and is sturdy enough to withstand little pressure, then it can have rivets put to it.

The total length needed to make the rivet heads should be a few millimeters longer than the estimated metal thickness. The next step is to use a drill bit that is the right size for the material or metal.

The wire segment must then be inserted into the newly drilled hole. It should be done on a steel anvil face or bench block. First, tap the wire end with a riveting hammer until it is flat.

Then, quickly flip it over and gently touch the opposite wire face in the same fashion.

Keep turning it over and gently pressing it to make mushroom caps on both sides. Tap and make gentle circular motions to round the head while flattening it as you create it on the end of the wire. Both ends must have the same amount of wire.

Tubing Rivets

Tubing rivets are made similarly to how wire rivets are made, but with a different pressure method.  Tubing can be used to create a rivet, which is number two on our list of cold connections in jewelry.

Even if you’re using the tube, you still need to calculate the thickness of the metal, supplant it with a few millimeters, and then drill a hole that’s the same size as the outside diameter. And if you don’t want to create from scratch, there’s always the choice to use tubing rivets that are ready for crafting. They come in many forms, including sterling silver rivets and genuine copper rivets.

Be sure to flare your new cold connections in jewelry outward while flattening it into the material’s surface rather than bending the tubing to create a mushroom-shaped head-like wire. A riveting tool is typically fashioned from a center punch, though any instrument with a soft but steep point that may be used to flare the end of the tubing can be used instead. Finally, to prevent scratches on the steel, polish the tool.

Once one end of the tubing has been flared, it should be turned over and flared again, ensuring that the ends are aligned. Proceed in this manner until more flares in the metal cannot be achieved with the tool.

When you’re ready to make a donut-shaped head for your rivets, place the workpiece on a jeweler’s anvil or steel bench block and softly tap all around the face of the rivet with your riveting hammer. Keep turning so the other side doesn’t get distorted. Again, practice will get you where you want to go.

Making and installing a spacer to accommodate a rivet thicker than the materials to be riveted is necessary if the objects or materials to be fastened require some clearance. Creating proper clearances is an important skill if you want to master fabricating cold connections in jewelry.

This comes in handy when riveting several layers together with gaps between them. A spacer’s placement requires two measurements: the overall rivet length and the desired gap between components.

Get the length of your spacer by subtracting the required clearance from the entire length. Tubing rivets can be snipped to fit over the exterior of your wire, or tubing is what you’ll need to use as a spacer.

If you want to know the tubing size to buy for the spacer, consider this: You should know that 18-gauge wire, the kind used for rivets, has a thickness of 1.02 mm. Therefore, any tubing you use will need an internal diameter of at least 1.02 mm to accommodate the wire. A test fit may be the best option if you’re building the tubing yourself or unsure how well it will fit. After trimming the necessary length of tubing for a spacer, you can slide it on and rivet it into place.

Flap-Style Rivets

Flap-style rivets, also constructed from tubing, are like standard rivets in that they use the same principle for fastening materials together, like many other cold connections in jewelry.

The heads of flap-style rivets include flaps rather than a donut or mushrooms. If you don’t want to use a hammer, you can use flaps as a decorative element or increase the holding power.

These will likely remind you of metal fold-down tabs found on envelopes. Flap-style rivets take more material than a conventional rivet since they must be cut along the shaft, so leave yourself some wiggle room.

You can use flat-nosed pliers to fold the flaps over and then a riveting hammer to press them flat against your materials. Another item off our list of cold connections in jewelry!

One-Sided Rivets

Use a one-sided rivet if you need to attach something from the backside. With one-sided rivets, the tubing or wire is soldered to the underside of the component.

Afterward, a one-sided rivet can secure the component to another flat material. The pressure is generated by riveting only the back of the component, which functions as the head. This is a great option when installing metal designs in non-solderable materials like wood.

Welded-in Rivets

Countersunk holes are used in flush rivets, sometimes known as hidden or disappearing rivets. After the material to be riveted has been drilled, typically, a more significant bit is put into the hole opening, and an angle (countersinking) is cut out.

As usual, the rivet is inserted through the hole and fastened, but this time the metal extends into the countersunk area rather than building up on the surface.

Afterward, the top is shaved down and smoothed out. There is a constant pressure kept below the surface. You can hide it using a flush rivet when a regular rivet isn’t an option due to aesthetic concerns.

Jewelry Nails

A nail is made in the same way that a rivet is. Holding a length of wire in a vice or clamp, one can tap the end with a riveting hammer to create a mushroom shape, trim the nail to the required length and sharpen the other. This method was historically used to craft nails by hand. When working with wood or restoring vintage wooden jewelry items like hammer handles and boxes, jewelry nails come in handy.

Jewelry Screws

Sterling silver, gold, and other non-ferrous metals can all be used to make screws. A screw is a cylindrical pin that is tapered and threaded on one end and has a head on the opposite end that can be twisted into a hole with a unique tool. Different screw types are used for clamping and for fastening. As with screws, bolts are manufactured similarly.

Like screws, jewelry nuts can be created to fit their counterparts. All these looks are doable with some wire, tubing, and a small jeweler’s tap and die set.

One common type of cold connection is the threaded bolt. Making an armature and applying stress in all directions with threaded screws is a great way to fasten difficult or impossible-to-drill or rivet items.

First, determine the proper die to thread the wire into a screw or bolt. To avoid potential problems, 14- or 16-gauge wire should be used. Be careful when handling sterling silver screws produced from gauge 18 or higher wire. Having determined the die size, the wire will need to be threaded into, you should start by honing the end of the wire.

The point is sharpened to facilitate initial passage into the die’s cutting teeth. As the wire is twisted to fit into the hole, it is sliced with grooves inside the die. These threads (grooves) get progressively more pronounced as they ascend in length. Occasionally, you’ll need to pull the wire out of the die, clean the threads, and cut teeth on the inside. Let the tool do the work for you rather than trying to force the wire through.

The opposite end of the threaded rod can be used to make a head by being heated with a torch until it forms a ball. This method is identical to that used to create a headpin. Next, make a screw-like form by filing the ball’s head flat. Even a little screwdriver can fit into a gap you cut into the head. Finally, a tap is required to create a matching threaded hole for your screw or its nut.

A tap resembles a screw but has cutting teeth instead of threads to create the necessary grooves in the hole’s inner wall. If you’re using a threaded screw, you’ll need to drill a hole slightly smaller in diameter than the wire used for the screw’s threads. Then, put the matching into the hole and twist it gently (excessive pressure will strip the action).

The first step in creating jump rings from wire stock is determining the desired finish size. For instance, you’ll need a narrow mandrel and some high-gauge thin wire to hang some tiny delicate pearls from an earring post.

Jump Rings

Many cold connections in jewelry are made with the help of jump rings. Sterling silver jump rings are particularly popular because they are cost-effective and they work with many, many designs.

The strength of the joint is improved by soldering, but it can be used without soldering if a torch is unavailable. Although you can buy most of the components you’ll need, such as jump rings, headpins, screws, and nails, you can also easily make them if you have a workbench at home and all the equipment and tools. If not, you know what the more practical solution would be!

Make as many or as few jumps rings as you need by wrapping the wire around the mandrel (one wrap around the mandrel produces one jump ring).

The finished “spring” is slid off the mandrel and clamped between the round ends of the pliers and the bench pin. Take your jeweler’s saw and start slicing the rings off the spring. Once the jump ring is put into its proper position, the gap can be closed using flat-nosed pliers to remove the little kink caused when each ring falls off.

Headpins

The nail-making method discussed previously is used to fashion most headpins; however, thinner wire and a longer length are preferable. Headpins, which function similarly to the axle or hinge pins, are typically used to fasten something in place or finish off a hinge.

Earwires

Earring posts with a hook design are called earwires. They enable freedom of movement that is impossible with post-type findings. Many designs exist for ear wires, but the most common gauges are 18, 20, and 22. The standard gauge of wire used to make wire posts is 20 gauge.

Ear discomfort sets in with anything thicker than 18 gauge. Cold connections are used for basic wire wrapping, bending, and curving methods. To make ear wires, cut two identical pieces of wire, bend them into a swoop with round-nosed pliers, and form a little ring at the end. If the ends are very rough or pointy, smooth and polish them so as not to cause discomfort the ear.

Different Types of Settings

The metal parts of the settings secure or hold an item in place. Conditions might range from the most basic to the most intricate. Most stone mountings are made to accommodate faceted precious or semiprecious stones.

The Bezel

The bezel setup design is simple but practical. A band of metal is wound continuously around its periphery to secure the item. No prongs are present. Bezel settings are simple in concept, but it requires an experienced eye to determine if a given stone will look good in one. In most cases, a bezel setting will work for a cabochon-shaped stone. Bezel settings are ideal for stones or other objects with smooth, flat backs and edges.

The Prong

However, the idea remains the same regardless of the specific prong configuration. In most cases, the number of prongs is determined by the size of the stone. Even with only four prongs, heavy stones can be securely retained if those prongs are thick, solid, and robust.

It’s possible to use just three prongs to hold small stones securely. Custom prongs created to fit a design or commercially available ones for the correct size stone can be used.

Using some solder and wire, you may fashion some primary prongs in a basket style. Faceted stones must have notches cut into the prongs to be fitted securely. It takes practice to notch a prong, so don’t give up if you fail the first time.

Stone-setting burrs and a tool with a flexible shaft are needed for notching. Make sure you have enough light, a level work surface, and a magnifying glass before trying this.

The notches on the prong’s interior are pretty small. Thus it is recommended that you first practice on a scrap of wire. All the prongs need to have the notch cut at the same height, or else the stone would look wonky. You can’t make the notches too deep, or the prong will give way under tool pressure.

Pressure

Jewelers are also experts in the art of pressure setting. It takes a lot of expertise, mastery, and talent to pressure-set a stone. Assuming the setting is executed correctly, the stone will appear to float between the metal halves.

Diamonds are used for most pressure settings because of their extreme hardness; any object or stone that could easily shatter or break should not be pressure set. A spring-like movement is needed to press two metal surfaces together for pressure setting.

The stone is secured by cutting tiny grooves into the opposing metal and matching the form of the stone’s edges to those grooves. A thick, heavy metal is needed for the spring in a pressure setting.

Bead Setting

Bead setting, a widespread type, has nothing to do with the stringing-required variety of beads. Instead, bead setting entails employing bead-setting equipment to form tiny balls of solid metal onto the surface of the jewelry. Then, gravers drive tiny curls of metal across the surface, creating tiny beads or lumps of metal.

The dome or bump shape of these beads is made by a set of tiny inverted cups at the end of the tool. All sorts of beads can be made using the bead-setting set’s many interchangeable heads.

Paving

In pave setting, the tiny stones are pressed against one another so closely that you cannot see much metal, making it practically identical to a bead setting. Since the process is similar to “paving” with stones, the term “pave” has stuck to describe it. Only a master jeweler with infinite patience who takes their work very seriously and is extremely careful should attempt this method. (Some jewelers only specialize in setting scarce and expensive stones.) The correct paving setting is just stunning.

Channel

Completing jewelry is another everyday use for channel setting. A stone-setting burr is used to cut a groove into the inner face or wall of the metal to secure the stone in place. The stone, or stones, are typically slid into the canal.

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