Texturing Metal with Roll Printing

I like adding texture to the silver I use in my jewelry.  It adds another dimension to the design and, quite frankly, saves me from having to polish out every scratch or tool mark that the metal picks up during the fabrication process. Sometimes the texture is subtle, such as using sandpaper to give a matte finish, and sometimes it is simple, such as hammering away with a ball pein hammer. But my favorite technique is roll printing — not that I don’t enjoy the therapeutic effect of hammering on something — which allows for endless unique textures. In roll printing, a piece of metal is passed through two steel rollers, along with whatever material you are using to create texture. A piece of mesh, for example, could be used to create a grid-like pattern. Surprisingly, even materials much softer than the metal itself will leave an imprint when roll-printing is used. How is this possible? Through the magic of annealing and the pressure of the steel rollers.

To fabricate my “leaf” earrings with tourmelated quartz (quartz which has black tourmaline inclusions), I first anneal a piece of silver. This means that the metal is heated to red-hot, then quenched in water. This reduces the stress in the metal and makes it more malleable.

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In this example, I used a piece of fabric to texture the metal. I cut a piece slightly larger than the silver, laid it over the metal, then ran the two layers through the steel rollers. The rollers are adjusted to the point where the metal is being pressed hard enough for the impression to take, but not so hard that it gets excessively distorted.

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After the roll-printing, I annealed the metal again, because the process of imprinting the metal will have stressed it and made it hard and rigid. Here is the metal after the second annealing, and you can see that I’ve used a marker to draw my design. Using my jeweler’s hand saw, I first cut the outside edge of the earring.

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To cut the inner part, I drill a small hole to pass the saw blade through. This allows me to create negative spaces in my designs without having to saw from the outside edge.

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After sawing, the edges are filed and sanded and I drill another hole to attach the tourmelated quartz drop.  Then I solder on the earring post.

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And here is the finished pair of earrings (which can be purchased on my website). With roll-printing, no two pieces will ever be exactly the same!

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