Posted by Corkie Bolton on

Please note: This post contains affiliate links.

When it comes to ordering metal for jewelry making all the different options can often become overwhelming. So I partnered with Rio Grande to provide a guide with some helpful tips and considerations for confidently buying materials for your next project! 


Here are some tips for purchasing silver SHEET METAL from Rio Grande. All the choices can be overwhelming, so I thought I’d break down what some of the options are and how they differ. The most common is sterling silver (.925) It is stronger than fine silver, more prone to fire scale and tarnishes more easily. The other main option is fine silver (.999) It’s significantly softer than sterling, has a whiter appearance and is way less prone to tarnishing. The next consideration is gauge. Most of the sheet options come in a range of 6 gauge (4.11mm) to 30 gauge (0.26mm). You then have the options for dead soft (annealed), ¼ hard (a bit resistant to bending but readily takes shape) , ½ hard (has been worked a bit, tightening the grain at the molecular level. You can still bend the metal a bit, with force), and spring hard (thoroughly hardened and has basically no malleability.) So with those options in mind, here are a few questions you can ask yourself: Is the project I’m making going to get a lot of wear and tear (like a ring or a bracelet?) If the answer is yes, sterling is your best choice (since fine silver is softer). Next you need to choose a gauge heavy enough to experience the wear and tear but light enough to be comfortably. Heavy earrings for example can be uncomfortable and a very delicate ring can get squished in our hands. On average 20-14 gauge are well within that range, but that depends on the size and specifics of your design. Lastly which hardness should we buy? In most applications you will want to order dead soft. If you will be soldering on the piece you’re making, you may as well start with dead soft because it’s easy to work with and any hardness the metal may have will be lost when you apply heat to solder. Here is an example of when to order a harder sheet: Let’s say all I’m doing is sawing out a design and cold connecting it, a harder option gives strength to my piece, and that strength will be maintained since i’m not soldering.


One of the most common questions is: what gauge bezel wire should I purchase? Here are some tips for ordering BEZEL WIRE from Rio Grande. It typically comes in gauges 24 (.51mm) - 30 (.25mm) and in various heights. First, let’s focus on gauge. If you are newer to bezel setting, consider 28-30g because it’s easier to push over, especially if you’re doing it all by hand using a bezel rocker tool and a burnisher. If you’re hammer setting, either with a hammer handpiece or manually, you can use a thicker gauge bezel wire. Next, consider the stone you plan to set and look up the stone’s hardness (MOH scale). If the stone is delicate you should set by hand (as opposed to hammer) and therefore can use a thinner gauge (28-30g). Aesthetics is also another consideration; I just enjoy thicker bezels! They are more forgiving and can take more sanding and polishing with less risk of damaging the bezel by over working it! Regarding bezel height, take the shape and height of your cabochon into consideration. Order a few heights of bezel wire so you have options, if it’s too tall you can always trim it down or sand it. If you like to use a variety of cabochons in your work you’ll find having a variety of bezel wire on hand very helpful. 

There is also fine silver or sterling wire. Fine is brighter and more resistant to tarnish, sterling is more durable. I typically use sterling for that reason. There are also tons of gallery wire options available at Rio Grande. Gallery wire should be annealed (carefully) prior to forming! After it’s shaped and when you are ready to solder, you must be careful (they love to melt) heat from below using a trivet, tripod or bricks. Once you have soldered gallery wire and it’s time to set, take extra care so you don’t crack or break it. When you initially push down at four sides only bring it down about 50% and then push the rest in as uniformly as you can! 


Here are some tips for ordering WIRE from Rio Grande, particularly what gauge and hardness! First you need to ask yourself: what kind of project are you making and where on the body will it be worn? If we use the image of rings as an example we can see that the 12g wire will provide us with more strength than the 18g. So choosing the gauge wire you will need for a project definitely depends on the amount of wear and tear (i.e a bangle gets more wear and tear than an earring). For earring posts and wires I have found that 20g (0.80mm) is good for most customers. The hardness of the wire you choose is all about application, if you are soldering the wire it becomes annealed so you might as well purchase dead soft. If you are making an earring wire which will simply be formed and cold connected, you could in this case benefit from working with half-hard or hard since it will maintain that hardness and give the earring wire strength! You can also use hard wire for wrapping wire or creating rivets. When it comes to decorative wires Rio Grande has an amazing selection! When working with the more fragile options like full bead (item #100916) or half bead (item #101314), always anneal prior to bending to avoid it snapping. I know that melting is definitely an issue many people experience so when you work with decorative wire try to give yourself as many connection points to the baseplate you are soldering to. Heat from below instead of putting the flame directly onto the decorative wire. Titanium clips and soldering clay can be useful for keeping design elements in place while soldering! I also wanted to showcase some of the amazing patterned options and they even have slotted wire (item #101984) this wire has a slot for sheet, so you can create a beautiful edge! When working with the patterned wires try to place your solder in an area which won’t cause it to run into the pattern! I love using Ronda Coryell’s Masking Mud (# 504099) to paint onto the decorative side to prevent solder from flowing onto it! 

Now that you understand the difference between the various gauges and hardnesses you can make your selections with more confidence! You can always call Rio Grande and speak to a member of the tech team should you need further assistance! Their number is 1-800.545-6566. 

Thank you @riogrande for sponsoring this blog post! Be sure to follow them on Instagram! If you haven't already join our community @metalsmithsociety! 

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You can also support the page by making a small monthly donation on Patreon. Your support means the world to me!

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Posted by Corkie Bolton on

This is a gift guide for finding the perfect holiday gift for a jeweler!
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Posted by Corkie Bolton on

Whether you are just taking your first classes in metal work or have been making jewelry for decades, if you are working in silver and gold it is important to save every piece of dust you can! Refining not only your clean scraps but also "dirty" scraps which I will get into below, can put hundred even thousands of dollars back into pocket annually. *I am referring to precious metal scraps throughout the article, not base metals like copper and brass.


Did you know some companies will take items like spent sandpaper, flex shaft bits and dirty paper towels and refine the metal from them? This is "dirty" scrap, it is the paper towel you used to wipe down your bench after sawing out a pendant. It is the contents of your vacuum after you clean around your bench. You can also send the collection bag from inside your dust and fume collectors! All those items I'm afraid to admit that years ago I would toss in my regular garbage or recyling bin. The question you have to ask yourself is whether there is metal dust on the item, if that answer is yes save it in a separate bucket!


Clean scraps (your metal dust and remnants) can be stored separately in a container, you will want to keep gold and silver separate. Depending on where you are refining you may also need to keep different karats of gold separated as well! It is incredibly helpful to have a scale on hand as you will need to write down the various weights of the clean scraps you are sending in. This Gem Oro scale is reasonably priced and measures between 500g - 0.01g it can also measure in dwt, ozt, ct, gn and oz.


United States


Located in Illinois they refine dirty scraps and clean scraps! You simply call Ted 1-815-355-4422 and based on your needs he will send you a bucket for dirty scraps and containers for your clean scraps. Free shipping.

Rio Grande Scrap Program

They accept silver, silver-filled, gold, gold-filled, palladium, platinum and PMC® items. They do not accept sweeps (dirty scraps). They charge a $50 service fee  for the use of their Precious Metals Recycling Service.

You can donate your scraps through Rio Grande to support We Wield The Hammer! Click here to download the form. There is no processing fee
for donated scrap.

To read more information on how to send scrap to Rio Grande, click here.

Stuller Clean Scrap Return Program

They pay market value for silver and gold metal scrap, no processing fee if you select to be paid in store credit. They also have a diamond return program.

To read more information about their program, click here.



They accept all types of material including scrap, lemel (lemel is a jewellery trade term for the small shavings of precious metals such as Gold, Silver, Platinium and Palladium, that are left over from filing and other techniques that handmade jewellery pieces require. Think of it as the wood workshop equivalent of sawdust) & other metal residue to recover gold, silver, platinum and palladium.

To read more information about their program, click here.



They recover and sell silver, gold, platinum, palladium.

To read more information about their program, click here.


Cookson CLAL

They can provide valuations for clean scrap as well as sweeps!

To read more information about their program, click here.


Burger Edelmetalle

To read more information about their program, click here.


NN Enterprises

To read more information about their program, click here.


Morris & Watson

Morris & Watson were the first company to provide a refining service for lemels and sweeps (floor scraps) to the precious metals industry in New Zealand and have since expanded our operations to Australia and Thailand.

To read more information about their program, click here.


J & M

They refine silver, gold an other precious metals in Madrid.

To read more information on how to send scrap to J & M, click here. 



They treat thousands of pounds worth of scrap metal items every day. They can provide valuations for clean scrap as well as sweeps!

To read more information on how to send scrap to Cooksongold, click here.


If you found this information helpful, please consider supporting the page by becoming a patron! Thank you for your support!

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Every week on Metalsmith Society I explore a different tool used in jewelry making for #tooltalktuesday! It has been a wonderful opportunity to deep dive into different tools and discuss with members of our community! Some of these posts are sponsored, without this support the page would not continue to run daily. So thank to all of the sponsors in 2020, when you purchase from them you are supporting the page! Here is my list of the top nine #tooltalktuesday posts of 2020:

Custom John Frei Bench From Otto Frei

My John Frei Custom Workbench which was created for me, by @ottofrei1930 😭It is so amazing I’ve actually been worrying this post would not fully do it justice but here it goes. This bench started with a solid 1-1/2" thick butcher-block top made of select grade maple. The legs, top trim, bottom trim, drawer faces, face frames and arm supports are solid wood and the side and back panels are made of cabinetmaker quality maple-veneered plywood and look beautiful. It is the sturdiest, most gorgeous bench I’ve ever laid eyes on! They are made in Chico, California start to finish by professional cabinetmakers. If you get one of these benches it’s game-over, you have a bench that will last a lifetime and be passed on to another jeweler. An heirloom! 

Purchase the bench here. Be sure to use code MMSOF.

See the post here. 

Excel Blades Sanding Sticks

These are my go-to for cleaning up excess solder around a tight space. The sticks come in grits 80-600 (I have grits 120-600 in the photos) and they each have a rotating belt of sand paper (which is replaceable). What I like is when I get a small lump of solder where I don’t want it, this works quickly but isn’t so strong that I’m easily scratching my piece (which can sometimes happen with a mini file, or a flexshaft bit that rapidly removes material.) The tip of it is rounded so it gets right next to my solder seam. I try to move the stick around so I don’t get any deep scratches. They are so handy to have! The sticks come in different colors as well so I know which one I need to grab.

Purchase the sticks here. Use code METALSMITHSOCIETY 

See the post here.

Jump Ring Maker By Pepe Tools

This @pepetools_usa Jump Ring Maker, which works with my Foredom Flexshaft to create jump rings fast! It has three main parts: a mandrel base which you use to create coils, a cutting box that holds the coil and a hand piece holder with blade that is used with your Foredom H.30 hand piece to cut the coils into jump rings. You will need to mount the mandrel holder and cutting box but you have options! For the mandrel holder I use a c-clamp, this allows me to pack it up when not in use in my small studio. The cutting box I mounted to a piece of wood (which took me two minutes to saw and drill) and then I clamp it with a Irwin Quick Grip Clamp (purchased at my local hardware.) You can also hold it in a vise if you have one. Or mount these items directly to your bench if you have the space! Using the mandrel base is super easy, you pick a wire and mandrel and create your coil. It comes with 20 mandrels sizes 2.5-12mm. In order to keep your jump rings from going everywhere, tape the bottom of your coil! Lubricate the top before placing it in the cutting box. It’s important not to over tighten the screws on the cutting box so I like to look at it from the side to make sure it’s secure but even. Next you set up your blade in the mandrel and place your hand piece in the protective holder. There is a line to help you make sure your blade is in the proper position. Lubricate your blade before you cut. PUT ON YOUR SAFETY GLASSES. Now you’re ready to cut: place the blade in the cutting box, place one hand on the hand piece and the other over the protective shield so it stays level, run your flex shaft at top speed and guide it down as it cuts. Speed is important! Doing it half heartedly or hesitantly can result in a little smoke or it getting jammed either of which is no big deal but it’s not the ideal, smooth cutting experience this thing is capable of! Once you cut you have beautiful jump rings! 

Purchase the Jump Ring Maker here.

See the post here.

Durston Dapping Set

Durston's 24 Piece Doming Set includes a dapping block and carry case! For those completely new to dapping blocks they are an essential tool for doming metal. In my demo I took a 1” circle and made it into a cup, this is done by striking it into the dapping block and annealing in-between hammering into the smaller parts of the block. This is just the start of what you can do with this, you can saw designs and shapes prior to doming or use the tiniest domes for design elements. It’s a great forming tool. We have also shared some great tips with it over the years, for example it is awesome for making ring bands or thick jump rings perfectly circular by giving them a few strikes inside the dapping block. I probably use mine the most often for that purpose.

You can purchase the Dapping Set from Otto Frei and use code MMSOF. Or purchase from Durston directly where you can also save using code MSSDT. 

See the post here.

Jump Ring Maker By David Lee Smith

The Jump Ring Maker Kit - With 28 Coiling Dowels created by our friend @silversmithingretreat this kit is $39.95 and all you need is a variable speed power drill (to slowly wind your wire onto the dowels) to create your jump rings. Once you create your coil you use the Cutting Guide to saw it. SET UP: It took me about five minutes to cut a piece of wood and mount the Cutting Guide. I then use a C-clamp to attach it to my bench, that way I can store it when it is not in use. When mounting the Cutting Guide, whether it’s to a piece of wood or your bench make sure the slot for cutting is hanging off the end. Once you have that set up all you do is pick a dowel, insert it into your variable speed power drill and then create your coil. I like to create a little 90 degree bend in the wire, and place it next to the dowel in the chuck collet and then I slowly wind. Bonus tip: Variable speed power drills are also amazing for twisting wire as you can go slow. You then want to thread your coil onto your saw blade. I think cutting coils takes a little bit of practice and there are some things you can do to set yourself up for success. First use a brand new saw blade and choose an appropriate saw blade for the gauge of wire you are cutting (for example I use a 1/0 for this 19g wire) also be sure to lubricate your blade. I didn’t do this but am thinking of it as I write this, you can slap a piece of painter’s tape on your coil, it would have prevented the jump rings from falling off. Be patient as you cut :) I always found the last jump ring or two stayed connected and I just finished them with a flush cutter. All in all I think this is a great, reasonably priced option if you’d like some support for cutting jump rings.

You can purchase the Jump Ring Maker here.

See the post here.

Whaley Bezel Shears

The Whaley Precision Bezel Cutting 90 Degree Shears I got from @ottofrei1930 are essentially solder shears that have been modified so that you can quickly cut your bezels with a nice 90 edge. As someone who definitely tends to trim bezel wire crooked this shear does make it quick and precise. If you don’t cut a ton of bezel wires or you find it pretty easy to get it super straight this specialty tool probably isn’t for you however If you’re someone who constantly cuts bezel wire you may find this super handy! It will save you time with your production.

You can purchase the shears here from Otto Frei. Use code MMSOF.

See the post here.

Tungsten Dividers from Otto Frei

 I wanted to talk about a tool that is on my list of essential tools for jewelers: DIVIDERS. Dividers are useful for a ton of tasks but here I demonstrate how they help me achieve a nice border for my stamps lines. I LOVE this pair from @ottofrei1930 their Tungsten Dividers, made in the USA (item 135.081) the price point is great at $79, they are sturdy and won’t flex while you work (like some of the economy dividers out there) This is one of those tools that most jewelers don’t need to buy the most expensive version but I think it’s really worth it to invest in a SOLID pair. The tungsten carbide inserts are built for a very long working life and the knurled opener is smooth and opens easily. Also great when you can support tool makers in the USA.

You can purchase the dividers here from Otto Frei use code MMSOF.

See the post here.

Bracelet Bending Bar and Pliers

The @impressart Bracelet Bending Bar and Bracelet Bending Pliers are tools you can use to bend cuffs made out of wire or sheet. For someone wanting to give their bracelets a consistent shape, they work nicely. The bending pliers are awesome! I have already used them for other things besides bracelets. I like their wider jaws and the nylon prevents marring. It’s an awesome set together!!

Available from Impress Art.

See the post here.

Grid Soldering Board

Grid Soldering Boards from @silversmithingretreat these boards are asbestos-free, flame resistant hard soldering boards that can withstand up to 1800F. They provides excellent heat reflection and rapid cool down. They can be great for soldering ear posts, bails and other small elements. They do not flake, can be sanded, cut, carved, drilled or shaped for holding parts. A popular tip we’ve shown in the past is using steel T pins in these boards to prop and hold items, or even drilling directly into this board and then sticking prongs into the board to solder all at once. They can be used with metal clays and in kiln’s as shelves, (up to 927 degrees centigrade). The grid is a very helpful visual for making sure things are properly aligned and help you prevent soldering something crooked (we’ve all been there 🙋‍♀️😂) David marked these in half inch increments and its just a few bucks more to get the board with the grid but if you want to do it yourself he also sells plain ones!

You can purchase the Grid Board here.

See the post here.

Thank you so much for tuning in every week for #tooltalktuesday! If you have a tool you would love to see covered please comment below, or let me know on Instagram! If you are looking for other tool recommendations please visit my #TOOLTALKTUESDAY page!

If you love Metalsmith Society, join my email list! You will receive the latest news about products, blog articles and tutorials! You will also get special promo codes :)

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Please note: This post contains affiliate links.

Sponsored by our friends Gesswein this is my 2020 holiday gift guide for jewelers. Whether you have a loved one who is a jeweler or hobbyist or you are looking for something to splurge on for yourself this list should provide some awesome ideas!

Fordeom Dust Collector

This is a big ticket item but WORTH EVERY PENNY. The Fordom Dust Collector is a powerful vacuum that collects harmful airborne particles and valuable metal dust! I use mine with the additional Foredom® Fishmouth with Shield which quickly hooks onto my GRS Mounting Plate. All that dust I collect, goes straight into my bucket for refining and I get hundreds of dollars back, multiple times a year!

GRS Mounting Plate

If you read the previous item and was wondering what the heck the GRS Mounting Plate is they are AMAZING. If your loved one (or you) dream of having a Benchmate System get started by getting the mounting plate and bench pin! This plate attaches to your bench and from there they can collect all types of vises and attachments! 

GRS Bench Pin Kit

Once you have the mounting plate you slide this bench pin on. The benefit is to be able to quickly change from your bench pin to another tool (like a benchmate) in seconds! 

Sanding Detailer™ Sets

These sanding sticks are awesome, they are great for sanding around smaller details of your work and fitting into tight spaces! This set features eight sticks, grits 220-1200. I like that you can replace the sanding belts.

GRS® MicroBlock® XL

This amazing rotating vise is perfect for holding pieces while setting! You can heat up some of the included Thermoloc and safely secure earrings, pendants, rings or any other piece you are working on.

Gesswein® Stainless Steel Ruler

This a great little add-on item and essential for every bench. A stainless steel ruler with both millimeters and inches.

Panther Mug

I'd be a fool to not include my own merch on my own holiday guide, lol. For the jeweler that also enjoys a cup of coffee or tea you can get the 2020 Panther mug. Only available through 12/31/20. They can also be produced in Europe making them a good choice for those  in Europe that want to avoid customs fees. I also have tons of other stocking stuffers as well: sharpies, pins and stickers. Mugs start at $21 on

ECO-Torque 280 Rotary Micromotor

This micromotor is a great option for someone who does not yet have a flex shaft. It is just under $200 and is wonderful for an at-home set up! It has the torque to handle all the grinding, sanding and polishing we need to do as jewelers but it’s significantly quieter than a flexshaft. 

Automatic Electric Torch Lighter

An electric torch lighter is a game changer! You can light your torch quickly with one hand. I love mine!

SilverSmith™ Air-Acetylene Torch Kit

For the person who is looking to upgrade their torch or is looking for their first torch: the air-acetylene is my favorite set up. You purchase this kit and then go to your local plumbing supply and get the tank of acetylene. Here is my article on How To Choose A Torch For Jewelry Making to see if it is right for you.

Foredom® Rotary Tumbler

I've owned many tumblers and this one is really cool. This innovative tumbler has no belt! Very easy to open and close, runs smooth (no need to prop up one side to get it to turn lol.)

Bur & Tool Caddy

Give the gift of sweet, sweet organization. This bur caddy has various holes to hold your favorite burs and magnetic strips to hold your smaller tools. 

Dedeco® SUNBURST® Knife Edge Radial Discs - 7/8" Assortment

I talk about radial discs every year because for a long time they were what I used to polish my work. If you have a flex shaft this assortment set will get you a high polish. These are knife edge (to get into tight spaces) but they come in a variety of sizes and shapes. You can't go wrong with these!

Online Classes With Lucy Walker

I have personally taken these classes and they are great. Lucy is funny and very knowledgable and I highly recommend her classes. Why not buy one for a loved one and give them something constructive to do in the new year?

Hopefully this gave you some great ideas! All of these tools are available from our sponsor Gesswein and when you use code MSS5  you not only save 5% but they will also give back to the page with each purchase. If you are in CANADA you can also receive the discount by using code: metalsmith. Thanks for checking this out!

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