Gayle Dowell is known as the Prairie Jeweler. She creates jewelry using prairie grasses and wildflowers in fine silver and 22k gold.
Soldered Glass Jewelry Combines Two Passions: Watercolor and Jewelry Making
In this tutorial, I'll be explaining how I make soldered art glass jewelry, because I can't keep a secret—well, at least when it comes to how I make my jewelry. I've learned so much from other people about how they create their pieces that I want to help others in their jewelry-making journey.
Also, when people find out my monetary investment as well as the work that goes into each piece, I think they gain a better understanding and appreciation for handmade items.
Being a watercolor artist for 20 years—and now a jewelry designer for 10 years—I've come up with a way to wear my watercolor paintings as jewelry. I've combined my passion for watercolor painting with my passion for jewelry making. After painting and signing my miniature artwork, I create a frame using glass and solder. Let me show you what I've done.
Step 1: Get the Right Tools
Any art medium or craft takes practice. Learning to control and master a craft takes time. Using the right tools and quality materials gives better results while practicing, keeping frustration to a minimum.
- Soldering Iron: Find a good quality soldering iron that allows temperature control. I use the Weller 100 watt soldering iron.
- Soldering Tips: Differently-sized soldering tips allow work on differently-sized pieces. For jewelry I use a small tip (1/8 inch).
- Thermostat: Purchasing a thermostat helps you keep the soldering iron at a constant temperature.
- Soldering Stand: A good heavy soldering stand is a must for safety. I have one that includes a sponge to keep my soldering iron tip clean.
- Third Hand or Large Clip: A third hand or some type of large clip are good for holding my piece while I solder, as it keeps my hands from getting burned from the iron or the work as it heats up.
Step 2: Gather Up Some Basic Supplies
Besides tools that will last, supplies will be needed for creating the piece. These are just some of the basic supplies that are needed, besides the artwork that will be placed between the glass:
- Glass Tiles: Glass tiles can be found in all shapes and sizes, beveled or not beveled, and colored or clear.
- Jewelry-Grade, Lead-Free Solder: There are different types of solder; be sure to use lead-free solder if making jewelry. I use Canfield Silvergleem. It produces a high shine and contains a good amount of sterling silver. It melts at 430°F and has instant freeze, which lets the artist sculpt designs with the solder. I've also used Canfield - DGS, which is a less expensive alternative, but is still lead-free, contains some silver and is easy to use.
- Gel Soldering Flux: Using a gel flux is recommended as liquid flux can leak under the adhesive to your art between the glass.
- Adhesive-Backed Copper Tape
- Steel Wool
- Solder Polish
- Old Paint Brush
- Bone Folder
How to Choose and Use Copper Tape
It's important to calculate the thickness of the piece (with the art and the two pieces of glass) before purchasing copper tape, as the tape comes in different thicknesses depending on the thickness of the piece. You need to measure your two pieces of glass with your art inserted between. Use a tape thickness that will give you about 1/8" extra overlap on both sides, or a total of 1/4" extra.
An assortment of copper tapes come in different widths to accommodate different glass thicknesses for different projects. Silver-back copper tape is good to use if the piece is transparent and the back can be seen through the art. It is best to match the adhesive side of the tape color with the resulting color of your solder. If the piece will be darkened with chemicals, use the black backed tape. For my work, any copper tape will work as I fill the whole glass area with my art and the back cannot be seen through the piece. For a more decorative look, wavy copper tape is available.
Step 3: Practice First to Perfection
The video below will help you learn how to use the soldering iron and how to put together the piece for soldering. After watching the video and gaining information on the process of soldering, it would be good to practice soldering skills before starting on a masterpiece! There is a definite learning curve.
- Stay relaxed and apply the solder with a light, controlled and consistent touch.
- Use a thin layer of solder and build up from there.
- After soldering, use steel wool and polish to bring out a nice shine.
Step 4: Add Embellishments
After soldering, embellishments can be added. I use craft wire and shape it into a bail using round nose pliers. I use metal embellishments that are premade and also make my own from wire. Embellishments add a nice touch and make each piece even more unique.
Keep Silver Metal Embellishments and Wire Handy
A collection of assorted embellishments will inspire creativity. Keeping these on hand is always a good idea to generate new ideas. If you do not have or can't find silver-toned embellishments to use, I have used brass and copper metal embellishments and coated the metal with gel flux and a thin coat of solder to match the soldered edges of my glass art.
Further Resources for Soldered Art
Learning how to solder is easy if you have the right resources to learn. Pretty Little Things: Collage Jewelry, Trinkets and Keepsakes is the book that I used in learning how to do this type of project. It includes several great projects using not only glass tiles but also other glass surfaces. Good luck!
© 2011 Gayle Dowell
Questions or Comments?
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on May 23, 2017:
Bonjour. Non. Je suis désolée.
Joan Standridge on September 15, 2016:
I was going to buy the solder iron that you recommended but the reviews were conflicting. A couple said it was not temperature controled and I could not figure out where to order the 1/8 inch tip. Help please
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on May 07, 2015:
Thank you Diana for the sweet complement.
Diana Abrahamson on April 24, 2015:
Beautiful art in your soldering jewelry pieces. You are very talented!
Linda Hoxie from Idaho on August 10, 2014:
Very cool, love the looks of these! Thank you for sharing.
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on July 23, 2014:
@sndware: Yes, you will. The solder will not adhere to the china. It will only adhere to some metals.
sndware on July 23, 2014:
Do I need to use copper tape to solder china pieces?
Amine from Doha, Qatar on June 14, 2014:
beautiful idea, from a beautiful person
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on June 05, 2014:
@Susan Zutautas: This has always been my hope: that I could inspire someone to create. I'd love to see what you do!
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on June 05, 2014:
Your pieces are beautiful! You've given me an idea as I do stained glass myself and I may have to try making some jewelry since I have all the supplies and equipment needed. I'd just need to purchase some embellishments.
fathomblueEG on May 22, 2014:
Pure artist you are. Beautiful work. I'm loving it for sure!
traveldestinations on May 18, 2014:
Some very cool jewelry.
marley101 lm on May 08, 2014:
Realy nice :)
Thanks for share
Carol Houle from Montreal on May 04, 2014:
Very cool. Would love to make a photo frame or a small lamp with these things. Sigh. One day.
diengiadung on May 02, 2014:
Thanks You very much
astevn816 lm on April 30, 2014:
I enjoyed this lens and I learned a great deal
Alison Williams on April 24, 2014:
Really pretty and unique jewellery. :)
fathomblueEG on April 24, 2014:
Very beautiful and amazing designs. Thank you for sharing!
Nithya Venkat aka Vellur from Dubai on April 24, 2014:
Great lens, creative and useful.
anonymous on April 22, 2014:
Some beautiful pictures here! Along with fantastic tips!
VspaBotanicals on April 15, 2014:
Really beautiful, especially the strength of Faith! Thanks!
Maggie42 on April 13, 2014:
This is a great informative lens - thanks I would never have considered this something I could do but after reading this I think I can
ismeedee on April 12, 2014:
I'd love to try making this jewellery. So pretty and looks fun to do!
carol-nobleboshnack on April 11, 2014:
I love this lens. Do you sell your work? If so please give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
katiesnow on April 10, 2014:
beautiful..love the lens!
Stanley Green from Czech Republic on April 09, 2014:
My favorite is the lamb necklance. Beautiful jewelry by the way!
AnonymousC831 from Kentucky on April 08, 2014:
lewisgirl on April 04, 2014:
I love this lens!
QuiltFinger from Tennessee on April 04, 2014:
Your pieces are so gorgeous. What a wonderful and beautiful way to turn your paintings into wearable jewelry art. I don't think I could manage all of the skills here, but you definitely have the talent!
Im2keys on April 04, 2014:
your work is beautiful! this is something I would love to try
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on April 03, 2014:
@Lionrhod: Thank you for your comment and question. I painted on watercolor paper and then sandwiched the painting between two pieces of glass.
Lionrhod from Orlando, FL on April 03, 2014:
This is so incredibly beautiful. Thank you. My only question is I'm a little confused on how you incorporated the watercolor and prevented it from getting washed away. Did you paint directly on the glass or sandwich paper in the glass? Either way, gorgeous. You've inspired me.
sha-ron on February 28, 2014:
I love these different types of crafts always looking for something new to do
susan369 on January 20, 2014:
Some of those metal embellishments would look so great in digital scrapbooking!
NicciRosa on January 15, 2014:
Very beautiful jewelry and works of art! I personally love the Stormy Seas!
Charlotte Realtor on January 12, 2014:
Just beautiful! I wish I had more time on my hands to do some of this - it just looks like a wonderfully relaxing craft!
Joy Neasley from Nashville, TN on December 10, 2013:
They are beautiful. I love "Strength of Faith".
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on November 30, 2013:
@retrochalet: Thank you! Be sure and let me know how your project goes. I'd love to know.
Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer from Hedgesville, WV on November 28, 2013:
hey, this is great, I am so going to do this. I have some vintage ephemera I'd love to set in a necklace. Thanks so much and your work is lovely.
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on November 16, 2013:
@TanjaCrouch: These would be a great project for displaying photos. I've seen people make jewelry with their children's school pictures. Makes a great gift for a grandmother.
TanjaCrouch on November 14, 2013:
I love this lens. I wanted to make some of these with my photographs.
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on October 03, 2013:
@Stuwaha: Glad it went well, and yes, there is a definite learning curve.
Stuwaha on October 03, 2013:
@Gayle Dowell: It went well, still have a lot to learn though in terms of technique. :)
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on October 02, 2013:
@Stuwaha: I'm excited for you! Let me know how it goes!
Stuwaha on October 02, 2013:
Finally got all the supplies together and ready to break out the soldier tonight. Very excited. Thank you again for introducing me to this craft :)
anonymous on September 18, 2013:
Very pretty !
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on September 02, 2013:
@anonymous: Glad that this helped!
anonymous on September 02, 2013:
Thank you so much, perfect for the beginner. I was a little lost until I saw this :D
steadytracker lm on August 25, 2013:
Wow, those are really cool looking. Great job with the lens and the art. Thank you for sharing.
anonymous on August 25, 2013:
Your work is beautiful & this has been so helpful! Thank you so much!!
Beauty27 on August 17, 2013:
lovely....really very beautiful
sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on July 23, 2013:
admiring your creativity. thanks for step by step instructions about a wonderful art.
socialcx1 on July 01, 2013:
Hi, I tried doing this years ago and enjoyed it. Maybe I should give it another go
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on June 27, 2013:
@anonymous: I've never used anything but watercolor paper with my original watercolor paintings. Hope you find a solution. I know that others have done this before with printed material, but just not sure if they used digital images.
anonymous on June 27, 2013:
@Gayle Dowell: I feel like the only person having trouble with this. I bought matte paper and a semi-gloss paper tonight and I'm going to give that a try. Do you ever use printed images or do you just use pictures from books, etc? I feel like that limits me so much. I tried to print on my inkjet but a lot of the paper says it can't get over a certian heat and that it fades in the sun. not sure how to solve these issues. I also tried covering a little square in diamond glaze and one in modge podge. I'm going to test those tomorrow. Photopaper just seems to want to stick to the glass. :( Thank you for responding!
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on June 26, 2013:
@anonymous: Hi Molly. Not exactly sure what may be causing the issue. I've not used printed images from a laser printer. If you do not think that the gel flux is seeping under your copper tape, then I'm not sure what is happening. You may try laminating your image to see if that helps, or even print on card stock to see if things change. Wish I could help more. Let me know if you find a cure!
anonymous on June 26, 2013:
I'm having trouble with images that have been printed and I haven't found anyone I can ask for help. I thought maybe you could help me. I bought a digital file off etsy of 1x1" square art to use to soldering charms. I took the images to the print shop and had them printed on a laser printer thinking this would prevent the glass and paper from getting weird and making a 'wet' look. It didn't work, sadly. It still got weird. Maybe a combo of the paper/ink and the heat? There is a wet looking spot in the middle of the charm on both sides. When I use images from books I have no problems at all but I'd love to have the ability to use images I've printed. Can anyone help me figure out what I can do to use printed images?
Melissa Miotke from Arizona on June 25, 2013:
These are really pretty!
Lee Hansen from Vermont on May 31, 2013:
I love the way you've combined two artistic talents into a unique craft with this idea. My step daughter is a lapidary and metalsmith but I'd love to be able to preserve tiny artworks or dried flowers using a soldered pendant. I have one, a small Queen Anne's lace in copper, that I bought at a flea market years ago - it's a favorite to wear or to hang on the Christmas tree.
anonymous on May 22, 2013:
Your jewelry is beautiful.
anonymous on May 22, 2013:
Perfect lens,I will try it as soon as possible:) Thanks for sharing instructions :)
kmhrsn on May 16, 2013:
Your work is gorgeous! So creative.
LUMOSE on May 16, 2013:
Great lens. Good for a gift idea, but I'm not sure that I am able to make it one.
Lori Green from Las Vegas on May 15, 2013:
Bravo. Let me tell you. It's not as easy as you make it look. I agree practice. I haven't done this in a long time, but I think it's time to dig out my supplies. Very inspiring.
Sitabodang LM on May 15, 2013:
Great lens, congrats on your Purple Star!
geosum on May 15, 2013:
Lovely jewelry. Thanks for sharing your techniques.
NailArtDesign LM on May 15, 2013:
Love it, great lens. All of the jewelry looks gorgeous :)
Stuwaha on May 15, 2013:
I've made many keychains with tiny watercolor paintings but never thought that I could make pendants that were actually wearable and attractive. Thank you for this, I'm inspired. :)
VineetBhandari on May 15, 2013:
Great lens :)
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on May 14, 2013:
Love your artistic talent as presented here. Beautifully designed and created. As one who previously created stained glass windows, I can very much see myself making this types of jewelry. Thanks for stimulating the artist within.
Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on May 06, 2013:
You have some very nice designs. I love jewelry and would like to make some.
PhilVardy on May 03, 2013:
Beautiful and Inspiring - thanks!
Sparkler923 on April 13, 2013:
I just love this! I make a lot of beaded jewelry, and I have never tried soldered glass jewelry before, but I think I will have to try this soon. Thanks for introducing me to a new technique.
mattcut on March 28, 2013:
Super-fantastic ! Gorgeous and highly innovative-creative ! Thank you for making this beautious lens !
mattcut on March 28, 2013:
Your handiwork is dazzling !
anonymous on March 14, 2013:
Nice share !
Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on March 01, 2013:
Thorough tutorial and I think your mix of watercolor and solder has produced lovely results. The craftsmanship is telling and detailed.
jayavi on February 21, 2013:
lovely lens. thanks for sharing about this with us .
rattie lm on February 03, 2013:
I am so envious of people with artistic talent. These are just lovely. Thank you.
CoolFool83 on January 26, 2013:
Some beautiful art jewelry!
MonisMas LM on December 26, 2012:
I make some simple jewelry, but these stuff are so much more fun. And absolutely beautiful!
Kay on December 21, 2012:
These are simply stunning. I don't think I could do this but wish I could. Blessed and a very merry Christmas to you!
anonymous on December 18, 2012:
This is very good information, I like it, thank you for sharing. :)
anonymous on December 13, 2012:
I noticed that when I was here in September the angel dust didn't take....guess enough time has passed and I'm pleased to bless this gem again.
artsybookmom on December 11, 2012:
Beautiful!! Thanks for visiting my lens. I really love this idea and may have to invest in the supplies and do it myself.
anonymous on December 08, 2012:
Michey LM on November 25, 2012:
I am glad you cannot keep a secret, as I like them, they are really great, thanks for info! Blessings!
Elizabeth Sheppard from Bowling Green, Kentucky on November 23, 2012:
I really like these. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise! ::::blessed::::
Indigo Janson from UK on November 23, 2012:
These soldered art glass pieces are so pretty! Thanks for sharing your secrets.
miaponzo on November 20, 2012:
Wow! I love the soldering idea! I would love to try that! Blessed!
liaaah on November 18, 2012:
These are great ideas :)
anonymous on November 18, 2012:
I do make a little beaded jewelry now and then, I also used to make stained glass lamps and stuff, making these would be a snap for me - thanks for the great ideas...
Darcie French from Abbotsford, BC on November 17, 2012:
Beautiful, my mother works with stained glass and would probably love this jewelry tutorial as well.
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on November 16, 2012:
@anonymous: I don't think that it matters. I've just used craft wire that I had on hand.
anonymous on November 16, 2012:
Does it matter what kind of jump rings and wire you use on your soldering projects? Thank you!
CraftyDaddy on November 15, 2012:
well done, and a great display of talent.
anonymous on November 15, 2012:
These are gorgeous pieces and you are a very talented artist. I am "pinning" this for my artsy followers. Also, thank you for your recent visit!
nickybutler on November 14, 2012:
Beautiful pieces! I'd love to give this a go
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on November 02, 2012:
@anonymous: Thanks for visiting. I reviewed the videos and at least on my computer, everything seems to be working correctly.
anonymous on November 01, 2012:
You're solder videos are playing sound & no pictures.