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How to Create Soldered Glass Jewelry Pendants (Soldering Iron Art)

Gayle Dowell is known as the Prairie Jeweler. She creates jewelry using prairie grasses and wildflowers in fine silver and 22k gold.

Kansas Coneflower

Kansas Coneflower

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.
The Lamb

The Lamb

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.

Stormy Seas

Stormy Seas

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.

Practice Tips

  1. Stay relaxed and apply the solder with a light, controlled and consistent touch.
  2. Use a thin layer of solder and build up from there.
  3. After soldering, use steel wool and polish to bring out a nice shine.
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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.

Strength of Faith

Strength of Faith

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 carolboshnack@gmail.com.

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:

Great lens.

lewisgirl on April 04, 2014: