by Jan Loney 

Materials: 1.5” x 2” x 18 gauge sterling silver sheet (or metal of choice)

3” x 12-gauge sterling silver round wire

Pin back findings, hinge, clasp and pin

Hard and medium silver solder

The Ginko tree is an ancient tree that has not changed over the last 2 million years. I love the leaves; they have a distinctive shape and texture which lend themselves readily to a brooch, earrings or pendant.

I begin with actual leaves and you may wish to as well. You may wish to enlarge or shrink it to suit your style.

I make these out of sterling silver, but they can be made just as easily from copper, brass, nickel silver or steel. Experiment with different gauges of sheet and wire to create your own distinctive Ginko leaf brooch.

I use a glue stick to adhere my pattern to the sheet and cut it out with a jeweler’s saw. This allows you an accurate cut and wastes little material. Next, I file the edges to remove burs and smooth any areas that have sharp edges or lines. I use the sharp edge of a half round file to get into the little grooves at the bottom edge of the leaf and create a small bevel the top edge.

Using a fairly flat hammer, forge about one half inch of both ends of the wire to produce a flat area. Don’t forge it out too thin or too wide. I make each stem about 3/16” wide, a few taps will do. This will make it easier to solder the wire to the leaf and gives you a place to attach the clasp of the pin finding.

Sweat solder the wire onto the leaf. I use hard solder and paste flux with an acetylene torch. Take care to heat the metal evenly to soldering temperature. If one area is too hot it will melt; when non-ferrous metals turn bright orange they are telling you that it is ready to melt, pay attention! Let air cool and pickle in a solution of sodium bisulfate for a few minutes to remove cooked on flux. Never combine ferrous and non-ferrous metals in the same pickle or it will copper plate your work.

File the area where the stem and leaf meet to create a seamless appearing transition. Hammer this area slightly to bring the two surfaces together, file again. Forge the leaf with a cross peen hammer that has a mirror like finish and a narrow profile. I begin in the center of the leaf and work outwards. This is the most critical and most difficult part of the process.

My hammer marks overlap one another and radiate from the stem of the leaf towards the edges.

You may want to practice on scrap material before attempting your final work. Using the cross peen, I forge the end of the stem, (the one not attached to the leaf) and widen it to about 3/8”.

With medium silver solder, attach the pin catch onto to wide part of the stem you have just hammered, solder the pin hinge onto the leaf where the stem meets the leaf. Pickle again. Remove any fire scale (the purplish copper haze) with emery paper, finishing the entire piece to a 600-grit finish. Using a file, I draw the edge of the file along the stem to texture it.

 

Next, bend the stem with pliers covered in leather to avoid marring the surface. Make the stem arch up and around so that a 2” pin stem will fit between the hinge and catch. Again, using the pliers with soft jaws, form the leaf so that it curves and undulates as a real leaf does. 

 

Gently rivet the pin stem in the hinge taking care not to distort the hinge.

Polish first with bobbing compound on a stitched muslin buff (on a polishing motor), and finish with white diamond polishing compound on a similar buff. 

SAFETY TIP: Wear a respirator and take care not to inhale polishing compound which has silica in it, it is not good for the lungs.

Feel free to contact Jan Loney at 412-621-4682 for details, materials, or questions.

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