How to Make Fold Formed Earrings

asymmetrical earrings hammered hand forged handmade jewelry making reclaimed sterling silver tutorial work in progress

Fold forming is a versatile hammering technique for beginners and advanced metalsmiths alike. This freeform approach to jewelry design allows you to start simple and continue toward more complex folds. Here, I'm going to take you through making a pair of earrings with just one fold. I'm going to assume that you already know a few basics, like annealing, drilling, and polishing. These earrings will be asymmetrical. Each earring will be unique, but compliment one another.

sterling silver fold formed earrings by Kristin Ellis

To begin the earrings, you are going to need some sterling silver discs, about 1 inch or 2.5 cm in diameter. They should be dead soft. If they aren't, anneal anneal and pickle. Use thin metal, 24 gauge or thinner.

folding the discs for sterling earring jewelry making project

Take your clean silver disc and hold it over the edge of your anvil and hit it to bend the disc roughly in half.

folding the disc in half to make fold formed earrings

Lay the bent disc on your anvil and hammer it down flat against itself. Anneal and pickle the disc. In the picture above you see annealed discs at top left, the disc in progress in the middle, and flattened discs on the right.

opening the folded silver discs to make the earrings

Next, slide a knife or other edged tool into the fold to separate it.

opening the fold of the earrings

You need to open the fold enough so that when you hammer it down on the horn of the anvil, both sides will separate.

opening the earrings on a small steel anvil using a rawhide mallet

Place the open side down on a small anvil horn and hit the fold down vertically over the folded edge. You will begin to see the half moon shape open up into a leaf-like form.

hammering the fold formed earrings to give them their final shape and texture

Next, hold one side along the horn of the anvil and hammer it to give it shape and texture. You can experiment here with different hammers and angles. Repeat on the other side. 

cross pien hammer with earrings in progress

A light weight cross pien hammer is my favorite hammer for this technique. The earrings on the left are opened and ready for final hammering. The ones on the right side are hammered to shape and ready for the next step.

earrings, with holes drilled, oxidized, and polished

This is how they look after some finishing steps. I've drilled a hole where I want the top of the earring to be. I sanded down rough edges, oxidized them with liver of sulphur, and then polish them. 

the finished fold formed earring by Kristin Ellis

Thread ear wires through the drilled hole and close the ear wire for the final step.


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