Make an easy copper ginkgo leaf pendant that has a bit of rustic handmade quality! All you need to know is some basic jewelry making skills (like using pliers and a hammer).
- copper sheet, 24 gauge (or, you can buy the plain copper ginkgo leaf from my shop)
- copper wire, 22 or 20 and 16 gauge (if you use a ready made clasp you don’t need the 16 gauge wire)
- leather cording, 18 inches, or any length you want your hanging cord to be, any color and thickness you prefer (I used 1 1/2 mm green leather cord)
- clear coat suitable for metal (spray or paint on, your preference, I used Protectaclear, you can also use whatever you can find at the local hardware store e.g Krylon)
- metal cutting snips or jeweler’s saw (you can use standard snips from your local hardware store, no need to buy special jewelry ones)
- pliers (round nose and chain nose or flat), bench block or vise and a hammer
- torch (simple basic propane handheld mini torch is fine, same kind you use for flaming food)
- sandpaper (300 and 600 grit or similar, all purpose is fine), or if you have a sanding belt, dremel or a lathe with sanding wheels you can use that
- if you want to color your copper you can use a dye suitable for metal jewelry such as Swellegant
Cut and Shape Copper Leaf
Draw your desired shape of leaf on cardboard or paper and cut it out. Trace the shape onto your copper sheet. You can use a sharpie pen, pencil or similar. Cut the shape out with metal snips (or you can also cut it using jeweler’s saw). If you’re new at cutting metal with snips I would recommend taping your major fingers, the edges of metal can be very sharp.
Anneal the copper shape (torch it until it glows faint red, pic 2). Note to use a non-flammable surface. See my annealing video if you haven’t done this before. The purpose is to make the metal softer so you get better texture on it. Texture the leaf using metal wire and a hammer on your bench block or vise. (see pic 3)
Sand and shape your leaf until it is smooth on the edges. If you’re using sandpaper you can roll it onto a dowel or a pen to sand curves. Start with the lower grit paper and finish with the higher. Below is my shaping/sanding/buffing video using wheels on a lathe, makes things so much faster! (Yes, until not long ago I sanded everything by hand! Sanding by hand is very doable though, so don’t fear it.)
Color or Flame the Leaf
Make sure your copper shape is clean and grease free. Flame paint the leaf using your propane torch or color it with using metal paints/dies or some patina solution like liver of sulfur (liver of sulfur is a darkening patina, you can find instructions online on how to use it).
Remember with the flaming: If the copper begins to get dark, that means you overheated it! You can always sand or use steel wool to buff away the flaming and start over if you don’t like the result.
Clear Coat the Leaf
It is important to finish the copper with a clear coat to seal the colors and prevent tarnish. You can use whatever clear coat you prefer, I like Protectaclear because it is very durable. (But it also takes three days to cure, so if you have time limitations pick something else.) Any regular spray on clear coat from your local hardware store also works (such as Krylon or Valspar), they are just not as durable for heavy use. I would use two coats minimum, let dry in between. Also, if you used a paint on color the brand of coloring often have their own top coat. This is a necklace, they generally don’t go through major wear and tear. If it was a bracelet I would suggest to use heavier coating.
Finish the Ginkgo Leaf Necklace
Now all you have left is finishing the necklace with cording. In my sample I made the neck of the leaf long enough so that you can just bend it over with pliers to make a bail. (round nose pliers work the best so you can make it round) Easy! You can make your own cord ends or buy some, many styles are readily available online. If you use a manufactured cord end you insert the end of your cording in it and use pliers to crimp it (squeeze), you can also add some glue if you wish. I made my own simple wire wrapped ending using copper wire and made a simple hook clasp. (picture 6). If you decide to use a ready made clasp, you need a jumpring to attach it to your cord end.
Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions or want more information on any of the steps!