The Process of Electroforming

This is just to show the basic process of one my labradorite rings. Some of the materials I work with require different things. Bone, wood, some stones, or anything porous requires more sealing or different types of sealant. And obviously anything sculpted requires you know. Sculpting. But this is the gist of how electroforming is done. 

Step One


This is the stone. Purrrty. And I cut strips out of copper sheeting. 


Step Two


I hammered the strip of copper around a ring mandrel in the approximate size I want the ring to be and used a two part epoxy to stick that sucker in place. That epoxy looks messy as fuuuuck because it was already getting kind of dry at this point but no worries, it'll get cleaned up. 


Step Three 


I didn't show the backs, but after about 24 hours of waiting for the epoxy to cure I sand it down as smooth as possible to the stone, because it's a lot easier to sand epoxy than copper. These are rings with a conductive paint where I want the copper to form, and then a latex based sealant over the labradorite to protect it during the next step. Some stones need sealed, some don't. You learn a lot about the Mohs scale electroforming, because if it's a 7 or lower, seal. 


Step Four 


Here they are in the bath. The blue liquid they're dangling in is a solution I make with copper sulfate crystals, battery acid, and distilled water. The acidity is why they need to be sealed-to protect them from damage from this solution. Other materials like bone, feathers, or wood need to be carefully sealed not only to protect them but to keep them from contaminating my bath. The light spots are where copper is forming over the conductive paint. This process can take anywhere from 12 to over 48 hours. I rarely form for less than 24 hours because I want that copper thick and sturdy. I don't have to sit and watch the entire time, but they do need to be checked pretty often to make sure my voltage isn't too high/low, that the ring bands aren't sticking to the hooks they're hanging from, not too close to my anode, etc. Objects like feathers take longer. I've kept things in this bath for over 72 hours. These all took about 24. 


Step Five 


Out of the bath and latex seals removed. In need of sanding and polishing. While texture on electroformed jewelry is usually desired, probably not so much on the part touching the skin. Looks not very comfortable, or attractive.


Final product 


I sand down the backside of each ring, the band, and usually the edges with a Dremel tool and by hand for awhile with a fine grit sandpaper for comfortable wear and so they don't catch on your clothes, while leaving the texture around the bezel unless it's sharp-because jewelry getting stuck on clothes is annoying as shit. They get a nice polish. Then I use a patina solution to darken the copper, and polish again. Every ring is sealed with a high quality metal jewelry protector so it doesn't green your fingers. The stuff is food safe, so no toxicity worries. I'd guess that each ring gets at least an hours work on sanding, polishing, and sealing after the forming is done, not including the curing time for the final sealant. And there you have it. Pretty things that go on your fingers. Or whatever. I don't judge.