Silver Class

Two weekends ago, I went to Kota Gede, a part of town that’s famous for its silver. One of the girls at my language school had found a silver working class there and it was cheap—by American standards—so we decided to go.

It turned out that the class was located off the main road and down several very narrow streets. Our cab driver had a hard time driving through them, got lost, asked for directions, and executed one thirty-or-so-point turn. In the end, though, we made it, paid the driver, and walked through a doorway into a small, walled courtyard. There were two fairly old men sitting on chairs in front of one building and no one else in sight.

We looked at them.

One of them gestured toward a building to our right, so we went in and found our teacher waiting for us. Inside were three wooden tables with stools around them and little drawers built into them. On one end of the room was a small whiteboard and at the other, a sink. Our teacher invited us to sit at the table closest to the whiteboard and began to explain a little of the silver working process.

I forgot about the proportions of silver to other metals almost at once, and focused instead on the bucket of sulfuric acid in which we were supposed to wash the silver. In my list of chemistry goals (which I haven’t written yet) there’s a bullet about not worrying about chemistry for a year. But if chemistry comes right up to me, there’s no reason to ignore it.

I was excited about the sulfuric acid. I was also excited about the gasoline-powered torch complete with a foot pump. It was almost like being in lab again, except that I didn’t have any safety glasses and I wasn’t forced to light the torch myself. (Bunsen burners are fine. Lighting Bunsen burners is scary.)

Since we’d opted for the full-day course, we had the opportunity to make two pieces of jewelry. I knew I definitely wanted to make butadiene earrings and decided that a ring would be a nice second project.

Our teacher helped us through the hard parts (like soldering together the loop on the earring), but he did a good job of teaching us how to do things on our own. After making a pair of earrings and a ring, I’m by no means good at working with silver. I am, however, good at filing and sandpapering. More than once, I looked at my hands, dusted with little flecks of glitter, and thought, That’s silver.

How to Make Silver Jewelry

  1. Heat with torch.
  2. Drop in sulfuric acid.
  3. Rinse with water.
  4. Shape.
  5. Solder as necessary.
  6. Drop in sulfuric acid.
  7. Rinse with water.
  8. File and sand as necessary.
  9. Repeat steps 4-8 as necessary.
  10. Heat a final time with torch.
  11. Drop in sulfuric acid and let sit for fifteen minutes.
  12. Rinse with water.
  13. Polish with a seed that creates a soapy foam.
  14. Admire.

3 thoughts on “Silver Class

  1. Dear Zoe,
    I wrote this once but apparently don’t have the enter comment idea down. Anyway, you writing is terrific – the solver making sounded most interesting, especially with your chemistry background. I once burned many holes in my best wool pants in chem lab with sulphuric acid – not a good experience.
    So we have Perrine(French) here for two weeks and are having many cultural experiences.
    With all this silver making, I am looking forward to my Christmas present. You had better send your wish list before Thanksgiving as it may take a bit longer.love, a.carol

  2. Zoë,
    Colin and I love your photos and reading about your Shansi experience! Looking forward to your visit to Hong Kong, if you’re able, when you’re able.
    –Carrie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s