Cutting pure silver for jewelry

I’m using a Nomad for cutting recesses in pure silver and then applying vitreous (glass) enamel into the recesses. There have been some challenges and a learning curve. But I’m now to the point of getting some pretty good results.

I cut the recess about 1/2 the depth (0.025") of 16 gauge (0.050") fine silver. I use a 1/8" end mill (#102Z) for the larger areas followed by 1/16" (#112Z) and 1/32" (#122) to define the sharp interior corners. I hold down the silver sheet with the blue fixturing wax. The white wax is definitely not strong enough to hold small pieces of silver.

After some touch-up work (filing edges, textur to the recessed areas, and adding a slight dome) I apply the vitrous (glass) enamel using classic cloisonne techniques and fire in a kiln to fuse the enamel to the silver.


I would enjoy hearing from others who may have experience cutting silver and comparing feeds/speeds.


Those look great- really nice work.

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Not that I’m likely to ever mill silver but what F&S did you use for those? I suspect to they must be close to aluminum.

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I started with the feeds/speeds for aluminum that Winston uses, but I found that it was too aggressive and I reduced them some. Here’s what I’m using now:

The coated mills definitely last longer than the uncoated mills.


Awesome project and great looking results!
Does the firing for the glass also harden the silver? Most of the sheets I’ve seen are “Dead soft”

The 999FS I buy comes “1/4 Hard”. Because it’s pure, you can’t harden it with temperature cycles as you would with alloys. You can work harden it, for example, by hammering or rolling. The cutting/milling work does harden it some. Exposing it to high temperatures when firing the glass returns it to “dead soft”. I always do a final polish in a tumbler with stainless steel shot and that will harden it some. Fortunately, the silver doesn’t have to be particularly hard for earrings, pendants, etc.

Having worked some with 6061 aluminum and CDA #110 copper (which is 999 pure), I would say that the fine silver is not as “gummy” either of those.

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These are beautiful, do you have a site where you sell your jewelry?

Most of it gets sold at a local art gallery – Van Gogh’s Ear in Prescott, AZ. This is just a hobby for me so I don’t really make enough to sell anywhere else.


Your jewelry is beautiful. Since Silver spot is about $16-17.00 do you collect the shavings and remelt and/or recycle them.

Yes, I bought a small 1 gallon shop vac and keep it separate for collecting only silver. I send my scrap silver to RioGrande who pays 85% of spot market for scrap. I keep my fine silver, sterling, and swarf separate and return in separate baggies to RioGrande.


Nice work. I looked you up at the gallery only to be surprised that you are a woodworker. Very Cool crossover.
Thanks for sharing.

The sawdust has really caused me allergy problems over the years, so I started into enamel on silver a few years ago.

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Very sorry to hear about the allergy — it’s interesting the number of folks who move from woodworking to metalwork — John Economaki’s work was markedly changed when he had similar difficulties:

I have a few Bridge City Tool Works tools, and really would like a few more, esp. the older ones.


Nice work - it looks like you also shape .025" deep coil to cordon off those leaf and other smaller sub divided areas of color. Are those just laid in loose? The glass colors do not seem to bleed, even if there is not a tight seal at the joints?

The small leaves on the leaf pendant and the internal features on the triangle earrings are cloisonne wire – about 0.004" thick wire set vertically. The wires are set in place with tweezers and then the powdered glass is added. This is a common technique in cloisonne enamel work. In addition to adding a silver accent, it also serves well to separate colors where high contrast is needed. When fusing the glass, the temperature is high enough to fuse the individual grains of glass, but the molten glass is very thick and does not run into adjacent areas very easily.