7 Favorite Cold Connections

25 Jun 2010

Helen Driggs
is the Managing Editor
Lapidary Journal
Jewelry Artist

Screw, Rivet, Tab, or Stitch?
I love soldering just as much as I love cold connections. Luckily, I've got the equipment and knowledge to go either way when it comes to jewelry construction. Depending on what kind of work I am making, I can choose a join that not only does the job, but has the right aesthetic for the piece.

Sometimes, a clean, unobtrusive soldered join is just what the doctor ordered. Other times, I like featuring how a piece is put together, so I'll use a rivet or other connection to make the construction method blatantly obvious. There are also times when a rivet or screw is held deeply and invisibly in my work, or the material I've chosen precludes soldering, and yet other times I like to combine soldering with cold connections. Again, I try to match the connection method with the idea behind the work so there is harmony in the design.

Screws, Nuts, and Bolts
Threaded connections are the most forgiving of the cold joins. All you have to do is drill an appropriate sized hole, insert the hardware, and tighten the nuts and screws or bolts. There are several types of commercially manufactured micro hardware available in several metals.

I prefer brass because I can also solder the flat or hex head of a nut to another piece of metal, and then cold join that assembly after drilling some holes and threading on nuts.

You can also make a "nut" out of anything-if you use a tap on the inside of the drilled hole to create screw threads. Just make sure the thread count is the same on the screw or bolt and the tap you use to cut the threads.

Micro hardware is a fast and easy cold connection that gives an industrial edge to your work. This pendant features steel 0-80 machine screws with titanium ball "nuts" to top off the screw threads. Micro hardware comes in many metals and sizes. Here is some brass, stainless steel, and oxidized 0-80 threaded hardware.

Tube and Wire Rivets
To me, the tube rivet is the easiest cold join. All you need to do is drill the correct size hole, flare the tube ends and planish them down level with the piece. You can also use brass "eyelets" from the craft store as tube rivets.

Wire rivets are a bit harder, because you have to create a rivet "head" and wire is notoriously hard to hold on to. I have a favorite pair of toothed pliers I bought at Home Depot just for making wire rivets.

A sturdy set of toothed electrician's pliers are handy to have in the shop when you are creating wire rivets. I like these because they have nice straight sides and the tool steel is very hard. This pendant features a tube rivet border that is purely decorative. I just liked the look of those little metal outlines around the edge of the piece.

Tabs are an often overlooked cold connection. Think of paper dolls-those little rectangles of paper that you fold around a sleeve or shoulder are tabs, and they work great in metal, too.

Tabs can also be curved. Just saw them out of the same sheet of metal as the rest of the piece.

Tabs can extend up, fold inside, be pressed flush, be decorative and can also be combined with other cold joins like rivets. They can also function as prongs to hold flat-backed objects or stones to a base plate.

Here is a tabbed unit from my classroom cold connected belt demo. The tabs hold a plastic lens from an old toy over a vintage post car. Each unit of the belt features a different type of cold join. This piece is sewn together with wire. Take care not to kink the wire too much to avoid weakened areas that will be prone to breakage.

You can sew metal parts together with wire, thin sheet, fiber, rubber, plastic, leather or just about any other material. The most important thing to remember with stitches is to clean-finish the holes to remove any rough areas, sharp edges or burrs, especially if you are using fiber or another material that will be weakened by friction.

And Don't Forget Folds
A folded join can bring together two sections of metal in a no-solder way. Folds can also be riveted closed or combined in millions of ways. Combinations of micro and macro folds offer literally thousands of ways to hold together metal edges by tension alone.

To learn more about cold connections, check out Susan Lenart Kazmer's DVD, Metalwork: Making Cold Connections with Rivets or my newest DVD, Metalsmith Essentials: Riveting & Cold Connections. They are both great ways to learn riveting techniques for jewelry making. You can also download the Multi-Metal Cold Connected Bracelet project here on Jewelry Making Daily.

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pearlgirl64 wrote
on 25 Jun 2010 6:51 AM

Just signed up as a member yesterday and now I've seen this post - Helen, your  cold connected projects are amazing! :-)

JanineB@7 wrote
on 25 Jun 2010 1:53 PM

This article is definately a keeper...... Have done some wire riveting and it can be tricky peening the wire to form a head.....

You have really opened up so many doable alternatives.

I love to Solder, but I also like the look of a rivited design.

Great Artistry in the above pieces


Suzy@34 wrote
on 24 Jul 2010 5:49 PM

I have been back and forth reading this informing piece several times.  But there is no place where it says you can purchase micro fasteners.  Please advise at to where i might get my hands on these tiny rivets, tubes, nuts and bolts, etc.

Thank you in advance,


on 26 Jul 2010 8:06 AM

Suzy@34:  This company advertises in the back sections of at least one of my magazines (could be Jewelry Artist or another one; doesn't matter) and their website is easy to use.  I haven't heard from anyone who shopped with them, regarding customer satisfaction, product quality, etc., but I haven't heard anything negative yet, either.  Here's the URL of their home page; let us know, please, what you think of them if you shop there, please?  



Terri, Heron Moon Designworks

hveshdon wrote
on 18 Jan 2011 9:43 AM

Do you ever use <a href="http://www.heico-lock.us">wedge lock washers</a> when working with this amazingly beautiful jewelry?