I have seen coins (buffalo nickels) bent to make buttons or jewelry. How is this done?
Coin nickel is made up of copper and nickel. In order to convert a coin like this into a button you must:
Anneal with a torch
Dome with a dapping punch set
Solder a metal jumpring as a button shank
Toss in a tumbler to harden and polish
Use polishing papers as a final finish
Annealing is the process of heating and cooling the metal--rendering it softer and easier to work with and is done using a torch, soldering block and safety precautions, including wearing safety goggles. Each metal has its own melting point so close observation is important when annealing. The rule of thumb is to heat until cherry red. The cooling part of the equation can be done by just allowing the metal to air cool or to carefully transport the metal using tweezers into a bowl of cold water.
Doming is done using a dapping punch and will form the metal into a nice curved shape. From there you can punch holes in the metal then use as a sew-on button or add a jumpring to the back side to be a button shank. Tumbling the finished button will work harden the metal, making it stronger and able to withstand wear and tare as well as will polish the metal. The metal can then be polished further using polishing pads to achieve the finish you desire and one that matches the style of your finished design.
- Sandra Lupo, Metalsmith, Jewelry Instructor and Swarovski crystal Ambassador