The Anatomy of a Custom Ring
Posted on May 15 2018
When I make custom jewelry, I like to send my clients work in progress photos as I’m making their custom piece. It lets them see the work involved and be a part of the process. It also builds some excitement to the finished piece. So I thought this would make a perfect blog post to share the process of creating a custom ring.
My client Stephanie, saw one of my rings at a show a while back. While she loved the overall design, she didn't love the stone that was in the ring (yellow citrine). It also wasn't in her size. She asked if I could make it in her size with a different stone. So I ordered some possible stone choices and we met up when I received them. She picked the stone she liked the best and we double checked her ring size. Then I got to work!
The first step was to measure the bezel strip around the stone. The bezel is what holds the stone in place in the setting. It must be a perfect fit - neither to loose or too tight and the ends of strip must meet up exactly, in order to get a perfect join once they are soldered together.
Can we take a moment to admire that blue flash in the stone? Gorgeous. It a labradorite. You can read more about this stone in my gemstone blog post.
The next step involved creating all of the decorative components to surround the stone in the setting. This involved bending silver wire into a spiral shape to surround the bezel setting and then filing and sanding the ends to a tapered point. I also made the granulations (or balls) by melting successively smaller pieces of silver wire.
This is the point were the bezel setting and the decorative components get soldered onto a silver back plate to form the top of the ring.
Some parts of the process just aren't all that pretty. You have to keep faith that it will all come together in the end. Fingers crossed!
Now all of the components are soldered onto the back plate to form the top of the ring. It still isn't pretty yet, but it is starting to look a whole lot better. I usually do some filing and sanding to remove any scratches and smooth out the rough edges.
Now that the top of the ring is "done," it is time to create the ring shank (or band). This is done by heating the silver to anneal or soften it so it can be bent into a circle and then soldering the ends together. It is important to get the sizing right. Once the stone is set in the ring it is difficult to resize the shank. Most of the time it involves removing the stone - which can damage the bezel and that usually leads to a downward spiral of frustration and sadness that can involve remaking the entire setting. So it's best to get it right the first time.
Once the shank is formed and sized I cut off part of the band to make a flat surface to affix to the top of the ring. This is so the top of the ring sits flush with the finger. This isn't necessary for all rings, but for this design, it is. The shank must sit flat and straight on the top, otherwise the ring won't sit properly on the finger. This requires more filing and sanding.
Once the pieces fit together, the shank is soldered to the back of the top of the ring setting. At this point I double check the sizing and do some more filing and sanding to clean up any rough edges where the band meets the top of the ring. The it is time for some pre-finishing work.
Pre-finishing involves an overall sanding with 1000 grit sandpaper. Then the ring gets tossed in a tumbler with steel shot and distilled water for a few hours. The tumbling process hardens the metal that has been soften by the extreme heat of repeated solderings with a torch. Tumbling also burnishes the surface of the silver to help produce a shiny finish. After tumbling, I place the ring in a solution of liver of sulphur to add a dark patina. I then remove the patina from most of the ring surface, but leave it in some areas to highlight the spiral details on the ring face.
Now it is time to finally set the stone and then give the ring a final polish. Voila - it is now ready to meet its new owner! It is detailed and finicky work, but the final results make it all worth while, don't you think?
If you happen to see a design in the shop, that doesn't quite suit what you need, don't hesitate to get in touch and we can discuss a custom commission to get you the perfect piece of jewelry, designed just for you!