Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Spring Ring

Developing a Process

Several months ago, a family friend asked if I could make a ring using a stone from a piece of jewelry she inherited but didn't want to wear (see my January 24, 2017 post).

First, Find a Design

One of the factors I had to take seriously was the relative softness of malachite. Any design had to provide a degree of protection for the stone. I came up with some sketches and she thought she liked "D" (top & side views shown here).

A few months have drifted by as I contemplated just how to create such a ring. This week, I decided on a general approach and set about making a prototype. Later, I will use half-round wire for the real ring but, with none on hand, I decided some heavy round wire would allow me to test the process. I had a cabochon of slightly off-kilter agate in my stash I could use as a stand-in for the malachite.

My Super Cool Tool

My beloved husband is an enabler – he often gives me jeweler's tool as birthday or Christmas gifts;-) This disc cutter was one of them and it's a real winner. Before it arrived on my bench, any time I needed a silver circle, I had to saw it from sheet by hand. That is a slow, tedious and demanding process. It is all too easy to get a hair off and end up with a slightly lopsided circle. If you are making a backing for a bezel, that is not a good thing. With this tool, I position my silver between the steel plates (this is 22 gauge), tighten them up and drive the steel cutter through the matching hole (and, of course, the silver).

Build the Bezel

Once I cut the circle, I had only to solder the circle of bezel wire atop it, file the edges to a perfect fit (left) and, of course, smooth everything with several grades of sandpaper.

Ring Parts: Shank, Bezel, and Cabochon

Here are the three pieces that will make the ring. I had a lot of fun bending that length of very heavy gauge silver wire. I had to re-anneal it a couple of times and still wound up with sore fingers! I got it to this point with forming pliers and pure physical effort. "I am Woman, Hear Me Roar"!

Creating a Seat for the Stone

Once I bent the shank into a horseshoe, it was time to create a seat to hold the bezel.

Left, I positioned the shank in my small vise to hold it while I filed matching cuts into the outside of the ring. I used a triangular jeweler's file and just kept working at it until I was a bit more than 3/4 of the way through the wire. At that point, it was possible to make the ends point up, forming posts. More sore fingers plus some hammering on a ring mandrel brought the wire into a pretty good circle with a gap to set the bezel into.

I forgot to take a photo of the next cuts — small ones on the inside of the upright posts. I made them to secure the bezel and they did not need to be nearly so deep. Great, I was getting pretty darned tired of filing be then!

Time to Solder It All Together

Right, the ring on my ceramic honeycomb soldering block. A pair of cross-lock tweezers held in a "third hand" stabilized the ring, with the bezel tension-held in the shank, so I could solder both sides in one operation. Sequence: position piece and solder chips on block, apply flame, quench in water and into the pickle. Pull it out, rinse, and tug at it to be sure the joins are solid.

Time to Shine

While the ring was in the pickle, I re-set a stone that had popped off a pendant I made many years ago for our daughter. Next, I set the agate in the ring and polished up my day's work (I re-polished the kid's earrings, too).

You Make a Prototype So You Can Learn

So, what did I learn from this one? First, that this approach will work for our friend's malachite. Second, that I will need to make the wire for the posts longer than these because we want them to actually come down over the edges of her stone (greater protection). Third, that this ring – with its round wire and slightly lopsided cab – may go up for sale some day (I need it here until that malachite is set), but it is probably only suited to accessorize someone's medieval costume. But, for that purpose, it might be just awesome!