Thursday, December 30, 2010

How it is made: A custom wedding ring for an old engagement ring. Part 3.

The last part.

The benchpin is probably the most ingenious and usable tool in a jewelry studio. I discover a new use for it everyday. This time I realized that I can use it to hold the freshly attached sprue upside down, squeezed into the benchpin's slot and work on the other end, until the wax at the ring shank completely solidifies. The shank affixed to the sprue, then can be united with the head. After smoothing the welding area , I removed the little bridge between the two shanks, that helped me to prevent breaking the delicate wax structure.. Holding the wax against a light source, allows me to judge the thickness and evenness of the whole contraption, last time before casting, and make some last minute adjustments if needed.

The wax model is then completed with sprues, that will allow the molten metal fill the mold. The models are attached to a rubber base and the whole "tree' is embedded into a plaster like material, called investment. The investment is placed into a furnace to make the plaster hard and melt the encased wax out of it; hence the name of "lost wax casting" . The wax leaves a cavity system inside the hardened investment and provides a mold for the molten metal. After about 8 hours of firing , all residues of the wax are burned out of the mold and it is ready for casting. After casting the rings, the investment material is removed (white stuff on the picture )  and the the result becomes visible. This is the moment of truth. This is the moment, when it turns out whether or not the work of many hours is resulted in a good casting, or have to be started over.

The rest of the process is only briefly summarized here: After the castings were cut off the tree, the engagement ring was fitted and soldered to the guard/wedding ring. The surfaces were filed and  sanded and polished until they took on the desired final finish. Then I set the raw diamond cubes and made some final touch up on the surfaces. The ring is  finished and ready to be shipped. In this setting , the weak parts of the old ring are fortified and the diamond is protected from the majority of blows, that are also the most dangerous : the sideways hits.

The finished wedding suit. I used a similar process for the groom's wedding band.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How it is made: A custom wedding ring for an old engagement ring. Part 2.

I used the lost wax casting process to create the ring guard/wedding ring for the bride.

First I choose a wax blank, in this case a Matt's purple for no particular reason other than, that I had this piece that was the perfect thickness.
Next I marked every possible dimensions of the design on the blank, using dividers and scrapers, carbide pencils, knives... whatever. Since some of the marks will be carved away, I either redraw them as I proceed or extend the markings onto areas, that will not be last . This is most important for the crucial dimensions that determine the symmetry, centers and borders, that will be pretty hard to establish again when the simple geometry of the blank will transform into the more complex geometry of the design.
For rough shaping I used a handpiece extension, that allows me to position and hold the cylindrical bit in fixed angle ( 90 degrees in this case).
End of the roughing up, onto the more delicate free hand shaping.

I carefully traced the measurements and outlines of the design and fitted the green top part , that I previously carved, to the forming shank.
Then , using a jewelers saw, I cut out the tapered profile shape.
More sawing: to remove the middle part of the shank and shape the tiny columns that will support the top part.

Using jeweler's saw, blades, files and abrasive papers drill bits and whoknowswhat I shaped the shank and fitted it to the top part. Then I smoothed the surface to a decent finish . Here are my favorite abrasives: 3M microfinish films, an old shirt and nylon stockings. The interesting thing is the sudden color change of the model, no miracle, here is what happened: I finished it and the casting went wrong. Although not very often, this kind of things happen . So I had to remake the model. At some point I decided, that  I would continue the process explanation using the new model, that I made from a green colored wax blank.

To be continued>>>

Monday, December 27, 2010

How it is made: A custom wedding ring for an old engagement ring. Part 1.

This series is to offer you a sneak peak to the  behind the scenes events that lead to the creation of a custom piece of jewelry.

This story starts with an engagement: the young man  proposed to her lady with his grandmother's ring. The ring is a diamond solitaire, from the early 19's , made by the famous Jabel company. The ring shows the impact of time , but held up nicely during the nearly 100 years, undoubtedly due to extremely high quality and the die pressing fabrication process that Jabel developed. Nonetheless, the metal is thinned and weakened, as well as the diamond has a large number of chips and abrasions. It would not have been prudent to just make a simple band to fit this ring, because the old diamond solitaire was at a point , where it could easily snap , or the diamond may break without warning at any time.

In situations like this , we usually suggest a complete overhaul of the ring and the diamond: The thin parts - in this case the head and the bottom of the shank would need to be re-built or fortified and the prongs re-tipped. The diamond would have to be re-cut - if possible - or replaced. The customers did not want to alter the original ring, which can be easily understood given the sentimental value of the original ring. Re-cutting this size of diamond would have probably resulted in a very small stone. 

Therefore I proposed a design, where the engagement ring would be built around with the wedding ring , similar to a ring guard, but of course more organically united. They also wanted me to create  the grooms band in a manner that they would be different, but refer to each other at the same time. To make matters a bit more complicated the lady also bought an engagement ring for her fiance  from me . This ring featured a raw diamond crystal. 

We agreed that the common reference would be the use of raw diamond crystals in both wedding rings.

In the next parts I will show how these ideas were turned into a beautiful  wedding suit.