It can be a tricky decision what to do with your wedding and engagement ring when a marriage ends. It’s a very personal thing and I guess it’s highly dependant on how the marriage ended. Some couples part ways as friends, but the majority of divorces probably aren’t on the best of terms and so I can understand the desire to get rid of reminders like engagement and wedding rings as soon as humanly possible. But what if the ring was custom designed for you using your grandmothers diamonds…? Well that’s a bit of a different story. And it all does come down to being a story in the end, and the marriage was only one chapter. The next chapter of your life can be whatever you make it, just like your wedding and engagement rings can become whatever you decide to make them. You can choose to use the heirloom diamonds from your rings, melt down the gold, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, breath new life into your wedding jewellery, changing its meaning altogether.
That’s what I was asked to do with this latest commission. The client loved the bright pink sapphire from the very first day she saw it, and that fact never changed despite the break up. The diamonds were from her grandmother’s engagement ring so very sentimental to her and everyone in her family. So these were not rings that were going to be sold or given away on a whim.
She came to me with a very simple brief. “I’d like a new ring but I don’t want it to look anything like an engagement ring!” She gave me free reign with the design. I did struggle to come up with an idea that incorporated the emerald cut sapphire and round diamonds into one ring without looking like an engagement ring. The second you put a large stone and two diamonds either side it in a ring… it very much screams ‘Engagement’! I showed her a few concepts but none of them were quite right to her style, so we decided to break it up into a new ring as well as a new pendant. The pendant will come later, but here is the making of the new ring…
As usual, that crazy part of my brain had a theory that the design could be handmade instead of cast, but I wasn’t 100% sure, so I quickly made up a silver version to test out my crazy theory. It was difficult, but not impossible, which to me says the theory is right and I should forge ahead.
Whilst the original rings were nice and thick, I still had to add a lot more 18 carat gold to the melt mix.
Melt, forge, anneal, roll. Prepping the main ingredients.
A new beginning… starts just like this.
The diamonds set free from their previous home and waiting in anticipation beside the freshly melted 18 carat yellow gold bar.
Now I must apologise to my high school maths teacher here. I never dreamed that I would use mathematics to such a degree every day in my creative job. I had endless arguments with my teacher in my teenage years that what he was teaching us was unnecessary for the real world. So if you’re out there Mr McFarland, you were right, and I’m very sorry for being an argumentative rebellious student!!!
I like making something new and different for each client. It means that every job is a new little puzzle to figure out. A new perspective and approach to forming and shaping the metal into the new design.
Because some of the areas of the ring had a much larger amount of gold they were harder to bend. This just meant that I had to anneal to soften the metal then hammer it and work harden the gold into shape, then anneal and repeat.
Eventually I got there… well almost. But it was at this stage where I needed to start tidying up and polishing those tricky inner areas that I wouldn’t be able to reach with ease later on once the gold was pushed closer together at the back.
Now I know we all have those off days where we might make small mistakes and do something a little bit silly… well in the jewellery workshop whilst working on expensive diamonds and gold that belongs to your client you hope that those little mistakes aren’t toooo silly. Luckily for me, this day of silliness was ok.
After annealing the ring I plonked it in the pickle forgetting to remove the steel binding wire. Steel and pickle acid do NOT get along… they have this chemical reaction that causes the gold to become copper plated and go red like in the picture above. So when I went back to fetch the ring from the pickle I had a slight shock – I swear I was using yellow gold and not rose gold – was my first thought, and then I cracked up laughing at my mistake. Easily fixed.
Time to solder in the seamless settings.
Hallmarking time. Those three stamps are quite important to a piece of handmade jewellery. When a jewellery valuer looks at a ring they look for these stamps, but not everyone understands what they mean.
The first one is my makers mark. A unique symbol that identifies that I have made this piece of jewellery.
The second mark is a metal fineness mark. In this case it is 18 carat gold which in Australian made jewellery is stamped 750 meaning that the alloy is 750 parts of 1000 pure gold, or if percentages are your thing then it means that it is 75% pure gold and the remaining 25% is a mixture of other metals which blend with the pure gold to create the perfect alloy that is both hard and durable without being brittle.
The third stamp is a kangaroo head which is the trademarked stamp of The Gold & Silversmiths Guild Of Australia which as a fellow of the guild I feel privileged to use. This stamp clearly identifies and ensures that the item is genuinely hand made in Australia, with the creator abiding by the Australian standards of precious material. This Guild mark is also considered a symbol of excellence within the jewellery trade.
So next time you’re looking at jewellery, flip it over and take a look at the stamps underneath.
The final stages at the bench before the diamonds are set into their new homes.
And voila… The new spiral ring.
Looking nothing like an engagement ring, but very much like an exciting new chapter in one woman’s story.
Happy Birthday Marni!
If you have engagement and wedding rings or any precious jewellery that needs a new lease on life, get in touch with me and we can custom design something unique that’s perfectly suited to you. [email protected]