Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wedding Rings

I was having a very difficult time coming up with intriguing ideas for a wedding gift for Ari. We were also trying to get so many things done in a relatively short time that I didn't have as much time as I needed to investigate really unique, fun options. I thought custom artwork would be an interesting idea, and actually found an artist who's work is beautiful, incorporating personal photos into the pieces in very unique ways. I had also been researching wedding rings - Ari wasn't interested in the standard designs you find in your standard jewelry stores - and I came across New York Wedding Ring, where you work with the studio metalsmith to design and create custom wedding rings. I decided if I could pull it off and make something that didn't look silly, it would be perfect - two birds, one precious metal stone.

I made Ari's wedding ring with Sam, owner and operator of New York Wedding Ring and am SO happy with the results. Sam and I decided on a base of white gold with a platinum inlay and a smaller silver inlay. I arrived at the studio on a Sunday morning to start what turned out to be a metalsmithing marathon. First we went over the studio basics, reviewed the metal he had purchased for me and discussed the game plan. There was no lathe in the studio so the channels that we had to carved for the platinum and silver would need to be done the hard way - and by this I mean seriously hard. We eventually (4 hours and a few blisters later) managed to file, engrave and carve something the platinum could fit in. This picture is the from this first stage of the ring - soldering the platinum inlay to the white gold base.

Since I carved the channel a bit too deep the platinum wasn't lying correctly and kept popping out of place. We used some random bits of metal Sam had lying around and steel bonding wire to keep the platinum in place while soldering. Once the platinum was securely attached to the white gold base we were able to make it into a ring shape and then solder it all together. Of course, this also turned out to be much easier said than done. The platinum anneals (done to make the metal bendable and to remove any spring in it) at a much higher temperature than the white gold. Since we didn't want to melt the white gold into a lump of uselessness we couldn't anneal the platinum all the way so, of course, when we tried to solder the ends of the ring together, the platinum still had spring in it - and thus the ends popped away from each other. The steel bonding wire saved us again - as you can see in the below picture we wrapped the ring tightly in bonding wire in the hopes that it would keep the ring together.

Everything we attempted to do turned out to be much harder than originally planned, so we shouldn't have been surprised when we tried to take the bonding wire off the ring and it was stuck. Instead of a ring we had a mildly interesting sculpture:

Thank goodness for Sam - I would have melted the stupid thing into a blob and thrown it out the window. Instead, we filed off the steel bonding wire and moved on to carving the channel for the silver (which was much smaller thank god) and soldered it into the ring. Almost done right? Almost, but not quite. Now on to 3 hours of filing, sanding, rounding, and perfecting. Fourteen and a half hours after we started the ring was done - and much more attractive than a melted projectile blob of precious metal.

Its really hard to get good pictures of jewelry, but here are some of the better ones. (The ring isn't yellow in color at all, despite the tint in the pics.)

The white gold is the darkest metal, platinum the wide stripe, and silver the smallest and lightest stripe.