Hand Fabrication ~ Making the Debi Ring
Hand fabrication is an “old school” way of creating jewellery. When using this method, the artist works directly with the metal (as opposed to creating a wax model that is used to make a mold). We purchase precious metal in various shapes and thicknesses of sheet and wire and form the piece using a variety of techniques including sawing, filing, & soldering. Most of my work is hand fabricated.
The Debi Ring (named after my client) is a great example of hand fabrication and recycling of old jewellery.
Debi brought me a bag of gold pieces she didn’t wear anymore. I separated all the 14k yellow gold pieces, cut out all the solder joints (solder can cause pitting in the new piece), separated all the wire (pin backs & earring wires so they can be used on the piece), and melted the remaining 14k gold into an ingot. This is an ingot:
The next step is to put it through a rolling mill a number of times until it is the desired thickness.
Using a jeweller’s saw I cut out the ring shank. Some simple math is used here to figure out the length required for the ring size.
I flattened the remaining gold a little bit more & cut out some leaves.
Next I laid out my design. I had done a number of sketches beforehand but my design was not finalized until I saw it in front of me. Debi trusted me enough to give me this flexibility.
When I was happy with the design I soldered all the pieces down and hammered it around a ring mandrel (with a rawhide mallet that doesn’t mark the piece). Once it is round the seam is soldered closed and if it’s done well you can’t see where it comes together (Of course my seam was invisible ).
I don’t usually set the stones myself, as it takes me a long time and a stone-setter can do it much faster. But time constraints on this piece meant I couldn’t wait for my next trip to Toronto so I did them myself. I was a little nervous, but they turned out great:
The final step is an important one. It can be tempting to run over the finish line at this point but it’s important to stop, take a breath, and finish it right. It’s been a lot of work and time up to this point, it’s worth taking a little more to make it truly beautiful. First I tumbled it with stainless steel shot and soap for a few hours, this cleans, polishes and hardens it. Then I sanded it by hand using progressively finer sand paper until it had a nice, even matte finish. And here is Debi’s 30th anniversary ring. She was thrilled!