Behind the Scenes: Three Gemstone Sterling Silver Ring
The process of silversmithing/metalsmithing (aka ring making) can be long and involved. I'll be giving you some behind the scenes of how the Three Gemstone Sterling Silver Ring is made. This ring was inspired by commercial designs as the three stones are commonly seen and sometimes referred to as a trellis.
I had originally designed this ring with a smaller center basket and prong, however my initial design had inherent flaws. In particular, the weight of the side stones put too much strain on the smaller basket causing integrity issues. I had to scrap that and begin again to avoid the mistakes I had made initially. To resolve this, the ring instead was made with a 16mm gauge wire for the basket setting.
Once I had cut the tubing for the side gemstones, I attached those to the center stone basket. Pictured is the gemstone setting before being attached to the ring shank. The setting hasn't been sanded or cleaned up yet (I tend to sand and smooth each step to avoid having a mess at the end). I also have about ten needle files and sheets of sandpaper to avoid having to do all of this at the end.
In order to shape a nice ring, you need to heat the metal so that it's soft enough to bend and work with. The trick to shaping a nice ring is creating the ring first before you plan to attach the setting to it. I've found it gives me the most accurate shape after the fact. Once I shape the ring around the mandrel, I can then attach the ring shank to the setting and I'm one step closer to the final ring.
Part of the process during metalsmithing is what's called pickling. In order to deal with fire scale (fire stain is something different) pickling is used to essentially remove the oxidation from the sterling silver. I find pickling to be incredibly satisfying for some reason. It's likely because prior to a piece being pickled it looks tarnished or dark. Once it's been pickled the piece comes out with a clean matte silver look. (All the blue you can see on the paper towel and my tongs is copper!)
When a ring is properly set (the ring shank and settings all line up and nothing looks wonky) then comes the polishing. Polishing is probably my least favorite step for a few reasons. The polishing process is done with multiple grit sanders, compounds, and buffers. This is to ensure that the ring has no tool marks, scratches, etc. marring it. This ring wasn't too difficult though because I avoided making major marks and cleaned up the setting along the way. This type of setting in general required less work than some other designs just due to the tools I needed and how much I had to play around with the metal. After the ring has been sanded, polished, sanded, polished, buffed (you get the gist) then it's a matter of setting the gemstones.
The last step when making any ring is setting the gemstones. I always use natural gemstones and they can't take heat or sanding because it would ruin them. I set the two aquamarine stones first since they're on the outside and they're the smaller stones. Given that the center basket is elevated, doing that last makes sense and is the easiest way. Once I had the aquamarines in both sides, my last step was to set the labradorite in the center basket and fit the prongs to secure it.
And that's the behind the scenes in the making of this ring. It's a gorgeous ring and really "flashes" in the lighting. Between the light clear blue aquamarine gems and the labradorite iridescent blue and yellow, this ring is truly stunning and entirely unique.