Thanks, I made it! Cast Silver Ring with Black and White Pearls

I’m feeling pretty chuffed with myself at the moment: I made this pearl ring from scratch and I think it turned out pretty well!

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Cast Silver Ring with Black and White Pearls pearlring_finished3 Cast silver ring with black and white pearls Cast silver ring with black & white pearls

I made the ring using the lost wax casting method: carve the shape from wax; create a mold of ‘investment’ around the wax — sort of like immersing the wax in plaster of paris; heat the plaster mold up in a kiln so the wax burns away leaving a blank space in the shape of the wax; then pour molten silver into the mold by using a centrifuge, and hope it works!

The wax carving of the ring

The wax carving of the ring

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Heating up the silver in the crucible, which is attached to the plaster mold

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The silver is now molten and ready to be spun into the mold

Let the centrifuge fly!

Let the centrifuge fly! The centrifugal force causes the molten metal to fill all the empty spaces in the investment mold.

The ring after casting. Ive soldered wires in place which will hold the pearls.

The ring after casting. I’ve soldered wires in place which will hold the pearls.

I had a bit of disaster along the way…when I was soldering the wires that will hold the pearls in place, I accidentally melted a big gouge out of the ring itself. There was much cursing and a whole evening spent feeling sorry for myself. 😦

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Thankfully my casting instructor Ellen at Jewel Envy was able to solder another piece of silver into the hole which could then be filed & polished to match the rest of the ring. The repair is completely invisible from the outside of the ring. Yay!

There’s no doubt I’d change a few things about this ring if I were to do it over again (and I’d spend more time polishing out the scratches from the file & emery papers — sorry, Jillian), but every new piece I make is a lesson from which I take away some new skill or knowledge along with wisdom about what to change if I did it again. Overall I think this ring is pretty damn cool and I’ll definitely be wearing it proudly!

Cast silver ring with black and white pearls

Casting class: my giant heart shaped ring

I love it! I had been searching for a ring just like this on Etsy but to no avail…so I made it myself!

Ta-da! My lovely new heart ring.

Ta-da! My lovely new heart ring.

This was my final project for the jewelry casting class I’ve been taking at Jewel Envy here in Toronto. I posted previously about carving the wax model and the casting process. Here’s what happened in the last two classes.

Below are the ring pieces after dissolving the plaster mold in water. It’s nerve-wracking fishing the casting out of the murky water because you are just praying that the casting process worked ok, otherwise it would be back to square one and hours of carving another wax model. You can see that both the ring band and the heart piece were done in the same mold. They’re attached by “sprues”, which are tubes that allow the molten silver to flow into the mold.

The ring pieces right after casting.

The ring pieces right after casting.

Both the ring band and the heart were cast in the same mould

Both the ring band and the heart were cast in the same mold.

Next, the casting gets tossed into warm “pickle” (an acidic bath) to clean it off, and then I sawed off the sprues:

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The casting after pickling

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The sprues are sawed off

Next it’s hours of grinding away the bumps and polishing the surface, starting with a metal file or grinder and then using emery paper, starting with the coarsest grit and repeating with ever-finer grits.

Grinding away the sprue edges.

Grinding away the sprue edges.

Next I soldered the ring band to the heart piece.

Soldering the ring band to the heart piece

Soldering the ring band to the heart piece

Soldering causes some kind of chemical reaction that turns the silver various colours.

Soldering causes some kind of chemical reaction that turns the silver various colours.

So then it’s more hours of sanding the surface to remove all the dirt and discolouration with emery paper, until finally it’s ready for a buffing with grey stone polishing compound and lastly rouge polishing compound.

Polishing with a greystone buff.

Polishing with a greystone buff.

The finished ring.

The finished ring.

I just love my one-of-a-kind ring!

Jewelry Class: casting a ring

I’ve been taking jewelry-making classes at Jewel Envy, a jewelry studio that recently opened up just around the corner from me. They bought an old house in desperate need of renovations, gutted it, and painted the whole house a vibrant shade of blue (at which point they certainly had my attention). Inside are two floors of studio space for independent jewelers/metal smiths, and some gorgeous display cases full of lovely hand-made jewelry.

The lovely blue house of Jewel Envy

The lovely blue house of Jewel Envy

Look at these super-cute display cases.

Look at these super-cute display cases.

I’m just finishing up the 8-week casting workshop, where I learned how to do the lost-wax casting method. This is the first ring I made, out of sterling silver:

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Lost-wax casting involves carving a ring (or a pendant or some other piece of jewelry) out of wax and creating a plaster mould around the wax.
This is my wax carving for the second ring I’m making. I seem to be stuck on a heart theme, for some reason.

Separate wax carvings for the band and the big heart

Separate wax carvings for the band and the big heart

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The back of the heart

The plaster mould is then heated in a kiln which causes the wax to melt away, leaving a cavity in the shape of your carving. Next, you place the plaster mould into a centrifuge, and using a blow torch, silver pieces are melted in a crucible attached to the mould. As soon as the metal is completely molten, you let the centrifuge spin around which sucks the liquid silver into the mould.

The plaster mould and the crucible full of silver are placed in the centrifuge.

The plaster mould and the crucible full of silver are placed in the centrifuge.

Melting the silver with a blowtorch.

Melting the silver with a blowtorch.

Let 'er rip!

Let ‘er rip!

Sometimes this part of the process doesn’t work properly–the silver doesn’t completely fill the mould, for example, and it’s really “heart”breaking (see what I did there???)–because your wax carving that you worked so hard on has been destroyed, so there’s no do-overs.

A few minutes after the centrifuge stops spinning, you dunk the mould in water, allowing the plaster to dissolve away and you’re left with a silver casting, which then needs to be cleaned, sanded, and polished.

Tonight is the last class in the workshop, and I’ll be soldering the heart ring together and sanding and polishing it. Fingers crossed! I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out.

Have you ever tried lost-wax casting? What did you make?