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

Jewelry Fabrication Class: the hammered band ring

No, that doesn’t mean I was hammered while making it. Drunk knitting? No problem. Drunk metalsmithing with blowtorches and sharp tools? Definitely not. 🙂

You may have seen my posts about the wax casting classes I took at Jewel Envy. I enjoyed them so much I signed up for a jewelry fabrication workshop. Here’s the difference: in casting, we learned how to carve things like rings or charms from wax or cuttlefish bone, which were then cast in metal. In fabrication, we’re learning how to cut/shape/connect jewelry from sheets of metal or metal wire.  So we started off practicing drilling, piercing, and sawing metal, along with the processes used to shape and polish. We also learned how to solder two pieces of metal together, or to connect a ring cut from a flat sheet of silver.

Practicing piercing, sawing and soldering on copper sheet metal

Practicing piercing, sawing and soldering on copper sheet metal

Our first project in this class was a band ring which we worked on over the course of a couple of classes. You start by determining what ring size you need to end up with and how wide you want the band to be and based on that and some math you figure out what size rectangle of silver sheet to cut. Then it’s a million years of filing to get each end of the rectangle to be an exact right angle to the long edge, so that when you bend the rectangle into a ring shape the two ends will align perfectly, which will allow you to make a seamless solder connection. Before you can bend the metal into a ring shape, you have to anneal (soften) the metal by heating it in a blowtorch flame. After it cools you can use pliers to bend it into a D-shape to make soldering the seam easier.

Sawing the silver sheet metal to size

Sawing the silver sheet metal to size

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It feels kind of glamourous to be covered in silver dust!

The D-shaped ring, ready to be soldered.

The D-shaped ring, ready to be soldered.

After soldering the seam, reshaping it into a perfect circle by hammering it into shape on a mandrel (a solid metal cylinder used for sizing rings), and cleaning & polishing, I needed to stretch the band a bit bigger to fit. They say it’s better to make a ring a little too small rather than too big, as it’s much easier to stretch it after the fact than to reduce it in size. Funny, my previously-uninformed instinct would have told me that it’d be the other way around. Anyway, there’s a neat little machine that you can put the ring on to stretch it, only after stretching mine a bit a crack appeared at the solder seam. So I resoldered it, and cleaned and polished again. Here’s what I wound up with:

The silver band ring

The silver band ring, before adding a textured finish.

I’m pleased that you can’t tell at all where the solder seam was.

On a side note, while we were all working away on our rings, the woman who runs the place told us she’d had a group of women in for a workshop as a kind of hen party or stagette or maybe as a thank you event for a bridal party. She said that a large number of the women were initially afraid to try sawing the metal. AFRAID. To touch a saw. And when I say saw, I don’t mean a 7,000 horsepower chain saw like a lumberjack in BC might use — we’re talking a little jeweler’s saw with a blade on it the width of a piece of string (see pics above). I have a bit of a hard time understanding how a person — forget about gender — can grow to adulthood without ever having used a tool. I’m trying not to be too judgmental but — aw, fuck it, I’ll be judgmental. That’s disgraceful. It’s evidence of how far off the charts modern society has brought us that adult humans not only don’t know how to use a simple tool but could even be afraid of using a simple saw. I mean, what will these people do when the Zombie Apocalypse comes? Granted, metal smithing is messy work and maybe these women had just had manicures and didn’t want to mess up their nails. (Which is actually further evidence of the decline of modern society.) These are the kind of people I want to smear dirt on. Um, in the nicest possible way, of course. A-hem.

Back to the ring. Next I put the ring on a mandrel and used a ball-peen hammer to gently create texture on the surface of the band. If you hammer too hard, it will stretch out the metal and mess up the sizing of the ring. Hammering was one option for creating texture but there was also sandblasting, crosshatching or even imprinting a texture onto the metal by rolling it through a metal press (although this last one would have to be done at the start of the process, not at the end. Unless you want to flatten your piece into roadkill.)

Adding a hammered texture to the ring.

Adding a hammered texture to the ring.

The last step was to use Grey Star and then Rouge on the buffing wheel for a shiny polished finish. Et voila! The finished ring.

The finished band ring

The finished band ring

The finished band ring.

The finished band ring. There’s a tiny elf in the foliage just outside the frame admiring it!

The finished band ring

I’ll be making two more projects in this class. One will be a silver pendant and the other maybe a silver cuff bracelet…not sure yet. Will keep you posted with pics as I finish the projects.