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Making of a Ring Part 2

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The Key Constituents

With the dimensions of the gold ingot last seen in part 1 firmly in mind, we can move along to the rolling mill. A rolling mill compresses the gold into a rectangular plate that will become the ring shank. After the first pass, we measure and repeat until we get the dimensions we are looking for. It’s a good thing there are motorized rolling mills these days. It pains us to imagine how much time and elbow grease was spent doing this back in the day.

Our thick ingot has been worked into a skinny rectilinear strip; the gold has become hardened and stiff as a result of all that compression. Reheating or ‘annealing’ it will realign its molecular structure, allowing us to continue to work the gold without fracturing it. Applying heat until the plate glows red will make it hot enough to soften the metal, but not so hot that it would melt and deform. The extra length here is being removed with a jeweler’s saw. Don’t let the delicate appearance fool you, this little saw is capable of doing some big things. The wire form allows for greater freedom when maneuvering through curves and tight spaces.

This 19k white gold ring shank will gradually taper towards bottom. The plate is hammered against a case hardened steel block to create the necessary bow tie shape. The key components of the ring. The squares on the left will form the bezel that holds the centre stone. Now properly prepared, the longer strips of 19k gold are ready to be shaped into the ring shank.

Making of a Ring Part 1

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Starting from Scratch

In making a ring, our first step is to determine a given jewelry design’s composition. Various elements are weighed and ratios are calculated. Propane is mixed with oxygen to create a flame hot enough to melt the metals quickly and evenly. As temperatures move beyond 900 degrees Celsius, specialized ceramic crucibles are needed to hold the molten metal. Borax helps remove impurities from the metal and to make it more viscous when pouring. As soon as the liquefied metal starts to ’dance’, it is quickly poured into an iron mold.

The oil applied to the mold makes it easier to remove the gold ingot once it’s cooled off. Upon reaching a solid state the ingot will be warm to the touch. The ingot’s exposed surface is rough, pitted from taking in air at the start. Using a special bench torch we gradually reheat it, releasing the tiny pockets of air in the process. Once smooth, the ingot is air cooled before submerging it in a pickling solution. This second cooling prevents the gold from cracking due to the sudden temperature drop. Pickling removes any left over borax and oil, allowing for the real work to begin.

The micrometer is widely considered an indispensable tool in small scale hand fabrication. At this stage, we need to decide how much the ingot should be lengthened or widened. Once these measurements have been determined, we can rough out the basic shapes for the ring’s individual components. This piece will form the ring’s shank (the enclosed piece that holds your finger).

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