Oricalcum

Making an Engagement Ring

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  Evening, looking for a bit of advice on a bit of an issue I have - an engagement ring for my girl. I could go out and buy one, but what I'd like to do is take the money I'd spend on the ring and spend it on a much nicer stone, and try to set it myself in either a stainless or titanium ring of my own making. I've never made a ring before, but it doesn't seem too difficult, and I've got plenty of stock to practice with. What I'm more concerned about is the actually setting of the stone in the metal. Any advice you guys have for the project? I'm a rather novice blacksmith, and anticipate doing hundreds of trial runs with many cheap practice stones, so any sage advice would be appreciated.

 

  My apologies if this isn't the correct section to post this in, it seemed appropriate. 

 

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White gold and platinum are cheap compared to diamonds. My advice would be to purchase the nicest ring you can afford and then spend the first year of your happy marriage honing your skills as an aspiring jeweler and make her something for your first anniversary. Starting from a point of no experience on a project of that importance seems like performing open heart surgery with no medical training. If you have found the one woman in a generation who whole heartedly believes it's the thought that counts then go for it. My money says that no matter how understanding she is she will still appreciate a proper ring set by an experienced jeweler.

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  I've always thought that a hand-made gift is more valuable than one bought, and her family is of the same belief. I must've deleted this from the post, but I would plan on using a stainless steel or titanium for the actual ring, just because she has a track record of breaking rings made of softer materials, and it kinda stresses her out to wear them now. 

 

  I agree though, and I want to make her something extremely special. We have two years before she gets out of school, so I'd like to use that time refining my abilities in this regard.

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OK, the additional information changes the way your idea is perceived, by me at least, so here are a few more suggestions. Working with non ferrous metals is not blacksmithing, though many blacksmiths do work with non ferrous metals. Forging copper, silver, bronze and brass alloys is a lot of fun and has its own challenges. Cold work, whether by hand or machining requires a distinct and extensive set of skills too. The more information you can provide will greatly influence the kind of replies you will get. Stainless is of course ferrous but I mention the others because stainless may not be the best material for setting a stone. If the ring is turned I would assume any filigree work would have to be brazed on. If you're not familiar with it already do a search on Damasteal. It's a brand of commercially available pattern welded stainless you can buy in rounds. I've seen some really pretty rings turned out of that material but never with a stone setting. I look forward to seeing what new information pops up on this thread! Good Luck!

PS Lower carrot gold is durable enough for most mens rings. White yellow or rose, doesn't matter, 10 to 12 carrot is much tougher than 14, 18 etc. Gold can be brazed with gold for the filler so there is no visual difference between the filler and the two parts being brazed. I have personally never seen a brazing rod that  exactly matched the material I was brazing because it is not the same material. Maybe don't give up on silver or low carrot gold just yet? Again, I hope this moves forward.

   Regards, -M-

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  Yeah, I didn't know if I should post this somewhere else for that reason, but I was thinking about stainless - just wasn't certain how well stainless would work out. That Damasteel looks mighty fine though, and I'm more familiar with steel than I am with titanium or other metals, so I'll have to do some more research on it. 

 

  Silver and gold seem like they'd be much easier to make some kind of a setting with, seeing as your can just solder/braze the setting, so that is tempting. Will have to play around a bit and post some pictures in a few days with my first few prototypes, appreciate the information so far!

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Welcome aboard, glad to have you. Stainless can be a real bear to work with and I don't know how well stones would last in it. I suppose it'd depend on how they were set. 

The wedding rings my wife and I wear are Mokume Gane: red gold, white gold, yellow gold and silver. It's a simple twist pattern billet that was sawn lengthways and made into our rings. The patterns of the mokume are mirror images, like sawn boards. Unfortunately the profile of the rings we chose are different enough the patterns no longer match though the rings do.

The fire opal I had set in mine didn't last 6 months but opal is fragile, unlike gemstones. 

The learning curve for mokume gane isn't too long nor steep. It's not easy, don't get me wrong you'd be working at it to gain the skills to make a nice set or rings. What it is though is something a guy can work with without extensive equipment and skills. Check out James Binnion's Mokume Gane site. it comes right up on a search or I'd be posting a commercial link. Jim's who mad our rings, good guy seriously excellent artist.

Tell him Frosty sent you, you might be able to buy rings with findings you can set the stones in yourself. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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I take my sterling silver wedding ring out to the shop and plannish it over a mandrel with a polished ball peen when it starts to feel tight on my finger. Breaking does not seem to be an issue.  NOTE however that you can cleave a diamond just hitting wrong on the sink while washing dishes.

If you want to do a Ti ring: forge the ring and have a professional set the stone---unless you won't care if it gets lost at some point.

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  Mokune Gane is pretty cool - had seen it in the past, but didn't know it had a name. Will have to look into it more!

 

  I was thinking about having a professional set the stone for me, but that seemed like cheating, so I bought a bunch of low-grade gemstones cut nicely to practice on. That is good to know about diamonds (and presumably all gemstones in general), though it seems odd to me that they'd break so easily. I guess it makes sense, seeing how brittle they are.

 

  Had a bit of success with Ti so far, will post pictures in a few days of my first attempt at just the ring. Maybe I'll have set the stone if it works out, I don't know. Appreciate the help and suggestions so far, it's been invaluable! 

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Here's a follow-up question, rather than creating a new thread: 

How do most blacksmiths size their rings? I am new to the world of jewelry, but it seems like there are standard sizes (6,7,8,9,10 etc). Are there mandrels with the sizes on them? 

I'd like to start making rings, but I do not know where to begin on the size issue.

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+1 for Damasteel, I haven't worked with the Austenitic "version" of it as I make knives and not jewelry, but definitely worth consideration.

Ross.

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1 hour ago, Ridgewayforge said:

Here's a follow-up question, rather than creating a new thread: 

How do most blacksmiths size their rings? I am new to the world of jewelry, but it seems like there are standard sizes (6,7,8,9,10 etc). Are there mandrels with the sizes on them? 

I'd like to start making rings, but I do not know where to begin on the size issue.

Yes there are ring mandrels. Check with a jewelry supply.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I take a ring that fits and slide it on a bullpin and mark where it stops with a sharpie.  I have a number of bullpins and really don't do that many rings...I did however pickup a bracelet mandrel at the scrapyard once...

 

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Definitely considering Damasteel. Having trouble sizing the rings properly, will have to search online and see if there's some formula for figuring it out.

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They make a set of plastic rings for the common sizes; you try them on till you get one that fits and read the number off it.

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I studied to be a jeweler, goldsmith, silversmith and found stone setting to be fairly easy if you can work small.  Can you silver solder?  By that I mean the high temperature stuff - not the stuff for plumbers.  While you could buy a piece of flat or half round  gold or silver stock,, bend it to close it up, solder then make round on a mandrel you could also carve one in a wax purposely made for that and then have it cast by one of many places that will do that for you.  Refinement or polishing would be up to you.  Whatever method you choose, I suggest you buy a prong setting the size you need for your chosen stone and solder it (gold solder if you used gold for the ring) and then watch videos on stone setting.  There are many different techniques but its not rocket science.  I would do a little practicing with the torch and high temp solders first as very easy to overheat and melt stuff and its also important to see how the solder flows.  A 1lb propane torch will work but a prestolite torch is better and an oxy fuel torch the best.

I have a sheet metal gauge that tells how long a piece of flatstock needs to be to make a particular size ring and if you tell me the size, I can tell you how long it needs to be.  Also very easy to wrap a piece of paper around a finger to get an apprx length.  Hammering on a mandrel will be required and the size can be increased some doing that.

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Late to this thread, but if I were the OP I'd try to find a jeweler that would let me help make the ring under his or her guidance.  That way you get the special gift sentiment while an experienced jeweler can watch over your should to be sure it's done right and the stone is set securely.  There are plenty of blacksmiths here who've walked people through making a knife as a one time thing.  

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Yeah it is, will have to see what's in the area for jewelers! Haven't had much success so far with what I've been working at. A friend suggested I get a plate of steel and have a waterjet guy cut out a sort of Q shape where the tail goes inwards aswell, then hammer that down a mandrel and use either the two prongs as a crappy setting, or cut them down the middle to make four. Seemed like cheating to me, but I suppose it's an option.

 

Gazz, thanks for the advice! I don't know if I want to use silver or gold, but it is seeming more practical than steel, especially for the setting. Do you think it'd be possible to weld the setting to the ring, or is that too small for most welders to handle?

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My advice, for what its worth. I just got married in August.

I went through a similar thought process with wanting to make my own engagement ring. I knew "my girl" would love the sentimentality of it. The fact is, though, its not worth the risk and whatever you do will never look as good as one done by a "proper jeweler". If you fork out for an expensive stone, set it badly and it falls out, good luck getting the insurance company to pay out! Additionally- engagement rings are often complex in design, delicate, etc- which requires lots of skill and experience to make.

In the end, I found a perfect middle ground for myself.

I found a local semi-professional jeweller. She doesnt work as a jeweller full time, but is fully trained with a portfolio of work as evidence. She even had contacts in Hatton Garden in London to get a top-quality, decent price stone. I'm sure you could find someone similar locally if you dig around facebook/google, and ask people you know locally if they know any jewellers. She made an engagement ring exactly to my design. I drew up all the sketches and took her advice on settings etc. The ring turned out great, and when I asked my (now-wife) to marry me she was thrilled, and loved telling all her friends I had designed the ring.

Later, we forged our own wedding rings together from stainless steel (though, a word of warning; this has then resulted in a headache with the threat of the steel band wearing on the white gold engagement ring. We're having a sacrifical ring made to sit between.) By contrast, wedding rings are EASY to forge with almost zero skill. You just punch a hole, drift to your ring size, and the rest is grinding and polishing till you're happy.

 

Like I said, for me this was the best of both worlds- a beautiful engagement ring I DESIGNED, and a couple of simple wedding bands we MADE.

 

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Just my personal thoughts:  I don't particularly care for diamonds, they are too cold as a primary stone.  They are fine as an accessory stone to set off something else but not as the centerpiece.  The idea of diamonds as an engagement ring was a marketing ploy by DeBeers in the 1920s to stimulate sales.  Prior to that engagement rings were not common.  It has worked very well.  Because of advertising many people think that it is not a proper engagement ring unless it has a big honkin' diamond in it.

I find colored stones such as emeralds, rubies, and sapphires to be much more attractive.  My late wife had an emerald wedding ring and my present wife has one with a sapphire.

Also, at least think about a cabachon (sp?) stone which is domed on one side and flat on the back.  There are some very nice stones in this cut.  I like the "star" ones in particular which have (usually) a six pointed star in the reflection on the surface which moves around as the light shifts.  The technical term for this is asterism.

A simple way to mount a cab stone is to drill a flat bottomed hole in a ring just slightly larger than the diameter of the stone.  Then, when the stone is set into the hole upset the sides of the hole to grip the stone by striking inward towards center with a pointed punch.  If you use the point of a triangular shaped punch you can get a nice sun burst pattern around the stone.  I'd also use a drop of epoxy as insurance.  I believe this is called a gypsy mount.

Sorry to be so late to this thread but it sounds like you have some time.

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Yeah, I had planned on using something other than a diamond to get around that ploy. She's a big fan of green, so I'm planning on popping a big emerald into it. If I could get her a different engagement present, I would, but there are forces in her family that are pretty anal about it being a ring.

I appreciate the info on how to mount a cab stone! Seems like super delicate work, I'll definitely practice it a bunch of times with some blanks I bought.

As for time, I do have a good bit. I'm waiting for her to get out of college - so about thirteen to fourteen months from now.

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Another suggestion re a gypsy mount:  Start with a softer metal and work up to what you want as a final product.  Try distorting the mounting hole in lead or pewter then work up into copper or bronze.  Trying to start out with, say, pattern welded stainless would probably be an exercise in frustration.  

There are some very nice cabbed emeralds out there.  There may even be some star emeralds.

You can get some nice an inexpensive cabs from jewelry supply places on the internet.  I like garnets but you can get practically any precious or semi-precious stone in a cab.

I think the kind of bit that gives you a flat bottomed hole (no starting spike in the middle or spurs on the sides of the bit) is called a forsner bit.  Maybe someone else with more experience can elaborate.  You will almost certainly need a drill press to do this.  You don't have enough control with a hand held drill.  You might be able to carefully excavate a hole with a dremel tool.

IMO, the only person you need to please and delight is your beloved.  That is who you are going to spend the rest of life, not your or her family.  I gave my wife an antique Italian miniature painting brooch which had been my mother's as an engagement gift and she loved it.  Everybody, their dog, and their dog's dog give rings as an engagement gifts.  If you think she will enjoy something different, unique, and beautiful from your heart and hand do not be afraid to go for it and be a nonconformist.  She will tell the story for decades of how loving, thoughtful, and unique you were.

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If you have the tenacity and will to learn, you'll create something meaningful and beautiful. Considering that she values this approach, and the fact that you have some time, it seems like a worthy journey. I went down a similar path, taking the risk of learning something new to create my wife's engagement gift. In my case, I took a fine metals class, learned lost wax casting and cast a silver setting for a broken moonstone from a pendant I bought for her when we were dating. It turned out great and had more sentimental, memorable impact perhaps than something bought. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with buying from another, more skilled artisan.

In my case, the setting was sculpted/cast to fit the odd shaped stone, and supported inside the setting with a bit of epoxy. It's still going strong after close to 15 years of regular wear.

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That lost wax casting is pretty intense, just did some studying on it. I'll have to look around my area, see if we've got any fine metalworking classes around that might offer that sort of a thing. I'm in a wicked rural area, but I'm sure a few phone calls and a couple commutes over the weekend might turn something up.

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It's taught at the local community college here; Of course NM is a bigger state than NH...

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