QUESTION OF THE MONTH
“How long does it take to make a ring?”
Easy answer is “As long as it takes”
It’s actually difficult for me to pin point the exact time it takes to create each ring, some are complex ,others are simple ,and some are just a right pains in the a@@ from the very beginning.
Sometimes things don’t cast properly and I have to remake them ,or occasionally I succumb to human error and somehow make the wrong size ,or do something just as silly.
Creating jewellery by hand is always challenging -it never gets EASY!
But I like it that way ,if things were too easy ,I would get complacent ,or worse still -bored!
Back to the question “How long does it take,Deb?”
So here I break down of my typical week
In the studio at around 9am to start on the weeks orders .
I tend to work on a group of rings at a time-anywhere from 6 to @ 10 max -anymore than that and it’s too much work.
I pull out the notes on each job, read through them carefully carving and creating an individual wax for each ring ,which is then sprued and set aside ready for casting.
In eight or so hours we may get 8-10 waxes done ,ready for casting the next day.
Continue with orders or make some stock items from pieces cast over the past few weeks.
Because I am not really a collections based jeweller (that would get incredibly dull ) ,I often head to my gem boxes and start with the gems first choosing what stone for what combination eg: A rose gold crown setting on a wide silver band with a cobalt spinel perhaps?
I never quite know what I will end up with when I start on stock rings, sometimes what I originally envision changes completely by the time the item is finished.
Obviously custom work is completely different as I am constantly referring to mine and the customers notes ,recalling our conversations and the whole “feel” we are after eg: not too bulky, not too wide ,brushed or shiny flush or grain set .
I then line up the combinations ready for soldering(with a big gas torch) and tend to solder 8-10 in a row .
Even 15 years on, some days soldering goes like a dream, other days nothing seems to “run” properly on those days you just have to walk away and say “let’s try again tomorrow!”
Most evenings after dinner I answer emails ,messages, post on social media ,quote jobs,
test gold from remodelling jobs ,photograph old gold for remodelling jobs ,send invoices, it does’n’t really stop out of the studio!
All the work I soldered yesterday is ready to be “cleaned up”.
Starting with a very course bastard files I file the top layer of metal off the bands of the rings and any rough bits from soldering around the ring tops-they have no stones/gems in them as yet, they are just empty little vessels, all charred and black looking.
I check all the joins thoroughly and re solder if necessary .
After the initial “rough up” I then work with smaller needle files from a course grade to a finer grade ,moving the ring around ,smoothing rough patches.
After filing comes sanding ,I use pieces of sandpaper working in one direction smoothing the metal. Grade after grade is used from 80 grit through to 1200 grit, paying special attention to the joins ,needless to say I go through sh@tloads of sandpaper!
Larger areas on the back of the rings can be done on the bench grinder, mine is nothing fancy a good old Ryobi workhorse called “Rob” with spindels attached on either end to take flap-wheels *
(compressed sandpaper/emery paper grit buffs).
This saves me hours ,although my fingers and nails unfortunately take the brunt of this.
Often after a day on the grinder my thumb pads are worn and bleeding and my nails are filed in weird directions!
Normally whilst I am doing the outside of the rings ,Hubby Dean is grinding out the interiors.
I am a firm believer my rings must be as nice on the inside as they are on the outside so we work these just as hard.
The rings are now ready for polishing ,I change the flap-wheels to buffs and use a polishing compound to cut and polish them to perfection.I repeat this process with 3 different compounds so they are smooth like silk.
It’s very dirty and messy, even with a respirator on and the extraction unit going,I still get manage to get covered in black grime!
The rings are then cleaned in an ultrasonic bath.
It’s 3pm now and I realise I have an appointment down at the shop at 3:15pm ,so quickly wash my face and scream down for that.
The Monday’s waxes have been cast so it’s clean up and file, sand and repeat.
I get Dean on onto sprue removal whilst I decide which rings finished yesterday will be ‘set”(the gems put in-and no we do not glue them in ,as a lady last weekend asked in t the shop) by us or couriered to one of two setters we use who set the more complex jobs for us.
We do set a lot in house ( Well..my husband Dean does much more than me!)
Gem setting is actually a completely different trade to jewellery ,and finding a good setter can make or break your work ,so I totally treasure the two that I use (Adele and Dave if you are reading this!).
It takes many, many years of training and practise to be a good setter .In another newsletter I will go into detail about setting a bit more ,but just so you know all those little gems set into my “scattered” gem style of work can take 20-30 minutes each to set .
The courier delivers last weeks lot of rings from our setters .I re polish them all till they are pristine then photograph them ,invoice them ,send off to their forever home or pack up ready for the shop tomorrow.
I then realise I should make a few earrings and necklaces ,but by Friday afternoon I need a break (wine) because I will be at the shop all day Saturday and possibly Sunday ,so they are put on the back burner till till next week (Yet again..Lol!)
This video shows me at work!