Have I mentioned lately that I LOVE doing custom work? Collaborating with clients to make their jewelry dreams come true is one of the most rewarding parts of being a designer. I’m always amazed by the creativity my customers bring to the table, and together we have so much fun bringing their visions to life.
Today, follow me into the workshop as I take a spectacular custom wedding ring from concept to completion!
Designing with diamonds
I’m not going to lie: I was super excited to work on this project.
A lovely client came to me with her original wedding ring, which had a single 1.0 carat diamond and five smaller diamonds, and she said she was looking for a serious upgrade. We would go from one substantial gem to three, and set them in a bold, modern, solid 18 karat gold ring. I might have clapped my hands with glee while we discussed the details.
Here's the original rendering for the client's ring, showing the basic ring idea at the proper scale.
We took the gorgeous 1.0ct round diamond from her old wedding ring, added a matching 1.0ct round diamond (lab-grown this time), and created a design that set those two lovelies on either side of a hefty 1.77ct radiant-cut, lab-grown yellow diamond. We also decided to harvest the five small diamonds from her original ring (and add another 5 larger and 20 smaller new diamonds!) to create a custom band to go with her new three-diamond ring. This gave my client the option to stack her two rings, or wear the diamond band on its own for more casual occasions. In this post, though, we’re focusing on the bolder of the two!
Carving the wax
With the design settled, I started carving a wax prototype of the gold setting. This ring would be made using a technique called lost wax casting, which is a fascinating, multi-step process that begins with a big, blue, wax block. My task is to imagine the ring shape inside of the block, then remove everything else. You can see how I laid out the gem shapes on the wax then began to carve, first the settings where the stones would sit, then the shape of the ring around the stones.
You can see here how I start by laying out the settings for the diamonds and then carve away the rest of the ring.
I still do all of the handwork on my lost wax cast pieces—including carving, finishing and stone-setting—but the casting itself is done in an outside shop. Expert casters attach a sprue to the wax (a sprue is basically a channel where the molten metal flows into the ring), build a mold around my wax model, then melt out the wax. The casting machine uses pressure to push the liquid metal into the mold where it cools with the sprue still attached. (You can see that the cast ring still has part of the sprue at the bottom.) After the ring is cast, the caster snips off the ring and sends it to me – with a lot of finishing still left to do!
Filing and finishing
With the gold casting back in my hot little hands, I began the process of refining its shape and texture. First I sawed off what remained of the sprue, then filed the ring itself to perfect the shape and surface. The casting process can leave a texture on the exterior of the ring, which needs to be meticulously smoothed and evened out. I used progressively finer sandpaper as I finished the ring. In this case, the client wanted a matte (or satin) finish, so I also used a matte buff to put the final finish on.
Here, I'm pre-finishing the ring and preparing to drill and set the six tiny diamonds.
Then I marked and drilled out six spots on either side of the main gems where I’ll set six additional tiny diamonds. Because I know for a fact that you can never have too many diamonds.
Setting the gems
Next, I needed to prepare the settings for the gemstones. Much of this process involves refining and tweaking the bezels to ensure that the diamonds will sit flush in their settings, with their tables (the top surface of the stone) flat and parallel to the other diamonds. I very carefully ground out bits of gold from the cast ring to adjust the settings.
The setting itself is done with a reciprocating hammer, a tiny electric tool controlled with a foot pedal (which also made an appearance in this post about my Torus Bracelet). I used this mini-hammer to slowly and carefully pound the bezels down around the stones until they were totally stable. In case you’re curious, glue is never used to secure diamonds! The settings themselves are designed to hug the gems and keep them locked in place.
Here, I'm drilling and setting the tiny diamonds, and starting to set the two 1.0ct side diamonds.
After the stones were safely nestled in their settings, I just needed to clean up the bezels. I filed and sanded off the hammer marks, then used a graver (a little knife-like tool) to clean up the tiny inner edge right next to the stones. This makes a nice clean, shiny line of gold, just where the bezel contacts the diamonds.
I'll get the big ones seated and set in their new home, and then do a final finish around the bezel.
And, just a whole bunch of hours later … the ring is complete! It’s dazzling, isn’t it? Don’t lie. You know you’re dazzled. Heck, I’m dazzled, and I made it.
And, voilá! All done!
Huge thanks to my marvelous client for bringing this project my way, and for letting me share it with you all! And hey, if you’ve got a custom ring (or necklace, or bracelet) in mind, give me a shout. I’d love to make your wearable dreams into sparkling realities!
*And just in case you were curious about that other band...here it is! :)
For the matching band, we used five of the client's 2.5mm diamonds and set each one with four 1mm diamonds around it, and added five 3.3mm between each grouping. Whew! Diamonds galore!