Making and designing a ring might not sound like a whole lot of work to the person buying online or walking into the studio to purchase, but in reality, there are so many steps involved, it would make you stop and appreciate the skill and craftsmanship going into it if you knew.
Fine Silver & Sterling Silver
All rings starts out as pure Silver extracted from the earth. I buy Silver granules from a Metal supplier who in turn buys from the mines.
Fine Silver (99.9% pure) is very soft and not suitable for ‘every day wear’ rings. By adding copper, Fine Silver becomes Sterling silver and gets in characteristic hardness.
Sterling Silver, is 92.5% parts of Fine Silver and 7.5% parts copper.
Sometimes I buy Sterling Silver granules from my supplier other times I will buy Fine Silver granules, and add the 75 parts Copper myself when smelting.
The purity of Silver that I purchase depends mainly on the items that I want to make.
Then I receive the granules, they are placed into a crucible for smelting.
Definition of a crucible: Modern crucibles may be small laboratory utensils for conducting high-temperature chemical reactions and analyses or large industrial vessels for melting and calcining metal and ore; they may be made of clay, graphite, porcelain, or a relatively infusible metal.
Sterling Silver melts at 893°C. Larger amounts of Sterling Silver will take longer to melt. The smaller the amount of Silver you are melting, the quicker the process is. This batch took quite some time as there was about 250g of Silver to be melted.
When the Silver is melted and molten, it is then poured into an ingot (pictured above on the left of the crucible).
A quick dip in cold water quenches the metal, and you are able to handle it immediately.
These ingots are much too thick (+-1cm) to do anything with, so they must be sent through a rolling mill for make them flat, and reduce the width of the metal. This part of the process takes the longest if you have a manual rolling mill like me, and it means HARD LABOR!
The ingot is placed between 2 rollers, and the crank is turned to pull the metal through to the other side. The spindle at the top is adjusted after every pass the silver takes through the rollers to narrow the gap and making the silver a little bit thinner the next time it goes through.
Before we go any further, here is a quick note on Annealing:
Annealing – Annealing, in metallurgy and materials science, is a heat treatment that alters the physical and sometimes chemical properties of a material to increase its ductility and reduce its hardness, making it more workable. – Wikipedia
After a couple of passes through the rolling mill rollers, the Sterling ingot or plate, becomes to hard to go any thinner, and it must be annealed to make it softer in order to work with it again. Sterling silver anneals between 750°C to 760°C.
These ingots were passed through my roller dozens of times, and were annealed half a dozen more.
Finally we can start building some rings!
After hammering a small piece of the Sterling Silver plate, the plate is then hand sawn into strips to create the ring templates. Each strip is the flat length of 1 ring.
After exact strips are cut to the exact size, it’s onto forming ring shapes and soldering them shut.
Filing and sanding, and hammering on a ring mandrel gets the ring blanks into rudimentary ring shapes. These rings had an extra Copper heart soldered onto them. I also added a patina (oxidized) to the rings in order to give them a rustic feels.
Patina is a chemical process where a film is added onto the metal to speed up the natural oxidation process.
Most of the oxidation is then sanded sanded off, edges are cleaned up, and the rings are then sanded with various grades of sand paper to give them a smooth surface.
Finally we can get to cleaning and polishing them!
After hand polishing them with a Sterling Silver polishing compound and a polishing wheel, they are ready to be cleaned, packed & shipped.
Did you know that all of this went into the beautiful ring on your finger?