Cocktail Ring Tutorial
Created in the early stages of my jewellery career, this was an edifying project with many challenges. Most of the difficulties for me arose mainly due to working with sterling silver, when most of my work at that time was done in platinum. Of particular frustration was dealing with the limitations sterling silver poses when soldering - because of it's high thermal conductivity, and trying to impart crisp details when finishing. Despite the finished ring being made from synthetic gemstones, and being unfortunately practically worthless - I think it was a constructive and valuable project in terms of learning and I would advise any intermediate level jeweler to give it a try. Please feel free to post questions or comments below.
I’m only going to cover the fabricating of the ring and the setting of the main stone, I will cover pave setting in another article. It’s not a simple project, and therefore I haven’t described the more basic techniques as this tutorial is intended for jewellers with some experience.
The first step was to make the head of the ring, which involves creating the gallery together with the halo bezel. To begin lets start with the upper halo bezel, take a piece of 1.5mm thick sheet of sterling silver somewhere around 25mm square, and accurately trace around the stone using a scribe (I find double sided sellotape invaluable for this). After tracing around the stone I pierce out the middle area staying inside the line by about 1mm. With the piercing done, I dome the metal slightly using a doming block, followed by a hammer to keep the sides flat rather than curved. After the initial forging of the pierced piece, I now go back in with my saw and finish cutting out all the way to the line, constantly checking the fit of my stone. I want the stone to fit so that the top of the girdle is only just visible above the edge of the setting. Once the stone is seated correctly, I use my dividers to scribe a line 2.2mm all the way around the pierced hole. This gives us enough room to comfortably pave set 1.5mm CZ. Once marked, you guessed it, cut it out accurately.
After completing the Halo, it's then time to create the lotus flower gallery. This is done by fabricating a dome in the same 1.5mm silver. It is not necessary for the dome to be a full hemisphere, but aiming for about 75% of the way there would be a good guide. The edge of the dome, should meet with the outside corners of your halo bezel.
With the dome shape created for the lower gallery, the dome should be split and marked into quarters, needless to say, this should be measured and checked several times before proceeding further. If the marking is not accurate at this stage, disaster is already in the air. With the dome marked, and with the use of further guidelines if necessary, draw out the design for the flower onto the dome using first a pencil, followed by a scribe once happy with the pencil detail. Pierce out the flower and finish up with escapement files and rubber wheels to sculpt in a little form and deteail.
With the lower gallery finished, prongs were added to the halo - these were made from 2mm round wire (this is silver and it was a huge stone). Using 90 degree guidelines on paper, the location of the prongs was marked precisely before fitting the prongs so that approximately 60% of the prong was embedded into the halo and only 40% was left remaining to be cut away when seating the stone. At this stage holes were drilled and ajours / azures (depending on which you prefer) are cut for the pave.
The upper and lower gallery are then simply soldered together. Binding wire can be used for precision, but for this particular project, I cut slight recesses into the upper halo with a ball bur so the points of the lower gallery simply rested in there with no chance of movement during soldering.
A simple ring shank is created using 3.5mm round wire which is then flattened to an oval shape by running through the rolling mill - this forges a good starting point for later filing to create a comfort fit band. The shank is soldered to create a continuous band, this enables the ring mandrel to be used to quickly create a perfectly accurate circular band. Only after a perfect round band is created, is a section of the band removed and the shank is then fitted to the head. Secure the two sections with binding wire and solder. With the fabrication complete, it's time to set the stones.
Personally I am entirely useless at setting stones without this somewhat phallic looking piece of equipment. For those who don't know, this is a GRS benchmate system, and I cannot live without it. It allows both hands to be free during the setting process. With the ring securely held, the prongs are bent backwards, and the 40% of the prongs that was left below the surface of the halo, is now removed with a ball bur. The the prongs are flush with the metal on the inside of the halo and the stone can sit back inside the halo with the girdle again level with the inside edge. The ring is now ready for the prongs to be pushed over.
Once the stone is seated, the prongs are bent over the crown of the stone before being snipped or cut off. It's important with prongs of this thickness to lever them over the stone before removing the excess, this give extra leverage for moving quite a large amount of metal. Once the prongs are in contact with the stone, the excess can be trimmed and then filed to create claws. In my mind claws are always far more elegant than rounded prongs, but that is a matter of opinion of course. Now all that's left is to pave set the halo.
I hope you enjoyed the article as much as I enjoyed making it! please feel free to give it a try, it's a very commercial style ring which I do not consider my personal design property, so please copy away and share the results. Thank you for reading :)