Every day we sell dozens of silver rings to our customers, who in turn put those rings in jewelry cases scattered around the globe, which are eventually bought by their customers to wear, enjoy, and perhaps pass on to children or grandchildren.
We talk about handmade, but I'd like to walk through the process of actually making the ring shown here. It's a fascinating and labor-intensive journey.
There are two basic ways of making a ring: by hand or by casting. Both involve a fair amount of hand work. The ring shown here was created entirely by hand. The artist started with the stone and some plain silver sheet. The stone is laid on the sheet, then an outline is traced on the sheet using a pencil.
Next, the shape is cut out using metal snips. Initially the shape is quite rough, so the edges are filed to make the outline more accurate and to remove any sharp edges. When the base is complete, a narrow strip of silver is cut and bent around the stone to match the contour of the outline.
Excess wire is snipped off, and the ends are soldered together to create a frame or bezel that will hold the stone to the base. The joint is filed to remove excess solder and to remove any burs.
Now the bezel is soldered to the base. This is tricky, as the solder wants to drip everywhere but where it needs to go! Luckily the craftsman has years of experience, so very little of the solder goes astray.
Once the base and bezel are soldered, filing is done again to smooth out any imperfections. Holes are drilled in the center of the base and a thin diamond saw is threaded through. The diamond saw is used to cut a window in the base that will allow light to pass through the stone, and also serves to reduce the weight of the piece.
More filing follows to eliminate any rough spots. A thin piece of flat silver wire is coiled in the bottom of the cup-shaped base/bezel. This wire will hold the stone up to the appropriate height so the bezel covers just the edges of the stone.
Finally, the stone is set in place and the edges of the bezel are carefully rolled over to hold the stone securely in place. More filing to remove any tool marks.
Now the ornamentation can begin. In the ring you see here, silver wire of two different thicknesses are twisted to make different widths of edging. First the small wire twist on the right is measured, cut and soldered, then the larger one in the middle, and finally the one nearest the stone.
Every ring needs a band. The band is made from half round wire, cut to size (in this case a size 8), then molded around a mandril, soldered in place and, you guessed it: more filing!
The final step is the clean up. The ring is first buffed on a buffing wheel, front, back, and on all sides. Finally, it is sent for inspection and bagging. In all, a talented silversmith can do about one ring an hour. This ring would probably retail for around $30, and wholesale for about $8. This ring is shown on our site under the rings by weight assortment. It's amazing to think that there are hundreds of designs and no two are exactly alike.