Last night in jewelry class, I finished the watermelon ring I’d started last week. I had been excited about the ring, because last week I’d done a fair amount of the process independently, whereas many of the other projects had a heavy teacher influence. Slowly, I am moving up from a trike to a bicycle. Last week, I’d cut, filed, and soldered the ring and the bezel. I’d also rounded the ring using the shaping block. This week, I needed to solder the bezel, make a hold for the stone, and set the stone- the tourmaline I’d picked out last week.
Then came the soldering process. I saw that my teacher was readying everything to solder, while chatting to others in the class. I stopped him before he began to solder and asked if I could do it... with help, of course. To my surprise, he got up and let me take his seat. As I was getting the torch ready, he made as if to leave out the room, saying he was going to get some cay. He saw my eyes bulge out in consternation and laughed. He had only been joking.
It was a good thing that he stayed, because the soldering did not go smoothly. First, we heated the ring to burn off the flux. The flux turned white and frothed at the mouth. For a second, the bezel turned wild in the flame, bucking up under the flux. It shifted a bit looked unpredictable. My teacher fearlessly pushed it back into place, while I continued to heat the ring. Now it was time for the solder. I moved it forward towards the flame and the solder balled up and dropped on the wrong part of the ring (not inside the bezel). My teacher grabbed it with tweezers and corralled to where it was supposed to go. Then, the rest of the solder balled up, but wouldn't drop off my tweezer, like an anxious child gripping his mother's hand on the first day of school. On top of that, I couldn't understand any of the directions my teacher was giving me and it felt as though I was hearing Turkish for the first time. Finally, the ball dropped and the solder flowed. My teacher shifted the bezel around, while the solder was flowing, to make sure it was in the right spot, and seconds later, it was done. Voila! Ok, so I still got a lot of assistance, but I feel like I'll be completely in the driver's seat soon.
Once the bezel was on, space needed to be carved for the bottom of the gemstone to fit. It was my first time ever doing this, although I'd seen my teacher do it a number of times. Again with some guidance as to what bits to use and in what sequence, I drilled a hole in the center of the ring and made it progressively larger and larger.
Next came the bezel design- a series of incisions and holes that in the end looks like miniature turrets. "Emilie Varlet usta," said my teacher, cracking himself up. "Usta" is the title they give to someone, who has mastered a craft. Finally, it was time to set the stone. I held it in place with my finger, while hammering at the tiny turrets with a tiny hammer. My teacher polished the ring- half 'brosse' (matte) and half shiny and the ring was passed around to admiring nods, as has become the custom in our class. I felt a special gush of pride in this ring. I'm a far cry from 'usta', but I'm inching closer.