Franken-ring

I was happy to get back to my jewelry class after a 5-week hiatus of visiting family in Europe and traveling with friends in Myanmar. My fingers were itching to finish my projects and ears were yearning to bask in the rhythms of buzzing saws. Since the last time I've written in this blog, my teacher has moved into his own studio in Kabatas, with a window onto the Bosphorus. We greeted each other and made small talk, me, still using my broken Turkish, which has grown embarrassingly little in the four years since I've updated this blog. My other classmates trickled in from the cold, and after a tea and a chat, we settled into the studio to continue our work.

Before I left, I had been working on a green amethyst ring. I have been adamant about learning to set stones well this year, and failing several times has only strengthened my resolve. The central part of the ring, where the green amethyst was to be set was made by creating a bezel the size of the stone and then a smaller tube that fit snuggly within the first. This created a seat for the stone.


Once the bezel was formed, I made a band for the ring and filed two lines down for the bottom ridges of the bezel to fit into, and soldered them together.

I've gotten a lot more comfortable with soldering over the last year, mostly from practice with various projects at home. I have been on a kick of making small structures and this has led to a variety of experimental soldering experiences. My teacher has taught us to heat the piece and "feed" the solder into an area, a different (and much more efficient technique) than the one I was taught in the US of placing solder paillettes on a joint, which made soldering a one-shot deal. The feeding technique is a lot more forgiving and allows one to add solder as necessary and to readjust the piece while soldering if it shifts out of place. 

Once the band was soldered to the bezel, I cut two pieces of thicker wire. These would be used to set smaller stones on each side of the amethyst. I cut to more longer pieces of this thick wire and curved them to go around these first pieces. I soldered the curved pieces first and then the wire piece where the small stones would go at their center. The result gave an effect of bolts sticking out on either side of the ring, for which my classmate jokingly nicknamed my ring "Frankenstein", made only more appropriate by the green stone I would set in it. 

I filed and sanded the ring in preparation to set the small stones. My teacher demonstrated the process. He used a small straight drill bit to make a hole in the center of the wire, which he enlarged with a small circular burr, by sticking it straight into the hole (not shifting it around). He then moved to a larger sized burr- about the size of the stone and continued to enlarge the hole in the same way. When he was done, he lifted the stone with a hand-heated chunk of wax. It sat perfectly in the hole, with its edge just below the hole's rim. My teacher then used the stone setting tool to fix the stone, wearing magnifying glasses throughout, and pushed the edge of the wire in and over to hold the stone in place. He then ran the sharp side of the stone setting tool around the perimeter of the stone- where it meets the metal. This has the effect of pushing down a small band of silver onto the stone, locking it further into place. Once the stone was firmly set, he used a concave drill bit that fit exactly over the wire and used it to gently smooth the sides down. 

After observing him, it was my turn. There were a few trip ups- my hole wasn't exactly centered (something that my teacher fixed for me) and it took me a little while to set the stone, but overall, the process went pretty smoothly. I think that with a little more practice, I will get the hang of it and be able to do it independently. The final step before polishing was to set the amethyst. Again, my teacher started the process for me and I worked to finish setting the stone with steady and deliberate movements. One thing that jewelery work teaches helps you practice is the ability to remain calm and patient, something that I have learned to cultivate over the years, but am still working on. When I had finished setting it with the hand tool, my teacher used an electric tool called a "marteau", which attaches to the drill and moves up and down quickly like a woodpecker. He ran the tool around the edge of the bezel, which worked to set the stone in more firmly. And, that was that! Behold, the Frankenstein ring!


At the end of class, I found out that my teacher has organized an exhibition of his students' work and that the theme is Selcuk designs. Coincidentally, I had booked a ticket to go to Selcuk to attend the annual camel wresting festival there the morning prior. Everyone who participates in the exhibition is to choose a Selcuk design for inspiration and there should be no overlap in designs. People have been posting the designs that they've chosen online, and when I got home that night I began to dig for motifs or combination of motifs that I could use. There is an abundance of designs to choose from and get inspired by, and I am looking forward to playing around with this project. Results to come later!

As always, I am forever thankful for my jewelry class and the wonderful community that it allows me to be a part of. I am so excited to continue all of this work in the new year!

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