Peter McBride        Antique and Old Tools 

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Hand making an 18ct yellow gold half - hoop ring, with a carved gallery and claw setting.

Hand making a ring is just what is says...it isn't carving wax and having it cast, or purchasing a casting to hand finish. It's hand wrought in the gold. I've seen far too much misrepresenting of the term "hand making". So I decided to remove any confusion and show how it's done. Cast gold is soft, brittle, and porous so isn't the best option for durability and security of the setting. 

hhoop.jpg (28564 bytes) This is a picture of the finished ring.

 The scroll pattern on the sides and the shoulder treatment are a personal choice.

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When hand carving these scrolls I use a slightly different alloy of gold from my usual 75% gold, 13% silver 12% copper mix. I reduce the copper to 11% and add 1% zinc. This make the gold a little softer and friendlier to carve. 

From experience I cut the required length from a bar of 18ct gold. 

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At this stage the gold hasn't been annealed since it was melted and poured into the ingot mould. Each end is rolled down in the wire rolling mill, leaving the centre section the original size.

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Placing the diamonds on top of the blank to check progress.

04.jpg (70479 bytes) The ends are at a hardness now when they need annealing. The entire piece is heated to red and quenched in water.
05.jpg (22112 bytes) The ends are further reduced in the wire mills.
06.jpg (45770 bytes) The centre block is now rolled sideways in the flat mills and brought down to about 1mm thicker than the height of the finished ring. This spreads the gold and gives the width needed to house the diamonds, and to make the prongs to clasp over the top.
07.jpg (32242 bytes) Again the diamonds are laid out upside down on the blank to check progress.

Looks good here.

08.jpg (44060 bytes) The ends of the blank are now rolled in and out of the flat mills to reduce their thickness.

(The red is just oxidation, intensified by the digi camera...not heat. The rolling is always done cold)

09.jpg (63796 bytes) The ends have been worked down to about half their cross section, so need annealing again.
10.jpg (17427 bytes) More reduction in thickness, leaving the centre alone.
11.jpg (33488 bytes) Hallmark stamping with my maker's mark and gold purity mark "750"
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The centre section is pretty thick, but is soft compared to the work hardened flats of the band. This is done so that when trying to bend the centre, the harder ends resist bending and encourage the thicker part to a better shape...So into the ring bender to shape it into a ring.
14.jpg (48006 bytes) The ends are cut to length, so the ring is about 3 or 4 sizes undersize before final shaping.
15.jpg (47423 bytes) Ring bending pliers are used to close the back of the ring.
16.jpg (56990 bytes) The top is refusing to close, so a quick squeeze in the soft jaws of the vice closes the back up.
17.jpg (49175 bytes) The band ends are trimmed square and soldered with my mouth blown torch using "hard solder" the highest melting point solder I have. This also anneals the entire ring ready for the next forging process.
18.jpg (50046 bytes) Onto the steel ring mandrel it goes, and it's hammered round and up to just under the correct finger size.
19.jpg (31602 bytes) This forging on the mandrel saves time and material which would be spent filing gold away to get the shape. The shoulders are hammered down to their correct shape.
20.jpg (40950 bytes) To mark the location of the largest centre diamond I place it upside down on the top and scribe a line across pushing it out of the way as I do so.
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Using progressively larger drills in the flex drive, and then a ball bur, the diamond is let in until it just sits above the surface of the ring.
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Then the other 2 diamonds are let in the same way. 
24.jpg (30356 bytes) A small gap of about 0.6mm is left between them so that as they are sunk down into the mount when being set they come close but don't touch. This part is critical because a small error here is very obvious in the finished ring
26.jpg (46195 bytes) The sides are now filed down to the size, and the shape of the sides is defined. The squareness of the ring is carefully checked as this filing progresses. 
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The back of the holes are opened up with a ball bur on the flex drive, and the holes are aligned at the back.
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The back holes are cut square with the saw, and parallel to the sides of the ring.

A nice even knife edge is maintained between the holes.

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The top is now prepared for cutting away the metal to form the claws. first a cut down with the saw, then a square needle file.
33.jpg (31204 bytes) 34.jpg (32444 bytes) Then the shape is filed around the holes to get an even thickness.
35.jpg (33947 bytes) Another critical step, laying out the scrolls and claws.
engrave2.jpg (53096 bytes) engrave1.jpg (68542 bytes) The saw is used to cut away the metal to form the claws, and 0.5mm holes are drilled at the bottom of the scrolls. The scrolls are then roughed out using the engraving tools.
36.jpg (31751 bytes) The shoulders are cut with a "V" shape to form the outside pair of claws for each of the end diamonds.
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More work with the engraving tools and files to shape the claws and scrolls.

39.jpg (29679 bytes) piercing.jpg (56608 bytes) A fine saw blade is used to open up the holes to make the scrolls finer, and to define their shape.
40.jpg (25788 bytes) setting.jpg (90024 bytes) To set the diamonds the claws a pushed open a little, a bearing surface is cut using the flex drive, and then the prongs are pushed over and down onto the diamonds.
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hhoop1.jpg (28236 bytes) hhoop2.jpg (39044 bytes) The scrolls are refined using the engraving tools, and claws trimmed using needle files and engraving tools. The band is filed to half round and after a final emery with 1200 wet&dry on sticks, a polish and clean completes the ring.
Note that there was no annealing after the ring was soldered shut just before the forging to shape. This leaves the gold in a work hardened state, and after the claws are pushed down (more work hardening), the grain structure of the gold is very favourable, and they are very strong indeed.

Copyright Peter McBride 2005