The idea for this ring started from a number of inspirations that happened to coalesce into one design. After discussions with fellow jewelry designers about the high price of metals I started thinking about ways to make fine jewelry more versatile. I suppose if I thought about it, I would say I’ve always had a fascination with things that have some sort of interchangeable feature. Even as a child the toys that thrilled me most were ones that I could build other things with such as Legos. Or the ones that change into something else like Transformers. I especially love things that have hidden secrets. Like the Hello Kitty pencil boxes that had hidden compartments and special buttons that would make a variety of useful tools pop out. So, naturally love to incorporate “secrets” into my designs. This one originally had two. The first is that fact that it can either be a pendant or a ring. And the second ended up being taken out of the design, but more about that later.
While I was formulating this design, I was reading a book on the history of jewelry and I was fascinated by ancient signet rings where the bezel pivoted on the shank and had two sides. That was when came up with the idea of making the shank split to allow a chain to pass through, thus making a ring able to convert to a pendant. While I could have designed the ring to have a something different on the other side of the bezel, I chose not to.
As far as the particular theme of this ring. Peacocks are a common theme in my work. I love the colors of peacock feathers and the references to Art Nouveau that it brings. I’m sure there are other reasons that it appeals to but unlike some of my other themes I have not yet discovered why. The geometric lines of the design reference Art Deco. Both movements heavily influence much of my work. I love the details and emphasis on craftsmanship of that time period and relate strongly to it’s themes.
Now, more about this specific piece.
The original sketches for this piece were done in my Ipad. I have since gone back to mostly hand sketching on paper because sketching on the Ipad is cumbersome. However, one benefit is the ability to paste in images from the internet and edit them into my sketches. I still use the ipad for brainstorming, collecting inspiration, and piecing together my initial thoughts.
After the sketch was created, I made the CAD model.
You can see in the above renders that there was originally a pattern along the shank. While I love such intricate details, I ultimately decided that it didn’t match the rest of the piece and was distracting to the overall design. I then opted for a smooth shank.
Once I had decided on the final design. I sent the model out for prototyping. There were four cast pieces in this piece. Below are the images of the prototypes when I got them back. For this particular project I decided to give Shapeways a try. I attached all of the pieces together so that they could be processed at one time, thus saving me some processing fees. Below are images of what the parts looked like when I received them and what they looked like all fit together for the first time.
A word of warning: Using Shapeways Ultra Frosted Detail material is extremely cost effective and yields exceptionally good quality, especially for the price. However, I strongly encourage not doing a direct burn out. Make a mold and inject a wax. I have tried a direct burn out with this material I have had significant casting issues. It may be coincidental but why take the chance? This material molds well with RTV.
After the pieces are sprued, a metal flask is placed over them.
A sleeve is then placed around the flask (to cover the holes) and a plaster like material called investment is poured in to the flask. The flask is placed in a vacuum chamber to remove any air bubbles and then the flask is set aside to cure. After the investment is hardened, the sleeve is taken off and the rubber bottom that the pieces were attached to is removed. The flask is put in the oven and the temperature of the flask is slowly raised to over 1300 degrees overnight. This heating process removes all the moisture out of the investment and melts the wax models, leaving an empty space in the investment in the shape of the pieces you are casting. At the top temperature all residual wax has been burned out and the hot flask is ready for casting
The flask is then cooled to the appropriate casting temperature which, depending on what is being cast, is between 900 and 1375 degrees. While the flask is cooling, the metal must be melted.
This is the metal to be used. Yes, that is silverware. I don’t buy casting grain. I either mix my own sterling silver from pure silver and copper, or I use sterling silver flatware. Flatware is typically much cleaner than other sterling silver and will not give the casting issues that would arise is I were to use anything less pure.
The metal is heated in an electromelt to between 1850 and 1950 degrees depending on the metal.
When the metal is ready, the flask is removed from the oven and placed in the vacuum caster which puts the flask in a vacuum that will draw the molten metal down into the flask.
Once the metal is no longer glowing the flask is quenched in a bucket of water. The cold water contacting the hot investment breaks apart most of the investment making the pieces easy to remove from the flask
Once all of the investment is removed, the pieces are cut from the sprue, cleaned, pickled and weighed.
Then each piece is sanded to about 600 grit and polished.
During preliminary cleanup, I noticed that my second secret didn’t cast well. I had created a celtic style knot in the shape of a heart to be behind the bezel of the main stone. It was intended to be a like a special element for only the wearer to know about. Thus, a secret. However, it didn’t cast as cleanly as I wanted it to so I cut the whole piece out and replaced it with a solid backing.
When I am making a piece I frequently stop and lay all the pieces together in a preliminary assembly so that I can envision what the final piece will look like.
In addition to the cast pieces, I also made eight tube set diamonds (an extra, in case I melted one) and one gold bezel for the star sapphire. After those were soldered in place the pieces could be finished up and the stones were set.
After placing the rivets between the bezel and the shank I had to do a little more clean up on the gold bezel, so I taped the shank so I wouldn’t scratch it.
Once all of the pieces were finished, I laser welded the main peacock piece in place. I could have soldered it, but since it was made from sterling, it would require re-finishing after soldering. With it already in the bezel, it would be difficult to finish it as nicely as I could with it out of the bezel. However, laser welding doesn’t cause the silver to need re-finishing, so I thought that would be a better option.
Originally, I oxidized the shank black to bring out the contrast of the gold tube settings. Then I later decided that it was distracting and removed the oxidation. Though I think it is simply a matter of preference.