Yesterday I did something I’d always wanted to try but thought it probably isn’t something I’d ever get to do.
I learnt how to make silver rings!
I have found some amazing crafty and talented friends over here. They’re always making things and I love seeing what they produce.
I have kind of thrown myself into a few workshops that have been advertised locally and my friends asked me if I wanted to join them on a jewellery making workshop.
Obviously I said yes.
The three of us set off on just over an hours drive and arrived at julies house. The lady who would be teaching us.
As we went in to her house we we’re shown into the workshop which was just full of lots of equipment. As I’ve never done any kind of jewellery work I had no idea what most of it was.
There were pots of things, lots of mallets, a big industrial roller thing (which I soon learnt that it was for making the wire thinner if needed) lots of different hammers and mallets, sand bags, saws, pliers, blow torches, spindles…. Just so much stuff!
She had a display of the jewellery she makes to sell and all I could think was wow, she’s got her work cut out getting me to produce something even remotely wearable.
We had all chosen what we wanted to make before arriving and weree able to choose from a selection of items, a band ring, 3 stacker rings, a fidget ring and matching earring and pendant.
I chose to make the 3 stacker rings and so did my friend Dawn and Sandra chose to make a fidget ring-I definitely would love to have a go at this one myself, it was awesome.
We had a look at the designs Julie had made and based our own designs on what we liked out of these.
Initially I just thought 3 stacker ring they’d all be the same but as my creative brain isn’t quite functioning, when Dawn said she was going to make 3 different ones I figured that was probably the best idea as we could try different techniques and create different styles.
Julie explained about the shape of wire and which ring designs suited which wire better and we all chose our pieces.
We chose which fingers we wanted our rings to fit and Julie gave us the ring sizers so we could measure them.
Next we had to look on a chart and find out how long the wire needed to be for our sizes, the length also depended on the thickness of the wire too.
Once we’d measured up we then had to cut them!
2 of the ring styles I wanted to create were twisted so I needed those to be longer than the initial measurement as the twist meant it would shorten slightly.
We got to work cutting our wires to length… Obviously my saw snapped in the middle of cutting the first wire due to bad technique. Julie put on a new blade and I cut the rest.
Once the wire was cut we could then start to make our designs. When twisting the wire, first we had to anneal the silver, which means heating it up with a blow torch, to make it more plyable. To make the twist in wire we held a pair of pliers on each end and literally twisted the wire to the disired amount.
One thing I realised when the rings were finished was that at this stage if you like the effect just continue a little more so it’s slightly exaggerated as when you bend the ring to shape the twist is stretched and flattens a bit.
One of the designs I really liked was twisted but then had a flattened outer edge. This needed to be done with a flat headed metal hammer. We had a sand bag on the workbench and a steel block to sit the wire on, and we all sat there bashing away at our metal.
For the last ring, which was a thicker wire, I used I hammer which had a subtle stripe pattern on it which I quite liked the look of on the other rings. But after trying it on my wire I wasn’t too sure.
There were lots of different hammers with different patterns on them, Dawn showed me the effect of one of them she used and I loved it. So I decided to use it on mine too.
Again I’d have been a bit harder with it knowing that the pattern flattened a bit when the ring was shaped.
Once I was happy with the designs I measured the wire again and cut it to the correct length that matched my ring size.
Now it was time to shape the ring. We used a ring sizer mandrel and a rubber mallet to bend the wire. It was quite difficult holding the wire and mandrel steady while hitting it hard enough to bend the wire.
The thicker wire was harder so I annealed it first to make it easier to bend. The end of the wires were the most difficult as the wire would slide out of my fingers, but I got there in the end.
Once the rings were shaped into ring shapes I then had to make sure the ends were in place ready for soldering. This bit was really tricky as the ends had to be touching with no gap in between otherwise the solder wouldn’t work. There was a lot of tiny backwards and forwards and up and down movements to get it in exactky the right place.
The thicker square wire was easiest to match up but the twisted wire had to have a bit more thought to it so that when it was soldered it flowed together.
Once this bit was done it was time to solder! We used tiny bits of silver solder and a blow torch, placing the little bits of solder under the join in the rings and heating them up with the blowtorch, when the solder was at the correct temperature it melted and sprang up into the join of the ring…
And there you had it. An actual ring!
Once the rings were soldered they had to be put in a pickling mixture to remove oxidisation and clean the metal, they were in this mixture of about 15 minutes. When I took them out they were a matt white colour and the only thing left to do was to file where the solder was so it was smooth and blended in with the rest of the ring and then a good polish!
I tried the rings on for size and they fitted perfectly. I still wasn’t convinced they would be beautiful as I just couldn’t picture them finished.
The polisher was a tumbler which had a very mild abrasive solution in it and some metal ball bearings and what looked like metal sprinkles.
We left them in here churning away for maybe 15 minutes.
We were all so eager to see the final results.
Julie poured the solution out into a seive along with the metal bearings and we were peering over her shoulder to see if we could spot our rings.
The final result was a lot better than I expected. I LOVED them!
They were shiny, the rings looked so nice together, they stacked nicely, the patterns showed nicely and for a moment I couldn’t believe I’d made them.
Not only did I come away with a really nice piece of jewellery it was actually really nice spending some time with my lovely creative friends doing something together.
Something I’ve not done in years.
I was surprised how easy the process was to make these rings, but can appreciate how time consuming it is to make them perfect. Julie has been making jewellery for 20 years and hers are flawless, shiny and simply beautiful craftsmanship.
Normally I will have a go at new craft by looking online and watching videos but this isn’t something I’d ever have had a go at myself, obviously these rings are far from perfect but I love them.
I really really want to have a go at the fidget rings which were definitely much harder to master and Sandra had a much more difficult job to get everything to fit just so.
I think I’ll definitely be booking another one in the future to learn this technique too.
It was great meeting Julie, she is a brilliant creative and her work is beautiful and unique.
This is a course I’d definitely recommend, the price is very good considering what you come away with and there is a price for every budget depending on what you want to make.
You can see more of her work and treat yourself to a beautifully handcrafted piece of jewellery here: http://www.julry.co.uk