Hand made fine jewellery tutorial - Tanzanite and diamond cluster ring
As with a lot of pieces we’re going to start with a piece of perfectly square metal. Its always best to start like this so that youre starting off with a nice straight canvas. This also mean that you can scribe guide lines to work to. When working out how thick to make your top plate you need to think about balancing both overall strength with finesse and elegance. Ive gone with 1.2mm for this piece.
Once you have your metal squared up and your guide lines scribed you will need to file the corners to create a shape that roughly matches your stone. For this piece Ive just taken off the corners to make it more of an emerald cut shape, which is enough to give me the correct balance without filing it to exactly the same shape. Once Im happy with my shape its time to dome the piece. Naturally when you dome a piece of square metal the long flat sides will round up and bulge. Nows the time time to anneal your metal and then lightly tap them back down on your flat iron, creating what we have in the image above. Be careful to tap lightly at an angle to bring the sides back down without altering the dome of the plate. Once youre happy with your top plate its time to drill and pierce out your centre stone. Its about now that you'll realise just how useful your scribe lines are. You'll be able to easily mark and cut out your stone perfectly within the lines so that it sits at a nice height. Remember, you can always drop it lower but you can't raise it up.
Now is time to carefully mark out and drill your outter stones. With stones this size I like to use a pen to draw them on. Again, your N,S,E,W markings will tell you exactly where the first four stones go and the rest will follow suit. Drill and fraise out your holes, making sure to stop and check by dropping the stones in rather than fraising it all out in one go. This will show you if youre going too far one way or if the stones need to be brought in tighter to the centre.
Nows the fun part, or at least its the part I find fun. Your centre stone is cut in, your outer stones fit around perfectly with even spacing so now you can file up your surround. I like to use a compass to scribe around each outer setting to give me a guide line to file to, which can be useful when starting first learning. Then you'll want to use a saw frame to cut a line between each stone, which will be the indentation of your scallop. once you've done that the whole way around its time to file each one. I like to start off with a three square needle file (triangle), followed by a safety back. Use some pliers to hold it gently but firm and be sure to maintain a consistent angle the entire way around.
Now we need to start thinking about claws/prongs. The thickness of claws is something that takes a bit of experience to get right. Ideally you want as thinner claws as possible whilst still maintaining as much strength as is necessary to keep the stones from falling out. For this ring I've gone with 1mm for the shared claws and 0.9mm for the single claws. Once you've pulled down your wire to the correct size its time to gap in your claws. Most of the time I like to use gapping files as I feel it gives a little more control than cylinder fraises however, I always finish using a fraise so that my gaps are perfectly straight. Be careful to gap the same amount for each one and check how much is needed by putting your stones in. The inside claws need to be marked out and drilled in rather than gapped or fraised.
This stage can make or break a piece. There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to soldering. As simple as it sounds the first is to make sure you use the correct amount of solder. This is often over looked and different amounts are used for each solder join. The way to prevent this happening is to mill and cut fresh solder into perfectly even squares. The second mainly applies to gold, but don't overheat the piece!. The last thing you want to do is melt any of the good work you've just done. There are load of different techniques when it comes to positioning your claws for soldering from balancing them, to holding them with tweezers to lasering them on first. Find which one yields the best results for you and run with that.
Once you have all of your claws soldered on you'll need to start carefully bending them under to create your basket. With this ring Ive chosen to stagger the heights of the claws to allow them to fit together better. The amount you need to bend them will depend on the height that you want the head to sit. Its a good idea to consider this before you make your shank. Turn up small ring for the centre bezel and slightly dome it to create your finger size before soldering it into place.
Once your shank and head are finished you'll need to carefully fit them together by filling or fraising into the shank for the claws to sit snugly. You can also file a groove into the under rail so that the bezel of the head snaps in. This will lock your head in place making it easier for you to line them both up for soldering. The additional use of binding wire, tweezers or laser welder (if you're lucky enough to have one) will give you more security once you start heating the piece. Once you're happy with the positioning you can solder them together.
Once you have everything soldered together you can finish off tweaks to the profile of the shank before finely papering it. The next stage is a prepolish and then its ready to have the stones set.
Tada, the final piece, set and polished.