Emma came to me with a request to turn her unworn jewellery into something she could love and wear again and presented me with a 9k yellow gold ring set with diamonds and a 14k yellow gold necklace that housed a large opal. My head almost instantly started to think of all the possibilities as we discussed what she hoped for: a ring and earrings in 18k using the stones and metal too.
Before I could begin the design process in earnest however, I suggested that the opal should be looked at and if possible recut as it would be a shame not to use it (over time it had become visibly cracked either through being kept in a sealed box or having dried out with age). The first challenge was to remove it from its pendant without causing further damage (I think I held my breath whilst I did this!). I then took the opal to a local lapidarist (stonecutter) who could expertly assess, cut and shape the best bits - if of course any of it could be salvaged. Thankfully we were able to get three opal cabochons from the original stone; a round cabochon and two free form almost shield-like in shape. I then proceeded to remove the diamonds from the ring again taking care as I didn't want to damage any of them by being heavy handed. Having successfully removed them from their setting I admired the purple hue of each of the stones (I love shades of purple)
Melting the Gold
Once the stones were out of their settings, the opal recut into new useable cabochons I then turned my attention to the metal. Emma had requested her new jewellery was 18k yellow gold. Before I could begin melting the gold down I needed to do some maths to calculate how much new pure gold was required to be melted with the old gold to make 18k yellow gold: the old ring was 9k and the old pendant was 14k. Once I worked this out I was ready to begin melting the gold in the crucible. The resulting ingot of 18k yellow gold had a beautiful warmth to it yet still bright in colour.
As we were adding gold this resulted in having a little more gold to play with than we originally had. Emma and I had discussed designs and I presented her with drawings which I tweaked until we eventually settled on a design: 2 stacking rings that could be worn together or on their own and a pair of earrings.
Working the metal
I started to work on the rings, starting with working the ingot down to make a length of square wire enough for two rings. The remaining gold was rolled into sheet for the earrings: a thin square (for the backs to the cabachons) and a longer thin rectangular length (for the bezel walls) and thin round wire (for earwires and jumprings).
Using my forming hammer I forged the square wire into its triangular form. I cut the wires to length for each ring and formed into shape allowing space for the tube that I shaped to fit the individual stones. Before soldering into place I checked they sat comfortably by tacking into place with bluetac refining the shape where necessary until the elements all sat together happily. Using the left over wire I melted down to create some tiny granules (balls of gold) and positioned and soldered these into place.
The earrings were next, I cut a length off the rectangular sheet to fit around the shield like opals to create the bezels and soldered this closed before soldering to the square sheet and used my jewellers saw to cut around the bezel. I pieced every component together to check their position prior to soldering together.
The rings and earrings were carefully finished and polished prior to hallmarking at Birmingham Assay Office and setting the stones.
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