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In this video, watch the process of making a gold and silver mixed-metal ring with an embedded heirloom diamond in beautiful beach sand from New Zealand.
PART 1: MIXING THE SAND FOR CASTING
Part 1: This project is the reimagining of an heirloom gold and diamond ring that belonged to my client’s mother. It was passed on before her mother passed. The first step in this project is to welcome the spirit of this special woman into the studio to sit with me and be part of the reimagining of her ring. I had a powerful urge to have a glass of wine to begin this project and upon chatting with my client, it turns out that the original owner of this ring was quite partial to a good wine and a good laugh!
I start by sieving and then blending the dry sand from two special locations. Each place has it’s own wairua, or spirit, that is present in the sand. This spirit will be passed on through the metal into the jewellery as well. Once the sand is mixed together, it is wet to the correct consistency to be used as a casting medium – yep, this takes a lot of practice!
Then the diamond is recovered from the ring to be incorporated into the new treasure. Diamonds are hard, but they can be brittle and crack easily so it is very important to be slow and gentle at this point of the project.
PART 2: MAKING THE GOLD AND DIAMOND BRIDGE
I begin this part of the project by preparing the sand mold to take the molten metal. I use a modified aluminium flask with the pour hole cut into the side of the flask. The sand medium is very loose, and needs to be constrained by the sides of the flask to keep the shape of the mold.
I use a pre-made plain ring in the correct width and ring-size to create the negative space for the new ring. This is pressed into the sand on one side of the flask, and then the second half of the flask is filled.
Creating the pour-hole for the molten metal is a delicate process because this sand medium is so loose (very different to the traditional Delft Clay or oil infused clay medium). I make sure that the sides of the pour-hole are straight down into the negative space. This allows the molten metal to flow as freely as possible. The texture of the sand is coarse compared to Delft Clay so it is important to reduce any potential friction points as much as possible.
The next step is to place the diamond into the mold. This is a delicate and tricky process. I first add some lip-balm to the top of the diamond which helps it stick to the side of the mold and not move when the molten metal flows around it. The mold is now ready for casting!
I am using 9ct yellow gold in this part of the project – that includes the client’s original ring and some extra casting granules to ensure there is enough mass of metal to flow correctly. Melting the gold needs a very hot flame and I use a butane torch typically used for braising metal pipes in plumbing.
I use a pinch of Borax powder (yes, the same stuff you use in your laundry) to help the metal to flow and to help eliminate any impurities such as solder.
This is a successful pour!
When dealing with any stone, do NOT quench the casting in water or the stone may crack. Let it cool naturally in the air before working with it further.
PART 3: CASTING THE MIXED METAL
This project involves a mixed metal casting which means that the gold ring will be cast a second time to add a recycled silver band. The first gold ring is cleaned up and finished to the correct size. The gold and diamond section will form the bridge of the new ring. Once the gold and diamond bridge is complete (the remainder of the gold can be reused for another project) the flask is filled with sand again, and the mold is made as in step 2.
The gold bridge is added into the sand mold and vents are added to allow the silver to flow “around” the ends of the gold bridge to connect the two metals.
Silver will melt more quickly, but also cools more quickly and can be harder to work with than gold. Again, I use a butane torch and Borax to help the metal flow and be as pure as possible. A quick pour is necessary – this takes a LOT of practice.
The ring is complete. It is now tidied up with files and polish to get it to the correct size and to refine the texture. I believe that the spirit of this beautiful wāhine was with me over the two days it took to complete this project. We had a lot of laughs along the way. I am so grateful to be able to make these treasures for people, to help them reconnect with their loved ones and to find their place via the earth that we are all part of.
If you are interested in a project of your own, feel free to get in touch!