For thousands of years, since the earliest records of human civilisation, gold has been one of our most highly valued natural materials. Egyptian royalty were known to dress themselves in gold and bolster their armour with this glowing metal. Gold jewellery, emblazoned with coloured gemstones, was popular amongst the Mayan and Aztec tribes, whose masterpieces are still widely regarded as inexplicable feats of precious metalwork. So what goes into the making of these timeless creations, like a Gold Ring, for example?
Well, the process is actually fairly simple and yet also rather fascinating. It begins with a designer receiving the specifications from their respective client. The designer will make notes concerning the ring size and style, before drawing a number of precise preliminary sketches. Once the sketches are drawn they will be passed onto the model maker who takes a block of carving wax and, using a special compass, measures and marks the required width of the band. Then the maker saws a small section off the wax block and utilises a precise gauge in order to etch a ring-size carving onto a stick, called a mandrill. Next the model maker adjusts their compass to ring size and makes a finger hole impression on the block of wax. After that they take a drill and carves out the marked hole.
The next stage involves a process of refinement, until the wax has been ground off the outside of the band. Then a compass is applied to the middle of the band, which is scored and left with a slightly indented groove. A fine drill bit then comes into play in order to further carve out the groove, which is then refined using various files. It should also be mentioned that the aesthetic is always determined according to the design. Once this is done several wax prongs (if the design requires them) are added to the band, as well as a wax stem for the underside of the model. With the prongs and stem complete the wax ring is then positioned on the base of a cylinder used to complete the cast. This base then goes onto the platform of a vacuum machine before a careful attendant pours in a special plaster mixture. The vacuum is used to suck any pockets of air out of the plaster, before it solidifies. Any air bubbles left inside would render the finished ring misshapen. It takes less than a minute, after which the whole cylinder goes into a prepared furnace, wherein the wax model quickly evaporates, leaving the finished ring shaped with hardened plaster.
The final stage begins with the melting of the gold that will in turn be poured into the plaster. The value of the gold is measured in carats. It’s fairly simple, really – the lower the carat the less gold and the more alloys are used, like nickel or copper. Five hours later the cylinder is taken out of the furnace using a pair of tongs. It then goes into an advanced casting machine, which spins for a minute and hurls the oozing, liquefied gold into the plaster mould. This leads into the refinement process when the cylinder is immersed in cold water, cooling the gold and causing the plaster to disintegrate. When the cylinder is pulled back out of the water you will see it crumble around a gleaming cast gold ring. Now, you might think that’s it done, but the ring’s surface will still be very rough, necessitating a rigorous finishing process. To finish the ring the maker finally saws off the stem and files and grinds it until it’s smooth. After that they’ll apply a trademark and carat marking before the ring is hammered on the mandrill and carefully rounded. At this point we’re almost done. The last thing that happens is the ring is passed onto a polishing specialist who uses a series of buffing wheels to get the piece shining. If needs be the ring will then end up with a gemstone setter who straightens the prongs that will hold gemstone. Again, this doesn’t apply to all rings. This is followed by the introduction of a drill bed to carve out the inside of the prongs. These carved edges will grip the gemstone once it’s been slotted-in. The setter finishes his work by readjusting and closing the prongs until the stone is secure.
So there you have it – a beautiful gold ring created from its humble origin as a few leaden scratches on a page. Even after all those complex steps and stages the ring still has to be immersed in an ultrasonic machine, until the vibrations in the water clean every interstice, and then held under a jet of hot steam that blasts the residue away. Suffice it to say that a lot of care and attention goes into the making of these designs.