December 9, 2007

With this wing, i thee wed

I'm pretty sure that's what Ronda said at our wedding, her being giddy and all. While what she said was true, we no longer actually have the rings that we used for the ceremony. That's because the rings that we used for the ceremony were temporary silver rings that didn't actually fit too well. We replaced them last Sunday when we went to a jewelry shop (called Scintillant Studio) in the Mission and spent the day making our real wedding bands.

The proprietor, Adam Clark, made us the temporary rings that we used for our ceremony. We then spent the day together at his studio while us stepped us through the process of creating of our real wedding bands.

Unfortunately i forgot to bring my camera on that day. I did take some pictures with my cell phone that i still don't know how to copy them off the cell phone. Once i figure that out I'll post the pictures. In the meantime I've posted some pictures of the finished rings. (Note that they look a little scuffed up since they've already had a week of wear.)

I got to make Ronda's ring and she made mine. We fabricated them out of 18k white gold, which is basically 18k regular gold mixed with palladium. The process of creating the rings consisted roughly of:

  • Melting the gold and creating an ingot.
  • Annealing the ingot (basically tempering it). This involved heating it with a torch until it was red-hot, letting it cool a bit, dropping it in water, and then pickling it. (Pickling it involved dropping it into a acid bath which would remove any oxidation.)
  • Hammering the ingot into a roughly square stick.
  • Running the metal through assorted presses and annealing it occasionally in-between runs. This stretched out the metal and formed it into different shapes. For Ronda's ring we made three square sticks of different thicknesses. For my ring, the shape was one stick that was a half circle.
  • Cleaning up one end of the metal sticks to make it very flat and smooth, then cutting it to a proper length for the desired ring size, and finally cleaning and smoothing up the other freshly cut end.
  • Bending the metal sticks into a roughly round shape so that the cleaned up ends were touching each other and pressed together.
  • Soldering the ends together. To do this we used a small torch and 18k gold leaf solder that had a slightly lower melting point than the gold we were using for the ring. In between each soldering step we had to pickle the ring to remove oxidation.
  • Hammering the ring into an actually round shape of the correct size.
  • Using sand paper to flatten out the sides of the rings.
  • Using sand paper and assorted small grinder attachments to shape and smooth the inside and outside of the rings.
  • Using a polishing wheel to polish the outside of the rings.

So the process for creating Ronda's ring was actually a little more complicated than mine. My ring was a simple band, but for Ronda's ring we wanted to incorporate her grandmothers yellow gold wedding band into the ring. To do this involved some extra steps:

  • Resizing grandmothers yellow gold wedding band.
  • Creating three pieces of white gold. One to go on each side of the yellow gold band and one more to go underneath the yellow gold band to fill in some blank space there.
  • Lots more sanding and soldering to cleanly join the four metal bands together with no visible gaps.

The soldering of Ronda's ring was complicated by the fact that we didn't know exactly what alloys were mixed with the gold in her grandmothers ring and hence we didn't know the exact melting point of the metal. So we had to use a very low temperature solder to join the pieces together. There was at least one close call where i thought i accidently melted the ring, but in the end it all worked out much better than i ever expected. In the photos of Ronda's ring you can see that her grandmother's yellow band very clearly and it came out exactly the way we wanted.

Overall we spent almost seven hours working on the rings and we had a great time doing it. It was a really fun experience and now we've got a great story to tell about our wedding bands. Ronda also gets the added bonus of being reminded about her grandmother whenever she looks at her band.

If you're considering getting married, I'd highly recommend making your own wedding bands. If you're planning on doing this and you're in the bay area, I'd also highly recommend doing it at Scintillant Studio since Adam is a fun and laid back guy who really seemed to enjoy working with us and explaining the details of the entire ring making process. Also, compared to some of the other ring making services I've seen online, he charges very reasonable rates for his time and has no markup on materials.