One of my favourite things we did to prepare for our wedding was making our own rings.
I first heard about the idea from a friend who had done it on Hatton Garden, the jewellery district in London. As usual, I left it rather late to organise and I thought we’d have to give up the idea. But then I met the lovely Laila from Cross Street Workshops at an ‘alternative wedding fair’ on Brick Lane in April. She had a free slot just 3 weeks before our wedding so I booked it straight away.
Her studio is down in Brighton. It’s a lovely space just off the North Laine, which she shares with a mosaic-maker.
Here’s what the workbench looks like. Lots of mysterious tools.
We went for white gold bands with a rounded edge – they look like the picture below when they arrive. We paid for the exact cost of the metal (and apparently we chose a good moment to buy it, as the price of gold had just dipped slightly!) and then just the workshop fee on top.
The first thing we did was to put the bits of metal in a bath with a mild acid solution to clean off any grime. Then you use a mini blowtorch to heat them up so they’re easier to work with.
This bit is fun. The rocks are there to put the metal on as they can absorb the heat.
Next, you get your bits of metal and start rounding them around a long shaping tool called a mandrel. You use a hammer made of hide, which lets you bash away without leaving any marks.
After a lot of bashing away, they start to become ring-shaped. Mine is the smaller one on the left, but I was actually making Alex’s larger ring on the right (and he made mine).
Then you take them off the mandrel and give them a more gentle bashing on the worktop, to close up the gap you can see above. There’s a special technique to this which Laila taught us. It’s very absorbing.
They look like this once you’ve closed up the gap. They’re a little bit oval but you fix that later in the process.
The next bit is the most exciting – soldering!
Here’s my ring all wrapped up in metal wire (so it’s easy to move). You paint this sticky glue stuff around the join, then use tweezers to put tiny pieces of white gold metal solder along the gap. Apparently the solder costs more than the solid white gold, but you only use the tiniest bit. It’s the shiny silver square in the photo below.
Then you get to use the blowtorch again. Laila showed us how to ‘paint’ with the flame around the ring, then concentrate the heat on the gap. All of a sudden the solder runs into the gap and totally fills it up, bonding the metal.
After that, there’s more filing and shaping to do.
Alex wanted a classic shiny finish, so I got to use the polisher to make it super reflective.
I had a matt finish on my ring, which you just do by rubbing it with some wire wool!
Here’s the finished products:
I’ve never done any jewellery making, and had no idea what to expect, but I loved doing this. Now I really want to take a jewellery making course. It was very satisfying working with the metal and watching it come into shape.
If you’re in the market for a pair of rings, I can only recommend this place. You can find out more about it here.
p.s. all these photos were taken by Laila – you get a disc of them included in the workshop price! Also please excuse my somewhat hungover appearance, it was the day after the By Hand London 1st birthday party…