Custom Tanzanite Ring


Sometimes I get approached to work on commissions, which is a very rewarding and enjoyable experience for me and I hope, for the person who commissions the piece. It results in jewelry that is meaningful to the owner because it was designed especially for them, with with their input. Commissions usually require a bit more time involvement for both sides. For the customer because he has to approach me with an general idea and give feedback. For me there is more communication involved and sometimes even multiple design options to develop. If this is a totally new design, I present the customer design choices and then proceed with their favorite picks.

In January I was approached by Elizabeth who wanted to have a ring designed for a stunning trillion cut Tanzanite stone she owned. She had seen my Ice Tetra ring (below) and wanted something similar for her ring. 

Her stone was 7mm and a bit smaller than the 10mm Topaz used in the Ice Tetra Ring. I was very exited to work with a Tanzanite again. 

Tanzanite is a rare gem. It is found mostly in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. The mineral is named after Tanzania, the country where it was discovered in 1967. Its blue, surrounded by a fine hint of purple, is a wonderful colour. The stone is particularly highly prized because it is found in only one place in the whole world.  Nearly all tanzanite has been heat treated to produce the striking violet-blue color. In its natural rough state the gem is actually of brownish-yellow color.
Due to its minor hardness (6.5-7 on Mohs scale) tanzanite is not especially durable. Therefore it should be worn with care, never put it in a ultrasonic cleaner.

Once I saw the actual stone it was even more into this project, what a beauty! To show off the wonderful color we decided to change the design a bit up and lowered two sides of the setting. This allowed more light to enter the stone from multiple angles, bringing out the amazing hues of the stone. I modeled the ring in wax. My wax modeling technique is a mix of carving and building up wax to archive the desired shape. Photos were posted to my flickr account for the customer to review and comment.

After that the ring went off to my caster to be made into a sterling silver model. Once it came back a week later I cleaned up the ring, and prepared the setting. Here I started to get a bit scared. Knowing how expensive these stones are, I was worried I would break it during the setting process. Fortunately it does not happen often that I break a stone - more often I just loose a tiny stone when it falls on the floor and is never seen again-  but there is always a possibility for damaging a stone. Even diamonds can be damaged while setting them.

To set stones I usually use a hammer hand set. This is a specialty piece of equipment that converts the rotary motion of a flexible shaft machine to a back and forth stroke. It looks a bit like a dentist drill. While I hold the ring in one hand and press the stone down into the setting with the tip of my finger, I gently move the hammer piece slowly around metal  along the stone setting. With that the metal gets pushed towards the stone, over its girdle and eventually holds the stone in place. This can take anywhere from a couple minutes up to an hour depending on the thickness of the metal that needs to be moved and the complexity of the setting. If anytime during this process I do not pay full attention and slip with the hammer, the stone can get chipped. To make it short, I did not break the stone and finished the hammering with success. The hammer motion will leave some marks on the metal around the setting. This needs to get removed by filing and smoothing the surface. Usually I use silicone wheels on my flex shaft for that. The silicone will not leave any marks on the stone and just removes marks on the metal. After that the ring gets its final polish and gets cleaned.

Voila, The ring is ready to  find it's new home.

I loved how the ring came out. Elizabeth send me this note after she got it in her hands: "I just got my ring and I am enthralled. It is absolutely beautiful and very unique.  I love your work, it is like sculpture.  Thank you so much for making me such a beautiful ring."

Nothing makes me happier than a happy customer.

ETA: I do not any longer accept customer supplied gem stones for custom projects due to liability reasons. Thanks for understanding.

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