This guide is for a silver engagement ring crafted out of a block of silver. I will then show you how I set this color-changing sapphire into the prongs.
This process took roughly a month of my free time and some set-up costs. I already owned most of these tools. My wallet didn't hurt too much as these tools weren't too costly. So lets take a look at the tools, shall we?
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Go ring shopping with your girlfriend. It doesn't hurt... much! Discover what type of stone or gem she loves. Kendra's choice was a toss up between a diamond and by accident, a color changing sapphire.
Never heard of one? Well neither had we until we picked up the first ring she wanted to look at. She didn't know but I was hooked. I wanted a color changing sapphire for her. It took awhile but I located a mom and pop store and was examining their diamond ring selection when I mentioned color changing and they brought out what I endeared as, "My Precious". ....Not really but it caused tears to well up in my eyes when I first peered at it in direct sunlight. I knew I had to have this gem for her.
Enough with me showing off this beauty, now the tools I used:
Dremel with various assorted bits.
diamond tipped grout removal
smallest drill bit possible (crucial piece)
various buffer and polishing bits
high speed Steel Setting Bur (size as you need for your ring) Link Below
Tongs or tweezers (mine is copper and extra long)
Cheap circle drawing compass
Tracing paper (not shown)
Assorted Sanding Blocks and General Purpose Sanding Paper
5 Troy Ounce Silver Bar
1 Oz Bronze Ball peen Hammer
(for holding water)
This is for dropping a uncountably hot silver ring into to cool.
Small Bench Vise
Head mounted magnification
I used a Head Mount Loupe found at:
Metal hacksaw or Handsaw
I used a metal handsaw I found lying around.
Propane Torch and concrete block or high temperature soldering block
(items not pictured here)
Step 2: Sizing Time!
Drill a hole in the silver so there is plenty of room to carve out the prongs and set the stone. I drilled a hole in the center of the upper half of the bar and enlarged it from there.
I found the diameter of the inside of the ring via this online ring conversion chart: http://www.celtarts.com/ring_size.htm
I used the compass and caliper to draw a circle to almost that size on tracing paper and glued that tracing paper to the block to get a close size.
I ground the circle out with a dremel grinding bit (not the wheel). I recommend using small drill bits and slowly move up in size as this will save you hours.
Note: I used the grinding bit to make pixie dust for another project. No, I'm not girly but if I have a girl one day a vial of pixie dust necklace would be a wonderful gift and sure to extract many a hug!
Also, your circle will be imperfect. We can fix that to a perfect circle with Da da da da!!! Steel Mandrel!
Insert the steel mandrel through the hole in the silver bar. Pull out a rubber mallet and gently beat the silver bar ever so slowly to the perfect size. Be sure to alternate between each side of the silver bar. This will ensure the ring size is as close to hers as possible.
Step 3: Cut the Block
That's all there is to this step.
Pop that baby into the vise to get a firm hold on it (not too tightly) and hack away! Leave enough room for the shaft of the ring.
I also cut out the sides of the half block depicted in the last picture of this step. That ought to help speed up the process.
Learn how to delicately increase your accuracy at cutting as you will perform this step for the prongs. I'm telling you right now, don't mess with the prongs. Its all over if you mess with the prongs.
Step 4: Extract the Prongs
You must be gentle starting with this step. You may no longer throw the silver across the room in frustration lest you deform the ring and leave it unusable. I'm talking to you gamers who can't get past a level and smash your controller on the concrete floor or take a sledge hammer to the console. You are not alone! I've done both. Its okay, lets move on controller murderer.
Your stone will rest ideally at the very center of the thickest part of your ring (top part of the ring in third picture). I know its weird calling it that but it has a perfect circle!
Grind away at the section of prong until its not the shape of a brick.
Decide how thick the band should be i.e. 2-4 millimeters thick
Set your caliper to that measurement. place the lower opening against the inside of the band. the upper section of caliper should rest against where the prongs will stand. Scratch the caliper against the silver until a mark appears as in the 4th picture in this step.
Decide where the center of the stone will rest and grind or hacksaw through. Remember to leave enough silver for the actual band so you don't have to solder it back together or restart. The finished result will look like the first 2 pictures or last one in this step.
Remember that you are aiming to get the prongs cut out of the block at this point. Cut out a maximum of 1mm circumference less than the circumference of your stone/gem. Finish work comes next step!
Step 5: Thin the Ring
Thin out the band of the ring then the prongs. I kept the prongs of this ring fairly thick because it is silver and I did not want an expensive natural color changing sapphire getting lost because it fell out of the prongs.
Use a dremel with grinding wheel attachment for optimal speed and accuracy. The silver will heat up. Drop it into water to cool off now and again.
Use wisdom and discernment. Silver is weaker and more malleable than 14kt gold and platinum. Hence, it wears out far faster under daily wear and tear. I left the prongs thick for that very reason. Surprisingly the prongs look a bit like flower petals or leaves to me. errr, moving on...
Step 6: Open the Prongs
You can take a small pair of pliers and bend the prongs 1mm fairly safely without snapping the prongs off.
If you need to bend the prongs more you can torch them. Be sure to be in a low lighting room and have the ring on a concrete block. Allow the silver to turn slightly red for several seconds. Pick up the ring with your tongs or tweezers and drop them in water. Repeat this process as needed until the stone sets low enough into the prongs.
Kendra wanted a low setting engagement ring so I had to go as low as possible with it. It helped that the seat of the sapphire is extra wide and has a rather obtuse point. Guy talk now... she's wider than she is tall. Back to specifics talk. I shaved down the inside of the prongs and ground away between the prongs to allow as much light as possible underneath without weakening the foundation of the prongs.
Step 7: Drill a Hole
Perhaps the smallest hole you will ever need to drill.
Purchase the smallest dremel drill bit you can find online or at a hardware store.
Drill through dead center between all the prongs. If you are off 3 tenths of a millimeter it will show through the sapphire and you will die.
This hole is to allow light to through the bottom of the stone. That ensures maximum possible light to filter into the facets for maximum sparkle. Guys, girls like sparkle. Please do not skip this step for their enjoyment. All women folk thank you.
By the way, the last photo in this step has a photo of a dremel and various bits. the one that looks like a pin is a drill bit. Who'da thunk it?
Step 8: File the Prongs
File the prongs down so that they are smooth. You ought to use jewelers files for this job. they are small and fine and should do the job quite well.
You can alternatively use fine sand paper to perform the same job. It would also be a good idea to buffer the inside of the prongs as you may not get the chance after the stone is set.
Take the time to file or grind the prongs down to their final size and thickness. Sand and buffer the remainder of the ring as it is much easier not than when the stone is set.
Step 9: Set the Stone
Finally! Took long enought to arrive to this step huh?
I made so many mistakes setting the stone I need to elaborate on a couple.
Do not blow dust off the stone.
Do not blow dust off the stone in your girlfriend's room.
Do not blow dust off the stone and let it fall among all your girlfriend's Christmas presents.
Performing all of the above leaves you a total idiot.
\o/ I'm guilty
Don't know what that is? Trust Wikipedia! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facepalm
I'm glad to have gotten that off my chest.
Now, watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prmVMISuRQ8
I used my high speed cutting burr (sized to her sapphire) to cut grooves into the prongs. Please be careful in cutting as I've noticed my dremel like to spin off to the right.
Place the stone onto the prongs.
Decide where the grooves will go. Align them with the girdle of the stone. Mark or remember where they belong and grind the grove
You stone will go off kilter if even one of the grooves are misaligned. I know from experience, I had to reset this stone. It should prove quite easy to notice if it is off kilter, just open the prongs, grind the grooves again and reset the stone.
This is a job for your prong pusher. Simply set the opposite prong against a solid object and gently ease the prongs closer together.
I took a 1oz bronze ball peen hammer and lightly tapped the prongs over the top of the sapphire. I mean i held it in my hand and tapped on the prongs as if I was using a spoon. This ensured a firm clasp over the top of the sapphire. Ensure the stone does not "slip" or "spin" in circle in the prongs. If that occurs the stone will eventually cut through the prongs like a circular saw or allow cloth to get between the stone and prong and tear them further apart. That said, make it a tight fit.
Use a one sided jeweler's file to smooth out the prongs. I recommend you sand the other two sides of the jewelers file till they are smooth so you'd be hard pressed to scratch the sapphire. You want to smooth out the prongs so they do not get caught on clothing or other undesirable items and allow your stone to slip then fall out.
Do a final polish with any buffer wheels included with your dremel and you should be done!
Step 10: Propose!
Plan Plan Plan
Then plan to alter the plan at the drop of a hat.
Result is not guaranteed but led to the above photo.