I love the idea of making something beautiful out of broken things. Even in the worst things we can find beauty. I live in the United States Virgin Islands, one of the most beautiful places that I've ever seen. But in the midst of all the beauty we have a broken history of slavery and human rights abuses. One of the remnants of our troubled past is broken pieces of China, from the 17th through 19th centuries, that was discarded. The China is beautiful but holds the reminder of a broken past. It has become common practice in many of the islands stores to make jewelry from these broken pieces from our past. This instructable will guide you through the process of building a ring from broken china. By using these pieces from our past we are in a small way redeeming our past with beauty and art.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials...
- First find some broken China or break some. The auction sites are a good place to purchase cheap broken china. You can even find pieces that are hundreds of years old. Just don't pay much for it! Last resort, come down to the USVI and find your own.
- Silver Strip Wire .250" wide, Dead Soft, .999 Fine Silver (please stick to fine silver and dead soft so you will be able to easily bend it.
- Sterling Silver wire for the ring band. This comes in many sizes and profiles and can be chosen to fit your vision. In this tutorial I'm using some 6 gauge half round wire that I use for bracelets.
- Silver Solder (either fine silver or sterling, just not the solder you get in the plumbing section or your local hardware store)
- Flux (Handi Flux is a cheap brand that works well)
- Torch (plumbers torch works just fine)
- Tweezers for handling hot metal
- Pickling Solution (Can be found in many craft stores or online jewelry supplies stores)
- Sanding and Polishing tools (many options here, I use sandpaper from 400 to 2000 grit, small files, and my favorite tool is 3m Radial Bristle discs)
- Fixturing Compound
- Bezel Roller
- Something to solder on like a fire brick or solder pad
- safety goggles
- Dremel with grinding and buffing wheels
Step 2: Shape Your Broken China Piece
Once you've picked out a piece of China that suits you it's time to shape it. I tend to prefer organic shapes but go ahead and shape it how you like. The best tool for this is a rotary tool with a silicone carbide bit. A bench grinder will work in a pinch but please be safe as you will be working with a very small piece. Keep the overall look in mind and make sure to make it a suitable size for the persons finger you are designing it for. For this project I ended up with this rounded shape that looked right on my wife's finger. (Note: Rounded shapes are much easier than sharp corners when creating the bezel.)
Step 3: Make a Bezel for Your China
- Start off by wrapping your china piece with your flat strip wire.
- You want to wrap it completely around and make a mark with a sharpie where the silver meets up.
- Take your wire cutters and cut the silver wire on your mark.
- At this point your silver wire should meet up and be snug around your china piece
- You want both ends of your silver wire to be touching without any gaps and then coat the seam with flux.
- Clip off a tiny (3-5mm) piece of silver solder and place it on your soldering pad.
- Sit your fluxed silver piece on top of your solder right over the seam.
- With your torch, heat your piece just until the solder melts and you should see it get sucked up the joint.
- Drop your hot silver piece into your pickling solution (Acid) to remove any discoloration from heating.
- Wash off the acid and you should have a silver hoop that perfectly fits your broken china piece.
- Test the fit and then move to the next step
Step 4: Finish Your Bezel Around the China
- Place your china inside the silver bezel you just created
- Microwave your fixturing compound until it feels like clay
- Place your china and bezel on the fixturing compound making sure to keep the china centered in the bezel. Push some of the compound around the bezel to hold it in place and then put the whole piece in the freezer to let it set up. Once you can't push your fingernail into the compound it's ready to work.
- Take a brass bezel rolling tool and begin to push the silver over and around the piece of china. Make sure to get the silver pushed completely over and snug as this is all that holds the piece in place. When you get the first side finished drop the whole piece in almost boiling water to soften the fixturing compound. When soft remove the china and bezel.
- Get you fixturing compound hot again as mentioned earlier and do the other side of of your bezel completely around your china.
- When complete, remove your finished bezel set piece and move on to the next step
Step 5: Smooth and Polish Bezel
It's easiest to get your bezel smoothed and polished at this point before it's attached to the ring. You want to make sure to remove any tool marks, heat discoloration, and smooth your seam for soldering earlier. To do this you can use a file for deep scratches or tool marks and then move to sandpaper moving from 400 grit to 800 grit to 1000 grit. Take your time on this step and get it looking as good as possible
Step 6: Make Your Ring
At this stage you have two options. You can buy a pre made ring blank or make your own. I make my own and this can be done as follows.
- First measure the finger you are designing the ring for.
- Measure and cut your silver ring wire to size
- Using bending pliers or any round object, bend your wire into a ring shape. Make sure the two ends line up perfectly without gaps. Sand the ends of the wire if necessary to remove gaps. Silver solder will not fill gaps!
- Use flux and solder your joint with your torch. (In the picture I'm using paste solder but regular solder and flux will work just fine)
- At this point you should have a ring. Test the fit on the person you are making it for.
- Just as with the bezel, make sure to polish and shape your ring. You want the ring to be as perfect as possible at this point.
Step 7: Attach Bezel to Ring
Your almost there! The next step is to attach the ring to the bezel. You are attaching the ring to the silver that is wrapped around the back of your china piece. Place the ring on top of the bezel centering it. Line everything up because once you solder it it's stuck. Apply flux and solder and torch both sides where the ring touches the silver bezel. Quench in pickle solution for a few minutes and wash in clean water. At this point you have a china ring.
Step 8: Final Polishing and Finishing
The pickle solution should have removed any discoloration from soldering but now your ring is ready for the finial polishing. I like my silver pieces to have a mirror finish so here are the steps to achieve that.
- Check entire piece for scratches or tool marks. (Any scratches that remain will only be magnified by polishing!)
- Once the piece is scratch free you have two options. You can hand polish with sandpaper or use a rotary tool. If using sandpaper, start with 400 grit and work your way to the finest sandpaper you can find (2000 plus grit).
- I prefer the rotary tool and I use 3m Radial Bristle Discs in 400 grit (blue), 800 grit(pink), 4 micron (peach), and 1 micron (green). I find these discs to be the most effective and quickest way to polish silver. (The same effect can be achieved with cloth buffing wheels and jeweler's rouge.
- Start with the blue disc and go over the entire piece.
- Move through the successive grits until you get to the green 1 micron disc.
- At this point your ring should have a mirror finish and be ready to wear!
- Give your ring to it's new owner.