Introduction: Make a Simple Silver Bypass Ring

About: I'm a former bicycle industry designer turned professional jeweler. I like working with my hands and am happiest when I'm in the shop building my creations. If you need help with your project just let me know!

When I began making jewelry many years ago I barely had any tools. No rotary tool, no torch and no polishing equipment. My workbench was a plank of wood screwed on top of an old bookcase. All I really had were a few basic hand tools- a ring mandrel, a saw, some files, leather mallet and a few gravers.

For this instructable I thought it would be neat to go back to the beginning and show how a super simple Sterling Silver bypass style ring with a couple of tiny set stones could be made by hand using just a few hand tools.

Let's get started!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

To make this ring you'll need the following:


Sterling Silver flat wire- 3mm wide x 1.5mm thick by 75mm length. Half hard or dead soft material is ideal as it will harden during forming. If you are unsure about the length run a piece of string around your finger, leaving a bit of length for the overlapping section.

Stones- Any round faceted stone 1.75mm diameter will do. I used Cubic Zirconia as it's inexpensive and reasonably durable. For colored stones Garnet is inexpensive/hard/durable and comes in a huge variety of colors.


Jeweler's saw- 4/0 blades are the most useful for everyday cutting of metal stock.

Red Scotchbrite pad- Excellent for giving jewelry a satin/brushed finish.

Fine steel wool- 4/0 is my favorite.

Half round pliers- I've used everything from $5 pliers to $40 pliers and honestly it makes no difference when it comes to forming pliers. Cutters are a different story...

Needle files- Half round and barrette shapes are most useful. When you're just starting out inexpensive files are fine for small needle files. Once you know which files you use the most then get good ones and clean them often.

Sandpaper- I use 80 micron/180 grit glued to a 1" wide plastic stick with Super 77 spray glue. Any wet/dry sandpaper is fine but I swear by this 3M Micro-Finishing Film- it's the best there is.

Large flat barrette file- With larger files it's better to spend a bit more as they aren't replaced very often. Glardon Vallorbe are excellent and will last you a very long time. Large pattern files like this are excellent for flattening edges and general shaping.

Ring mandrel- For forming rings get an ungrooved mandrel. Realistically they all work just fine but I like ones that don't have huge markings in them as that can transfer when forming soft metals. This is a good one that will last forever.

Leather rawhide mallet- Great for forming metal without marring. This one is a good all around size.

Onglette graver- #0 is a good size for stone setting (be sure to also get a handle for it.)

#3 beading tool- This is a nice size when setting really small stones. You can pay crazy money for a set of beading tools but honestly you'll maybe use only half the sizes and they wear out pretty fast. Inexpensive beading tools work just fine.

1mm ball burr

1.75mm straight setting burr

.8mm drill bit- any drill bit under 1mm diameter will work just fine.

Pin vise- Ideally get an inexpensive one that hold both small drill bits as well as 3/32" shank burrs.

Step 2: Forming the Ring

Begin by bending the flat Silver wire around the ring mandrel. This is done using a combination of hammering with the leather mallet and bending using the half round pliers. This is really easy to do as Silver is pretty soft.

The trick is to form the ring around the mandrel to a smaller size first and then hammer it round. As you hammer the ring it will expand in size. Bend the ring smaller again using the half round pliers and hammer it round until you get to the size you need, leaving about 10-15mm of overlap.

The nice thing about this ring design is that you can easily bend the ring to make it just a bit larger or smaller to get the fit just right!

Step 3: Shaping the Ring

Using your fingers or the half round pliers to spread the overlapping ring sections apart just a bit. Now use the jeweler's saw to cut a diagonal line on each of the overlapping ring ends and file them to shape using a small barrette needle file. The small size of the needle file makes it easier to get in between the ring overlapping sections.

Take the half round pliers and use them to put a slight curve in each of the overlapping sections, bending them away from each other.

Use the small half round file to clean up any marks left by the pliers and to put a slight radius on the inside edge of the ring- this will make the ring much more comfortable to wear.

Now use the large barrette file to shape the outside edges of the ring. The advantage of using a large file here is that it will give you a more uniform edge/surface. A small file here will have a tendency to dig into the ring surface, making getting a uniform shape more difficult.

Finish the ring shaping by using a sanding stick to smooth the surface and remove any file marks.

Step 4: Setting Stones

Time to set a couple of tiny stones!

The process shown here is called bead setting- there are four tiny beads of metal that hold each stone in place. When setting stones like this I like the ring to be around 1mm wider than the stone diameter, so I'm using 1.75mm stones for a 3mm wide ring.

Begin by using a small round burr in a pin vise to make a dimple in the ring surface where you want the stone to go. Just rotate the pin vise until you can see a small divot in the the ring surface. This keeps the drill bit from wandering when you go to drill a hole.

Now drill a hole using a .8mm drill in a pin vise. Silver is very soft so it will drill very easily. The hole only needs to be slightly deeper than the height of the stone- it doesn't have to go all the way through.

Next cut a seat for each stone using a 1.75mm straight setting burr in a pin vise. The seat needs to be deep enough so the top of the stone is flush or slightly below the surface of the ring.

Place each stone into its seat and use the onglette graver to push four raised points of metal just over the edge of each stone- this is done by pushing the graver into the metal just outside the edge of the stone and then rocking the graver upward to move metal toward the stone. Now use the #3 beading tool to form a small bead of metal on each of the raised metal points to hold the stone in place. The beading tool has a cupped tip and with Sterling Silver it doesn't take much force at all to form the metal bead.

Step 5: Finishing

One of the easiest (and least expensive!) ways to finish a ring is to use a Scotchbrite pad to give it a satin/brushed finish. I like the red pads the best as they aren't too aggressive. Just rub the pad over the ring in one direction until you get a nice grained finish. You can rub the pad over the sides of the ring in a circular motion to finish the sides of the ring.

If you want a bit more lustre try rubbing the ring with a very fine steel wool. This will give it a nice soft shine somewhere between the satin finish and a high polish.

Once you're done clean your ring using a mild liquid dish soap and water and you're good to go!

As always if anyone has any questions about jewelry making just ask- I'm always happy to help!

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