At Abbeville Art we design and make bespoke signet rings in a variety of different metals including 9, 14 and 18 karat gold in white, yellow and rose colours. Styles can be classic such as round or oval but we can also make any number of less common shapes such as diamonds, triangles, hexagons and so on.
Our bespoke signets may also be inlaid with gemstones, diamonds or other precious material. You may choose your own artwork to be engraved such as a family crest or ask us to design something totally unique.
Our cast signet rings rival those crafted from flat sheet metal as they allow for difference thickness at important places in the design. We can create custom thicknesses in either solid or hollow styles to improve comfort, reduce costs or increase value, luxuriousness and longevity.
We divide our costs and labour into two phases, Gold and Goldsmith. See below
• Choosing your gold alloy
• Creating a computer aided design
• 3D printing a prototype for you to try on
• Investment casting
Computer aided design technology allows us to sculpt a mathematically perfect signet ring in the metaverse. The design exists digitally and can be viewed on a screen of your choice. The beauty of the design relies upon the skill and experience of the artist to manipulate their materials, be they virtual or analogue. A sculptor will take an unappealing lump of clay and form it into a beautiful structure whist ensuring it will survive firing and not topple over! The same passion for design alongside our time-honed experience of gold is how we are able to sculpt beautiful digital models.
Once a set of CAD models have been sculpted we send them to our 3D printer which transfers them into the physical world. You can try these models on, see how they fit/feel and adjustments can be made until you are happy.
After you have signed off your signet ring design the next process is gold casting.
Pure gold is alloyed with silver, copper and other trace metals in very precise amounts to ensure a modern yellow, rose or white gold alloy is produced in a consistent colour (not too warm/cool). (Modern white gold alloys contain palladium which is a relatively new metal used in jewellery manufacture.)
If casting, the alloy must melt and flow at a specific temperature. Casting is a tricky science with many variables to consider including pressure, gravity, and the arrangement of physical geometry.
Our CAD not only prepares the jewellery for viewing but also for casting. Shapes must be considered so that no ‘dams’ prevent the metal flowing during casting. Once you sign off your design we will prepare the model by adding a channel through which liquid gold will flow. This is called a sprue and can be imagined as similar to a tree branch.
The model and its branch will be printed in wax on a specialist 3D printer. (Before this technology existed the design would have been hand-carved in wax, which is still done by some niche jewellers and is a lovely skill to have but it does not allow for rapid design changes and would be very costly to produce a set of different sizes, thickness and widths).
Next the wax is joined by its ‘branch’ to a ‘tree’ at a specific angle and location to help with flow dynamics. It is not uncommon for two identical waxes fo be attached so as to have a backup.
If you wanted to use your own gold you would need enough of that specific alloy (9, 14, 18 etc) to melt down. Seldom we undertake a job like this as it is always problematic. The mixture of alloys from different times in history, solder repairs and other impurities often means that the colour may look undesirable. The melting temperature may also be unpredictable resulting in a casting that may be too soft, too porous or too brittle.
As such the wax would have to go into its own flask on its own tree so as not to contaminate any other castings. You would have to buy the whole flask space (like buying every seat on an aeroplane). You also need extra gold to create the ‘tree trunk’ which is much bigger than the wax itself. It can be done, but the extra work means that it won’t necessarily save much money and it will often take far longer.
We are happy to exchange the scrap price of any suitable gold and provide a credit towards the new jewellery. We will also offer you our services identifying hallmarks and working out the value of vintage gold pieces. If present, gemstones can be removed and incorporated into new designs.
Once the wax tree is assembled it is submerged in a flask and ‘invested’. A highly heat resistant material called investment is poured over the wax tree. Using a vacuum air bubbles are removed. The investment solidifies and the whole thing goes in a kiln where the wax is burnt away leaving a negative image (or mould) in the investment.
The gold alloy is granulated, melted and poured into the cavity. The temperature and cooling rate needs to be carefully controlled to guarantee the gold alloy solidifies nicely. Once the cooling is complete the investment is freed from the flask and is removed from the now solid-gold tree in an acid bath.
The raw gold signet ring is cut from the tree and is now ready for the post-casting process.
• Cleaning, finishing and polishing
• Engraving or setting
• Final polish and sizing
All our signet rings are hand finished at the jewellers bench by our master goldsmith. As such your ring will have a unique beauty which reflects the flair of the goldsmith and lend character to the final design.
Some casting investment usually remains on the raw signet ring so our goldsmith will pickle it (acid bath) to remove this residue. Next we saw off the ‘tree branch’ remnant and use files to smooth and blend the area where the join once was. The raw ring will start to look more ‘done’.
We use different grades of emery paper to clean up the surface which is rough and dull. Successive sanding and polishing with different compounds means we bring the surface up to a high-shine polish. We can also apply a brushed or satin finish. Often cast metal will shrink a little when cooling so our goldsmith will form the ring on a mandrel checking the shape is properly rounded and the correct size is obtained. Sometimes a microscopic hole will be revealed and we can smooth this with a laser welder ensuring the engraving surface is pristine.
Now is a good time to send the ring to the London assay office where it will be x-rayed to determine if the alloy content is correct. If it passes this test the appropriate hallmark will be applied. This takes around three days although there is a one hour hallmarking service which is very pricey. Now and again a customer has a restricted deadline and asks us to do this.
The ring is now ready for engraving and/or setting. There are four types of engraving, hand, machine, laser or combination. Laser is the most accurate and can create stunning 3D effects. Hand-engraving is generally considered to be more romantic and sometimes more shiny because the engravers tools have a very sharp point and the artist will also have their own style.
We often recommend choosing to use a combination. Why? Because the hand-engraver must first map out the design onto the surface of the metal. If a laser is used first to map the lines out to a shallow depth it will give the hand-engraver a very accurate and clean guide over which they can they can apply their deeper traditional marks. The best of both worlds!
How do we design the engraving? We can hand sketch and/or use adobe illustrator or other digital tools to create original artwork. Or you can choose a readily available image which will be more affordable than bespoke artwork. Occasionally we can even cast a suitable shape into the ring. Again we can use CAD to show you a three dimensional image of how the engraving might look before we do it. Any gemstones to be included will now be set in place.
After the engraving is complete, the ring will be returned to our goldsmith who will give it one final polish before it is ready to be handed over to you. Any size adjustments can also be performed if necessary. You are now free to enjoy a beautiful bespoke treasure! You can even melt some wax and press your signet ring into it to admire the seal engraving. You are also now an expert on how bespoke signet rings are made!
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