A One-of-a-Kind Filigree Engagement Ring

July 3rd, 2010 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

We completed a most beautiful engagement ring a while back but weren’t able to post this blog till now. It was one of the most challenging projects we’ve ever done!

Our clients Megan and Mike, big fans of antique and period jewelry, fell in love with a 1920’s Art Deco platinum ring in our estate department, set with a dazzling one carat Old European cut diamond. We showed them several loose period cut diamonds, but this particular stone had so much life and sparkle they decided to buy the piece, use the stone for her new ring, and save the mounting for later.

Platinum Art Deco

Megan had a general idea of what she wanted– the design had to be lacy and delicate, with triangle-shaped natural blue sapphires on each side of the center. We asked her for design suggestions– she searched the web and came in with about 10 pages of pictures of period rings, all of which had elements that she liked! So the challenge was to get her to focus on what she really wanted.

After consulting with her, we concentrated on floral and ivy patterns, lots of hand engraving, and of course, the diamond and the blue sapphires, to create this first design.

First Version
First Version Detail

She wasn’t satisfied with our rendition of ivy leaves, so we reworked the the design a bit…

Second Version
Version Two

She liked this version much more, but the ivy pattern still wasn’t exactly right.  She also wanted a favorite flower included– something tropical, maybe an orchid. We asked her for pictures of flowers, and to sketch something for the ivy– these are her drawing and photo:

Her Sketch of Ivy
Megan’s Ivy

Orchids didn’t really work well in the design because they aren’t symmetrical, so we suggested another of her favorites, the plumeria.

Plumeria Blossom
Plumeria Blossom

This is the final design– we actually scanned her sketch and photo and used them directly in the final version– and she loved it.

Final Version
The Final Design

You can see how closely we captured her ivy sketch and the plumeria flower.

The final step in any custom one-of-a-kind is to execute the design effectively. We were able to mill the design successfully (after a couple of tries) but then had painstaking hand work to hollow the inside– our CNC mill is great for the outside, but can’t reach the inside of a design like this. Working with a delicate design like this in wax is not easy– it requires a lot of concentration to get thicknesses just right and to avoid breaking it!

Megan approved the wax model, so away it went to the platinum caster to be cast and set.

Two issues had to be solved right away. We wanted the center set flush like the original ring, and we weren’t sure how the sapphires for the sides should be cut.

We had milled an octagonal setting plate for the center stone that mimicked the look of the original and wouls fit the sapphires and 4 rows of small diamonds. Our setter didn’t like our milled plate, so he made a new one by hand.

The other question was whether to have one long triangle sapphire or a couple of stones going down each side– the multiple stone approach would allow the sapphires to follow the curve of the ring more closely and might be more durable, but the single stone would look better.

After consulting with the setter, we decided on one long triangle– which was Megan’s preference. Of course, these stones had to be custom cut to fit the ring. You’ll see they turned out beautifully and were the right choice.

Also, we had our setter measure the side areas where the graduated small diamonds were to be bead set – we measure these areas in the CAD software, but the diamond setter makes the final call on the diamond sizes, especially for graduated rows of tiny stones like this.

By the way, we use a diamond supplier who carries ideal cut “Heart and Arrows” in the small sizes required. Just that nice attention to detail we at Mardon specialize in!

The Finished Ring!

After the stones were set, the ring went to the hand engraver for the final touches. If you compare the CAD design renderings to the photos of the finished product, you’ll see just how much this extra decoration adds to the look of the piece.

Platinum is perfectly suited to hand engraved finishes– the design takes the engraving perfectly, becoming crisper and brighter with each cut, and the delicate tiny beads called “milgraining” set off every stone and line beautifully.

To make a one-of-a-kind filigree engagement ring like this takes skill and patience on our part, and love and imagination on the part of the client. Taking part in this very special moment in a couple’s life is a privilege we at Mardon truly enjoy– We think it shows in our custom design work! We know this special moment will be remembered and cherished every time our clients look at this beautiful ring, a lasting symbol of their commitment.

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