This style of ring has been copied by many but few have done it successfully. Customers are always fascinated by this unique design and how it came about so I decided it would be a nice idea for a blog post… As always, the real thing is so much more beautiful than an image so feel free to call in and try a tension ring the next time that you are passing.
While reading about the history of the tension ring in Niessing’s book ‘From idea to identity’, I came across a small paragraph that I think sums up their aesthetic beautifully:
What is typically Niessing? The art of reduction.
Pure form reduced to the essential: That is jewellery by Niessing. It is simple, pure and clear. There is nothing to distract or disturb. Gold, platinum and diamonds – the beauty of the materials and the simplicity of the design speak for themselves.
To me, this is most apparent in their trademark design the tension ring. The simplest of all designs and yet the most striking – a floating diamond in a simple band.
The tension ring, developed in the late 1970s, has become an icon of modern jewellery design. The diamond is held in place by the tension in the metal ring giving the impression that it is floating. This style of minimalist setting allows the maximum amount of light into the stone and brings out a brilliance that can be hidden by other settings.
The idea for the tension ring came to artist Walter Wittek while designing a large sculpture using a steel ring and a glass plate. As he worked on this sculpture he realised that the concept could be applied within the field of jewellery design and began working on smaller scale models using steel, silver, copper and synthetic gemstones. “As I continued to evolve this idea, I wasn’t interested in putting a big diamond on a lady’s finger, but in creating a sculpture for the hand. The empty space in the ring’s band didn’t serve primarily as a repository for a valuable object: instead, I wanted to maximize the refracted light by inserting a faceted diamond into the gap.…. At the time I didn’t further pursue the concept for the sculpture that had resulted in my designing the Niessing Ring®. That project still awaits its completion.” Walter Wittek
In December 1979 Wittek brought the concept to Niessing and the design was immediately accepted. One year later the first Niessing tension ring was created. This award winning, original design has been included in many permanent museum collections and was officially recognised as a piece of art in 2001.
THE TECHNICAL BIT…
Niessing use a unique process of casting a block of metal in a particular alloy and then cutting the ring out of this block. The metal is then work-hardened to increase the strength and tension in the ring.
Creating a tension ring requires the ultimate precision, craftsmanship and manual dexterity. Goldsmiths, diamond setters, gemologists, polishers – they each play a significant role in the creation of each tension ring.
Niessing has developed its own metal alloys (mixture of metals to make up the required finesse of gold or platinum) and a unique forging process that is strong enough to hold the tension in the ring. Only these alloys achieve a lasting tension in the ring and allow Niessing to accurately determine how much tension is required to hold the stone in place. The molten metals are expertly mixed and poured in Niessing’s workshop.
Before being set each diamond is individually tested to determine whether it can cope with the special demands of a Niessing ring. The stone cannot have large inclusions in the wrong place or the pressure from the ring could damage it.
After the ring has been polished the final detail is applied – the setting. Stone setters cut a small ledge for the stone to sit in and prise the ring open. The diamond is carefully placed in the exact position and the ring is released. The tension in the ring clasps the stone in place allowing it to float…
The technique of creating a tension ring has continually evolved since 1979 allowing Niessing to invent new ring shapes and designs.