We often get asked to melt down jewellery to make something new. Jewellery is often passed down from generation to generation and while there is huge sentimental attachment to the piece, it is often old-fashioned and gets put in a drawer somewhere and left to tarnish.
Most of our customers are fascinated about how we do this and generally, they are surprised when I explain the process behind it. The Lord of the Rings has left everyone with a vision of goldsmiths pouring molten metal into a mould and out comes a finished ring. While wedding rings in large-scale manufacturing workshops are cast in this way, the humble goldsmith has a lot more work to do!
This particular ring was a family heirloom made from 9ct gold. Our customer wanted to have his wedding ring made using this gold and we discussed the various options with him. Once he had chosen the style of ring that he would like we weighed it to see how much gold would need to be added. As it was 9ct we discussed the option of adding more 9ct in which case the end result would be hallmarked 9ct or adding fine gold (24ct) to raise the finesse of the ring. This customer opted for the latter so we ordered in some pure gold grain.
After cleaning the 9ct ring so as to avoid any impurities in the metal we melted the grain and ring together in a crucible at a temperature of approximately 895°C. Once molten, the metal is carefully poured into a steel mould which immediately cools and solidifies into an ingot.
The ingot is then repeatedly rolled through a rolling mill, first until it is square bar in the same width the ring is to be and then through flat rollers until it is the correct thickness. It is then turned up into a ring using pliers, the join is soldered and it is hammered on a steel mandrel to make it a perfect round shape and the correct ring size. Once the ring is the right size it is filed into the desired profile – in this case a slight curve on both the outside and inside. At this point we send it for hallmarking in the Dublin Assay Office.
This ring received a 14ct gold stamp because of the fine gold added to the melt. This means that the gold content could be anywhere between 14ct and 17.99ct but not as much as 18ct. We then applied a final finish using various grades of sandpaper and polishing compounds and it was ready to go.