STORY OF A CUSTOM ENGAGEMENT RING DESIGN
Zach first approached me to work on a custom ring in early 2020 (when COVID-19 was still a distant problem). He was planning to propose to his girlfriend, Elisa, on Kalymnos, a small island off the coast of Greece. They had visited the island in the past and were nostalgic for the open expanses covered in wild thyme. He wanted a ring that would always remind them of this magical place and speak to their mutual love of the outdoors. So, he came to me to fashion a custom band cast from real thyme leaves.
After the initial design consultation, I mocked up several styles in photoshop. We came to rest on a variation of the Naples Solitaire made from his custom twigs and a one carat uncut diamond. This is the initial rough design.
A quick google search showed that the thyme growing on Kalymnos was quite different from the English variety that we're used to seeing, so I tracked down a Greek Etsy seller and got my hands on the real stuff to begin casting.
FIRST STAGE - SILVER TWIGS
The first step was to select ideal sections of the twigs and isolate specific leaves to cast. Then, the leaves need to be stabilized so that they can endure the casting process. Anything under 1mm in thickness is difficult to cast properly, which means a lot of the leaves would be too thin. To do this, I individually back select leaves in wax, being sure to preserve the natural texture on the face of the leaves.
The leaves are then sent to my casting partner and made directly into silver using the lost wax casting process.... The twigs are encased in a plaster cylinder and molten metal is poured into the top of this cylinder, burning away the twig and filling the empty space with silver.
SECOND STAGE - FIRST WAX PROTO
I shape the silver twigs to make them more "ring like" and then create a mold so that I can cast the pieces in wax- a much more malleable medium that I can really work to sculpt into the final ring.
Once the first wax proto is created, I take many photos and videos to share so we can discuss and refine all of the details...
Around this stage, NYC shutdown and international flights were cancelled... I had been working on a deadline to get the ring finished before their April trip to Greece, but that was no longer looking likely. Plans shifted to a local proposal and Zach decided to bring Elisa into the studio to meet me (which was lovely!). We didn't show her the final design, but we did get her very helpful input that she preferred rose gold- we had initially planned platinum- and a thicker band to accommodate her active lifestyle.
THIRD STAGE - SILVER PROTO
The wax is then cast into silver- again using the lost wax casting method. This allows me to further refine the design, smooth any sharp edges that may have been left in the wax, perfect the size and shape of the ring and polish the inside to make sure the fit is comfortable and all of the details are perfect. Again, I send loads of photos and videos so that we can work together and change any necessary details.
SOURCING THE ROUGH DIAMOND
Once the initial design and proto is set, I start sourcing the center stone- in this case, a one carat rough octahedron diamond. I send lots of photos of different stone options, and Zach drove out to my studio to see the final selection and decide which face he wanted to show on the top of the ring (marked with a black dot in following photos).
FOURTH STAGE - BACK TO WAX
After the silver proto is finished, I create a mold and cast the ring in wax one final time. In this stage, I set the diamond directly into the wax to be cast in place in the gold. I use this setting method for a lot of my stones, but it's a particularly secure way to set raw gemstones. It also allows me to add leaf detail and texture to the prongs. This wax is an exact replica of the final ring, so I send lots of photos before casting in gold. It's the last chance to make any significant changes to the ring design.
CASTING THE FINISHED RING
When the final wax is approved, the ring is cast into 100% recycled 14K rose gold. The diamond is cast in place directly into the gold. The ring is tumbled, cleaned, polished...
FINAL (AND MOST IMPORTANT) STAGE- THE PROPOSAL
The venue was moved to Owls Head, Vermont.
and she said "Yes!", of course!
"I just wanted to thank you for the amazing ring you made for us, it is completely perfect and I loved it!!"