Our workshop is in Hall's Green in Hertfordshire - you can watch the makers at work if you come see us during the week. We're very proud of the concentration of skilled craftsmen here, and also of the way they are passing on their knowledge through our apprenticeship scheme. Training a new generation with these traditional skills is an important part of what we do here.
What goes into creating a fully handmade engagement rings?
Unlike a lot of other jewellers, our workshop team are expert enough to create an engagement ring by fully hand-forging precious metal, rather than just by joining pre-made cast parts together. Here's an idea of what's involved in this highly skilled process:
The metal arrives
The precious metal is sourced from a bullion dealer, arriving in basic shapes such as sheets and wire. Depending on the design, we often work what we receive into a finer shape and this is done by pulling wire through drawing plates or squeezing the sheet metal through a mill (like a heavy duty mangle).
The collet is hand made
First to be formed is the collet - the part of the engagement ring that holds the stones. Tools such as collet punches, saws and hammers are used in this highly skilled process. Many collets are designed and handmade to exactly match the contours of a particular stone - especially with larger or more unusual stones this is the only way to get a perfect fit. The metal is regularly annealled - heated to a very high temperature using a jeweller's flame then treated in 'pickle', a dilute sulphuric acid mixture to remove surface oxidisation.
If the engagement ring is in platinum or gold and the collet is a particularly complex shape, a silver master may be made first and then cast in the more expensive metal to avoid waste. Conversely, if using a premade collet makes sense with your design and will mean you get more ring for your budget, we'll start with a standard part and alter it as neccesary to precisely fit your design. It's always a considered design decision how best to make your engagement ring the way you want it.
The shank is handmade
The shank, which goes round the finger, is now formed. Having the facility to handmake a shank by hammering it around a ring mandrel means that pretty much any dimension and design is possible. It is made perfectly round and then joined onto the collet - not as easy as it sounds! It is particularly tricky to fit them together straight and square whilst keeping the shank exactly circular and to a specific ring size. The joints are handmade with intense heat and hallmark-quality solder of the same metal type as the ring.
The engagement ring is filed into shape
Next is the time consuming process of filing, fine filing, then buffing with emery paper of varying grades and finally polishing paper until the engagement ring is more or less formed.
In the UK it is a legal requirement that all precious metal jewellery is hallmarked with the maker's mark, date, metal type and place of assay. Engagement rings are tested by the London Assay Office for the purity of the metal - anything else present and the piece would be returned crushed.
Our work is hallmarked with the letters HK in a rectangular box - the inspiration of the HKJD logo. They also mark it with a lion's head which is the mark of the London office (or occasionally an anchor if we have sent it to Birmingham), a mark indicating the date and a mark indicating the precious metal that has been used.
Stone setting by hand
Next the stone is set into the engagement ring. The stone is placed in the collet prepared for it and small amounts of metal are pushed over the stone to secure it. This is a specialist job in itself and Vic, our stone setter, is one of the best around. The key is to make sure that the stone is elegantly balanced and secure within the setting. The ring will need more finishing to be made ready for polishing.
If you choose to have something engraved on your ring, this is the next stage. We give your engagement ring to our specialist hand engravers. They use special swan-neck engravers for the tricky letters inside of the shank.
Finally, the ring is polished, which is done with a wheel and polishing compound eg rouge which brings out the lustre and shine of the precious metal. It's a rather messy process but it's wonderful to see the finished engagement ring emerging.
The final stage is to finish the ring - many hours can be spend hand polishing each ring to achieve the perfect finish.
If you have any questions or would like to arrange a design consultation, please contact us.
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