Date Night: Becoming a Silversmith

There is something pretty satisfying about making something yourself and then being able to wear it. Not only is it unique, but you can do that whole smug “I made it myself” thing when people ask you where you got it.

In less than 3 hours at London Jewellery School I made my very own silver ring. The teacher  took us through it step by step. From cutting the piece of silver to creating the design to polishing then shaping it.

My boyfriend bought us a gift voucher for the course as a Valentine's present. With hammers and tools it should keep most men happy even if they aren't keen on wearing the finished item. It resulted in a Valentine's Day present I could keep and a date to remember.

A silver wrap around ring

What you need to know:

The classes at London Jewellery School are in East London, a couple of minutes away from Aldgate East station (district and circle line).

The school is on the third floor so it took me a while to hobble up the steps. Apparently there is a lift on the other side of the building, so if you are going to struggle up the stairs ask in advance.

Arrive on time. We started promptly at half six. One person turned up half an hour late and was helped to catch up, but we only had 4 people in total. With a couple more people those arriving late could ruin the enjoyment for others. 

Everything you need for the class is provided, from silver to tools, but you will need to bring a little bit of creativity to decide how to pattern your ring.

You are asked to have your hair tied back and not to wear open toed shoes, but the class isn't messy and the aprons (provided) weren't really needed. At worst you might get some silver dust on you. When polishing you wear gloves to keep the polish off your hands.
female in goggles, glasses, and apron
Do I look sexy?

A couple of adaptions were made for me as I was pregnant when I did the class. There are times that the easiest way to hold tools and give you a free hand is to rest them against your chest. The teacher showed me different ways to do these.  I also had the privilege of being given the comfiest chair!

The rings in this class are wrap around rings which means you don't use solder. You do however get to use a blow torch, a saw, a file, mild chemicals and a polishing machine with tripoli and rouge (types of polish).
A blow torch annealing a flat piece of silver jewellery
Annealing the silver

Filing the end of a flat silver ring
Filing the end smooth

The patterns are created through a choice of milling (a machine which basically presses a pattern on to your silver), a variety of hammers with patterned ends or templates which you hit with a hammer to press into your ring. Fortunately there is some scrap metal you can practice your technique and design on.
pattern imprinted on silver before wrapping silver ring

When you shape your ring you need to know what size you want it so if it isn't for you make sure you know the ring size. My mandrel (which helps you make the ring round) had the ring sizes marked on it, but not all do.

The London jewellery school run a number of taster classes as well as longer courses. The make a silver ring class was £50 and runs from 6.30 to 9.00 on a variety of weekday evenings throughout the year. 

To keep the jewellery looking good, check out this guide on how to stop silver tarnishing.

1 comment

  1. Ooh I quite like this idea. Perhaps I will hint at L for my birthday :D


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