This French Flair Ring Redesign, as I’m calling it, was a truly special project! The backstory of the ring with integrated coin setting involves three generations of cultural and family tradition.
A father, John, reached out to have me create a sweet 16 present for his daughter. John and his wife, Marie, live on Hilton Head Island, but Marie is originally from France. Marie’s father, also from France, came into possession of several 20 franc Gold Napoleon III coins many, many years ago. He worked with a jeweler based in central France to have one of the coins set into a ring for himself. He was so impressed with the result that he had another coin ring made for Marie soon after. Then, when Marie married John, an American, her father once again went to the same jeweler to have a coin ring created as a gift for his new son-in-law.
Following with this lovely tradition, Marie and John wanted to give their daughter, Amélie, the family coin ring. Unfortunately, with the recent passing of Marie’s father and the COVID-19 pandemic, they were not able to travel to France to work with the same jeweler that did the original three rings. That’s when they reached out to me!
Shift in Design
For the design, we started out broad and worked our way into the specifics. We knew the ring and coin had to curve together, but Amélie’s ring size was a petite 5.5 and that, along with the decently-sized coin, was going to need some consideration (but more on that later). Amélie is passionate about math, science, and all things music. She’s actually somewhat of a violin prodigy and plays with a prestigious orchestra in the area!
I began with some very architectural, geometric sketches, even incorporating the neck and strings of a violin into one. However, Amélie did not seem overly enthusiastic about any of those initial designs. I then showed her my signature ripple ring designs because I knew John had done his research and had seen my work online. Maybe they chose me for my unique style? Well, my inkling was correct, and Amélie immediately fell in love with what I do best: organic, nature-inspired pieces. We both felt the geometric coin juxtaposed with the ring’s fluid design was the ideal balance for the overall piece.
Silver, platinum, rose gold, yellow gold...we explored all options for which metal would be best to compliment the golden hues of the coin. We ultimately went with 14K yellow gold, and as you can see, it was the best choice.
Right off the bat, Amélie knew she wanted three accent stones on each side of the coin. She had her heart set on “Carribean water-like” gems, specifically aquamarine. I procured a lovely sky blue aquamarine stone, and to complete the trio, I found a deep blue sapphire and a neon-aqua paraiba tourmaline. And let me tell you something about paraiba tourmalines: they are undeniably eye-catching but can be tricky to find in small melee sizes. Of course, we got it, and when I placed the three stones together side-by-side, their different blue hues all played off each other rather nicely!
Big Coin, Small Finger
As I mentioned above, I was going to be in for a challenge with the large coin and small 5.5 ring size. I would just need to stick to the design and take each step one at a time. The whole process always starts from a flat sheet in silver. I immediately built the towering, skyscraper-like prongs for the purpose of 1) firmly holding the coin to the ring, 2) raising the coin a bit to fit the curvature, and 3) the ability to cut the coin out of the ring if she should ever wish to do something different with it.
Since the backside of the coin had the bust of Napoleon III, I purposely left the metal beneath the coin open, exposing the emperor's face for Amélie to admire both sides of the coin. The open underside also reduces some of the weight of the entire ring.
Now for the finagling of fitting the coin, a linear object, into an organic yet sturdy ring construction. I had to also ensure that the coin would not rattle in its setting. That’s where those intense prongs came into play. I intentionally built them bigger than needed in order to set the coin. You have to have some good “meat” on the prongs to then be able to trim them down.
This project was finally starting to take real form! And with that, the ring went to casting and came back ready for cleanup. The initial casting was bubbly and stuccoed on the surface, but with patient polishing and cleaning, I shaped and smoothed the edges. I then officially set those beautiful blue stones, but then came the moment of truth: setting the curved coin between those chunky prongs against the curved surface of the ring while still being stable, secure, AND looking pretty! Whew! The pressure was on. And voilà, it fit!
The Prong Song
It was time to start grinding those gigantic prong down. Since 14K gold is very durable, it doesn't like to move much, so it took persistence and strength to push each prong down and over without slipping, scraping the surface of the coin, and damaging it beyond repair! However, I came prepared with a clever solution that worked twofold.
On the interior of each prong, I added a thin layer of silicone to protect the coin as I cranked the prongs over it. The silicone worked as a shock absorber cushion for the coin’s protection, but it also provided the springs with a cushion to grip into the edge of the coin without damaging it. Win-win! I had never used this technique before, but it worked exceptionally well - to my relief!
Next, I began the actual task of sculpting the prongs. The prongs went from obscenely massive in size to chunky and beat up to their final refined and polished end result. The prongs hold the coin to the ring super snug with the silicone pads there to anchor it a bit more.
New Family Heirloom
Upon delivery of the ring, Amélie, Marie, and John were simply floored with the outcome. It understandably made them emotional to know that Marie’s father would never see the newest addition to his family’s tradition. At the same time, they were grateful to me for preserving their history for the next generation in a (hopefully) long line of many more French coin rings to come!
"Everyone LOVES the ring! Here are a few good shots taken with Marie's phone(awesome camera). Thanks again for everything!" -JR