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On The Bench: Is Every Sizing the Same?

Jun 5, 2020

The following article is written part of our series titled On the Bench With Master Jeweler Eric Sanchez. 

Simply put, nope! But let me elaborate (as we do here). Just like people, rings come in all shapes and sizes. Sizing a ring can be straightforward most of the time. Usually this scenario involves a ring that only needs to be sized up or down 1-2 tiers, is around 3mm wide, and sports a simple design up top–like a solitaire. While there are many styles that are commonly sought after, there are still multitudes of custom designs and unique rings that some other jeweler out there thought up on their own and simply put out there in the world for other jewelers to come across. The sky’s the limit when you get to design something unique. And while a technical person can be trained how to fix an engine, complete with model numbers and swappable parts, working with jewelry is an organic endeavor. Once the concept of a repair such as sizing is learned, it is then the jeweler’s job to tackle things they’ve never come across with common sense and experience. I’ve worked with 30+ year jewelers that are still surprised by pieces that come in. 

A ring sizer

Essentially, the many variations I’ve seen typically differ in the categories of width, thickness, shape, and engravings. After these are observed and understood, what is above the shank becomes the most important aspect of the sizing. A jeweler cannot simply cut into a ring with stones, or stretch it to the size it needs to be; as only stoneless solid bands can be stretched. A decision needs to be made as to how much a ring can be cut into and opened up without compromising the upper housing or gallery. A complicated gallery with thinly designed connecting points, or rings with delicately shaped stones will interfere with a ring’s sizing potential. For example, a ring with baguettes or trillions has a very limited range because of the delicacy of the fancy cut. Points can chip off with enough stress after all. The only workaround in these cases are for the jeweler to measure out the amount of metal a typical ring would need to go up to meet the requirements of the sought after size to the millimeter (there is a formula), cut into the shank at a safe spot on the shank, and bend the shank open only where the shank meets the gallery. In essence this isolates the upper gallery from any bending or morphing but can end in an oval shaped shank to accommodate the amount of space needed for the client’s finger. Most of the time, when this is properly explained to the customer this is acceptable and many times is undetectable–especially when worn.

Another challenge comes with filigree rings, or antique rings, with almost a web of connecting points and lots of engraving in between. At any point in the sizing, the goldsmith needs to take the ring up or down a bit at a time, constantly checking that they are not affecting the filigree design, or causing any points of stress. And due to the nature of an older ring, the metal might have aged poorly, or perhaps it has been repaired before in spots where any shifting will bring out its weak spots. An experienced jeweler should have no problem tackling this with incremental changes and attention to detail.

When it comes to super wide rings, it can be a challenge opening up or bending that much metal into submission safely. The most common wide ring type is the timeless class ring; the king of thick rings. These rings are heavy monsters that are covered in deep engravings and usually have some kind of bezel-set sapphire or ruby cabochon atop. With the right tools though, they can miraculously be sized, but there are limits. For rings that are heavily engraved, it is always a fun challenge to see if I can match the original design. Many times, a skillfully placed saw blade can create some very convincing pattern continuity. Custom hand engraving and milgraining tools can also be used, and “antiquing” (or blackening) the pattern can really bring the contrast back into view. Most of the time, customers are not too concerned with an exact pattern match, but in the cases where perfection is the only option, engraving specialists are always awaiting more work. Many times, I will suggest a new design direction. Like simply creating a very obvious border where the sizing will take place, and leaving the new addition of metal as one highly polished break in design and oftentimes works beautifully with highly engraved pieces.

In conclusion, when you bring your jewelry to Samuelson’s, these are all decisions and that will be made together with the client before any work is done to the ring. Many times I will sketch out the plan to ensure it is visually understood, which helps a lot for so many reasons. And when a ring simply cannot be sized to a certain point, other options can be discussed. For instance, for sizing a ring down that cannot go any further down, simply soldering 1-2 beads or “speed bumps” of the same type and karat inside the ring will be enough to make the ring fit snuggly. For any and all these types of sizings, bring it to Samuelson’s as there are always ways to address even the toughest of sizings. 

The sky’s the limit after all, right?

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