I offer couples the chance to come and make their wedding bands with me in my studio. It’s a really fun and romantic day for them – they tend to like to make each other’s ring, so that they feel as if their other half will always be wearing something that has been personally made for them – it contains a bit of their soul! It is meaningful, loving, and has huge significance for their ongoing life together.
As to the significance of the wedding bands themselves and specifically about why the band was worn on the 4th digit (ring finger) of the left hand, I found out this little gem from a vicar at a wedding recently. Apparently, before medical science understood about our circulation system, people believed that a vein ran directly from the ring finger to the heart. Because of this hand-heart connection the vein was named "vena amoris" (Latin for "Vein of Love").
There you go - a fact for the dinner table tonight!
When a couple ask me about coming to make wedding bands, there are quite a few details to sort out first of all. Crucially they need to decide what metal they want – I don’t work with platinum and wouldn’t feel comfortable with novices having a go with it – it requires very high temperatures to solder and also special eye protection as it burns incredibly brightly. So in the workshops we use Sterling silver and all carats and colours of gold.
I organise a preliminary meeting with the couple where we can choose the metal, measure ring sizes and also decide on a profile of wire – again, lots to choose from. Everything from round wire in all sorts of diameters, D-shaped wire in different widths and depths, to rectangular wire which is quite a favourite with the boys. Once these decisions have been made, I will be able to quote for the bullion that we will need and then purchase as required.
I spend a lot of time reassuring the couple that I will be watching over their every move and will ensure that they can’t screw up their precious piece of jewellery. There is always one half of the couple far more nervous than the other! It is wise to have the workshop session at least a couple of months before the wedding day, so that there is time to tidy up the work and also to get the pieces hallmarked and also have any required personal messages engraved. As with all weddings there seems to be a lot of stress being bounced around, so knowing that their bands are complete, perfect, and sitting with them ready for the big day is a bonus.
On the day of the workshop, we will have a play around with copper and other base metal. They will have the chance to form up rings from wire, learn about annealing, soldering, use of the saw, and especially filing, sanding, and polishing. Perfecting these techniques won’t happen in a day, but the “students” are much more smiley once they see that solder run and they see that they can do it.
Boys and girls have varying opinions on these special rings that they will be wearing for the rest of their lives – many guys don’t want a bright, blingy ring, they may well choose a brushed, satinised, or frosted finish. This is something that can be done during the workshop. Girls may well choose narrow and elegant because it may need to sit with an engagement ring.
Not everybody wants standard bands. Ronnie and Daffyd came to me with an inherited 22ct gold band that had sentimental significance and they wanted to use half the gold in one ring and half in the other. They also wanted to be involved in the process of “making”. Now this was a tricky one – none of the process was really easy enough for them to do. In the end, we designed the 2 rings between us at meetings. Once all was agreed I invited them to the studio to come and saw open the 22ct gold band, anneal it, and hammer it flat so that I would be able to proceed with the rest of the making. They felt really happy that they had commenced the work – it was a special moment (the kind that brings tears to my eyes!). As to the rings themselves, Daffyd’s had a ring of 22ct gold sandwiched between 2 layers of silver – it was rectangular in profile with a brushed finish. Ronnie’s ring had a silver base layer and around it was wrapped the 22ct gold, which was beautifully engraved with a floral pattern – she tells me that she smiles every time she looks at it.
So – wedding band workshops – you need to be ever flexible, ever reassuring, ever watchful, and provide lots of tea and sandwiches!