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[ContractJob] Making a cast iron and diamond ring

Hi All,

I have a job that the customer wants a cast iron or iron and
diamond ring. I am afraid that I have always been a fairly
traditional goldsmith and stuck pretty much to just gold. At
first I was going to return the job with a “No can do” note
attached, but then I thought of you guys. Anyone have any ideas?

Mark P.

Orchid Digest Post:
Re: [ContractJob] Making a cast iron and diamond ringFrom: Skip Meister

Hi Mark, Although I am a Dental Tech, everyone else in my family
are tool and die makers. You could have the ring machined and
have a dove tail into the shank. You could wax and cast a
setting and then I think you could sweat solder it to the shank.
BUT ask the client why. This thing will rust right on his
finger from the sweat. Cast iron will react with just about any
thing! John Burgess are you out there? You can probably explain
the chemistry much better than I. Regards, Skip


Cast iron and diamonds? that’s a new one. Maybe he should try a

You rang, Milord? Yes iron is very reactive, and as your old car
would tell you, it all goes to rust (there are several oxides of
iron!) in the end. Human skin exudes a whole alphabet of fatty
acids, sulphuryl and other compounds, most of which react with
iron. I would have thought that if one must have an iron
finger- (or other place) -ring it might most easily be made from
seamless tubing, though of course the traditional making of an
iron ring from strip and hard-soldering the ends would be
exactly the same as making it from a ‘noble’ metal. Silver solder
works very well on iron and steel - but not well on stainless…
There is no such thing as a really durable finish with iron,
other than the also traditional methods of deliberate oxidation,
gun bluing, and of course plating. On the other hand, (there
are always two hands) if worn all the time, an iron ring would
have any corrosion constantly worn off it by simple usage.

But why iron? Sounds a bit ‘eye of newt, wing of bat’ to me.
But cheers, anyway.

       / \
     /  /
   /  /                                
 /  /__| \      @John_Burgess2

At sunny Nelson NZ

Mark, if you are already doing casting, then actually casting
iron by the same method may be possible. Otherwise model
engineering suppliers sell sticks of centrifugally cast iron,
which you could machine, if you have a lathe. Avoid thin
sections though, as I’m sure you know cast iron is brittle.

Steel … well, it’s cheap and plentiful. Easy to silver solder
too. I’m not sure about silver solder on cast iron. I think ou
have to burn the graphite out of the surface first. I know it
can be successfully done in a small furnace.

Stainless might be suitable. There’s stainless, and then
there’s other stainless. There are special fluxes for stainless.
I’ve got away with plain borax a couple of times on non
strucural work.

Real wrought iron might be good, if you can find a really
fibrous piece and let a little rust away. Have to ask around on
theforge list or the bladesmiths.

Then finally, there’s damascus, real or sort of. I understand
interesting patterns can be made by forging a length of wire
rope. So many things to try … good luck.

BTW, is there some special significance to the combination of
iron and diamond? Suppose there must be, or why else would the
customer ask for it. Sounds kind of primeval, sort of fire and
ice stuff.


Kevin Eva, Northern England, UK
@Kevin_Eva (home)

Cast iron and diamonds? that’s a new one. Maybe he should try a

Pat Flynn made a gorgeous necklace that looks like a big old
iron nail which curves around the neck, inset with lots of
diamonds - I remember seeing it in Metalsmith a year or two ago.
Maybe it can be sealed with something to keep it from rusting?
You might appeal to the folks over at ArtMetal for a more
knowledgable answer.


Okay, I think I’m going crazy, maybe someone can help…I saw a
really attractive ring on (I thought) the Ganoksin Gallery, of a
ring that had a large iron spiral set in gold with a diamond in
it’s center. I really liked the use of iron. Can anyone help
refresh my memory as to who the creator was and where I saw it.
Maybe the customer could settle for a “compromise” design by
adding a precious metal for rust protection.

				Just a thought, 

				Amy O'Connell

HI! Once years ago I was asked to make a Iron and gold piece
for a show of goldsmiths and wrought Iron pieces. They wanted a
piece with both elements all in one. I knew nothing about
forging iron (has to be red hot). So called a friend and with
phone on my shoulder he walked me through it. Then I forged the
gold elements, and soldered them all together. Then used a wax
on the iron parts, heated it in kiln to give the iron that
lovely black soft sheen. This by the way allows the piece to be
worn (necklace) without getting rusty. However, a ring will
really not be a good idea. Unless worn only for special dinner
occasions. Can you talk the customer into black plating? Pat

hello mark, if memory serves, there is an artist jeweler that
makes iron and gold items, i think the name is pat flynn. perhaps
the customer saw this persons work? anyway the major units of a
piece are made with iron, and a small hinge and ornament of gold
add a nice looking accent. talk about color contrast the work
appeared to be gold soldered, where soldered. one could just cut
a piece of iron pipe, open it up and add the gold setting ,etc.
if one didn’t want to solder it, why not rivets? i’m assuming
they don’t want the diamond set in iron.

this also brought to mind the artisans who make damascene in
toledo, spain. i’m not sure if they use iron or steel to overlay
with gold, and they use ‘caustico salsa’ to turn it(the iron or
steel) a nice jet black. i ran all over the place back in the
u.s. asking about caustic sauce. i’m kinda weak in the chemical
dept. and it was a while before i figured out they were talking
about caustic soda, which is lye.

your pal,.
geo fox


Why cast iron?

Beats me, my customer is a gallery like retail jeweler. Her
customer is saw a ring out west that was cast iron with flush set
diamonds, and she asked to have one made. At this point that’s
all I know. I am interested but foresee an unhappy customer with
a rusty looking finger and an unhappy goldsmith who could not
charge enough for cast iron.

Mark P.


True a cast iron ring will eventually, and guaranteed to rust.
Try an inner ring ie: silver, gold, titanium. Nothing
ventured, nothing gained.

Good Luck.

B&B Craftsman
Dallas, Tx

Someone asked, “Why would anyone want an iron ring?” Here’s a
possible answer: The client is a Canadian engineer. It’s their
tradition to wear an iron ring but, as far as I know, without

Judy Yelon

Hey, why not enamel the inside of the ring to reduce finger


I believe there was a thread earlier this year regarding a
spray-on coating used by custom knife makers which would prevent
rust. Worth looking up. Also, for what it’s worth, I have seen
rings made from iron inlaid in high carat gold which were
absolutely beautiful. I was told that the artist, Gaia Pelican,
used cross-sections of rusted iron pipe from which he had removed
the rust, leaving a rich texture. The rings were on display at
the Aurum Gallery in Jerome, Arizona, where several of my wire
wraps are also on display. HTH

Dos Manos Jewelry

HI, I"ve been seeing all this ranting about cast iron rusting
etc, and how difficult it is to do — but has anyone seen how
beautiful and functional it can be as ornamentation on a ring ? I
am really interested in knowing how to cast it or stainless
steel? can anyone give me some technical advice on this sans
opinion and ill be sure to credit you when I win the next jury
prize for most innovative jewelry design of 1999. Peter Slone

I have seen this ring. It is in a book or magazine that I
constantly look at. I will search through 'em tomorrow. Aha!! I
have found it:

ISBN: 1-880140-29-2 page No. 61 The ring is by Robert Ebendorf.
It is 18K, iron wire, and diamond.

I think there was an article on this artist in “Metalsmith” or
"Lap Journal " or “Ornament.” Those are the places I haunt and I
believe I have seen more about this artist within this last year.

Hope this helps.

Hi! I agree that. But I have another idea. In Orient Philosophy,
“Water borne tree, tree borne fire, fire borne earth, earth borne
metal, metal borne water”. So, if someone need water, he/she wear
a metal in his/her body.

I too was commissioned to make a steel pin (for 11th anniversary
which is steel) with an emerald set in 22K gold and a 22K
applique design. Can gold be soldered to steel with gold solder
or must it be cold joined? Would it then be blackened with lye, or
with heat before the emerald is set?

Mark, and others,

I have been following this thread and I feel I must bring up an
issue which is probably going to make me very unpopular around

I believe Pat Flynn is the artist who fabricated the cast
iron/flush set diamond jewelry, and I have seen her work in the
best of the best artisan jewelry galleries here “out west”.
(Susan Cummins in Mill Valley, and I believe Facere in Seattle,
for example.) While the idea of iron or steel being used in
jewelry is not necessarily unique, the use of flush set diamonds
with cast iron is very unique and is an integral part of Pat
Flynn’s personal vocabulary. (So much so, that just the
description of this jewelry brought this artist’s name to the
minds of several of us here on Orchid.) For those people who make
"artisan jewelry", innovative ideas are their stock in trade. My
own opinion is that when others begin copying those ideas, it’s a
form of plaigerism. I’d like you to consider that this
"gallery-like retail jeweler" is asking you to copy another
artist’s work, because she wants you to lift another artist’s
unique concept. I don’t know what your personal values are, but
if someone asked me to do this, I would decline and send the
customer to the source of the “real thing”.

While we all might learn a lot by considering the unique issues
involved in working with iron as a jewelry material, and might
develop unusual jewelry as a result, I would hope that in the
process there would be a measure of respect for other artists’
vocabulary. I know there is the common feeling that once an
artist has been “published”, their work is almost in the public
domain and is fair game. I think this is an unfortunate attitude.
Personally, I’ve been on the receiving end of being copied
(plaigerized) for very unique concepts and techniques which I’ve
been recognized for in my medium. Believe me, it isn’t fun. It’s
hard enough to earn a living and have something unique to offer,
without having to also deal with this issue. Sometimes, imitation
is a form of flattery we can live without.

Rene Roberts

When I have a client come to me with a rather “unusual” request,
one that may not be all that pracitcal in daily life, I sometimes
ask myself why they want that particular piece. Invariably, I
come up with the same answer: because it is something they have
decided they want. Also, the more obscure the request, the more
I find that they want it EXACTLY as requested, no additions or
alterations, just simply “that way”. Generally, this is why
they come to a Custom Designer, rather than your typical Jeweler
who works in a retail store - they simply do not get their needs
met with most “mall jewelers”. I have also seen these same free
spirited people come to me at a wit’s end from explaining, and
justifying, and qualifying WHY they want that piece. I find it
is not my job to tell them they are wrong. I will explain to
them the possible shortcomings of what they want manufactured

but keep it very plain and simple, a matter of fact type of
explanation. Many of these pieces hold deep symbolic meaning for
these clients, and in the end, the symbolism tends to be what is
most important to get out of the piece. As a matter of fact, the
first symbolic attachment I thought of in regard to the iron and
diamond ring was that of Medieval Knights. They wore raw
diamond crystals set in iron, or their armor, to serve as a
symbol of valor and strength. Nevertheless, whatever the reason,
I feel that as a jeweler and artist, it is my responsibility to
create a piece as close to the piece in my client’s mind’s eye.

Heather Sickler
Intrica Fine Jewelry

Hi Rene,

I can see your point BUT are you not feeling bad about
reticulation,channel setting, gypsy setting, Tif. mounts, etc?
These processes and techniques are ones that you use regularly
I’m sure. Do you feel sorry for the originators? Jewelry as in
any other skill or craft is the sum total of all the experiences
and techniques of its creator and all the other creators
throughout the millennia. Everyones skill is buttressed and
expanded by the techniques and skills AND ideas of those that
went before. It is unfortunate that the creator of a new look
or technique who has spent years and countless $ developing a
technique can have someone else use it. If it is protected by
law, the copycat is not only guilty of a crime but is also
somewhat lacking in ethics. For how long though, do wait to
flatter the person? Just my $,02 worth.