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How to size split shank rings


I’ve been asked to make a native american style turquoise ring for a
male friend. He wants a pinky ring. I have a piece of turquoise about
13 mm in diameter. I’ve never made a ring in this style before so
I’ve been looking at rings online. I’ve noticed that many of them are
split shanks that are soldered onto the bottom edges of the bezel.
I’ve always make a complete circle (ring) and attached the bezel so I
was wondering how would you know how to size the split shank? The
formula I’ve been using assumes that one is making a ring and gives
the length to cut in mm depending on gauge. Is there such a formula
for a split shank?

Thanks very much.

There is no formula for this 'cos there are too many variables.

What I do is to first draw a line around a ring stick at the size I
need. I then arrange the bezel on the stick and fasten it in
position with some Cellotape (Scotch Tape).

Then get a length of lead solder wire - the type used for soldering
electrical circuits. It’s about 1mm-1.3mm diam. I use solder wire
because it’s easy to bend and it stays bent.

With the bezel in position, carefully arrange the solder wire to
represent one half of the required split-shank. It follows the drawn
centreline for most of the way, but then gently curves away from the
centreline to meet the bezel. Mark the wire by shallow cuts with a
sharp knife at the angle it meets the bezel, straighten it and
measure to the corner parts of the knife cuts to get the length of
shank wire, the ends of which are slit with with a piecing saw. With
shank still straight, open and shape the splits and file the tips to
conform to the shape needed where they meet the bezel.

Regards, Gary Wooding

I suppose there is some formula floating around but since my manual
skills are sharper than my math skills I just do it by the following

  1. Cut the half round shank to the length of the ring size desired.
    Don’t bother allowing for the thickness of your material when
    calculating the length. I just use one of those black plastic ring
    and bracelet length gauges distributed by Grobet.

  2. Square up the ends with a file the saw each end for the split
    shank. I usually saw them about one half to three quarters of and
    inch deep depending on how deep I want the split shank.

  3. Place a knife blade in the split and spread out the split shank
    ends. File or sand the where the ring shank was sawn.

  4. Now shape the shank around the mandrel and check to see how close
    you are on size. You should be a little short. That’s ok with a split
    shank ring. Be sure to turn the ring around and shape it so your
    split shank is even.

  5. Then place some 220 or 360 grit sandpaper on your bench steel
    block or other very flat surface and hold the ring, split shank down,
    sand down the ends of your split shank so they will sit flat on the
    back plate of your bezel setting. You can also use a file or a
    sanding stick for this. I cheat and use my 8" flat lap with a 180
    grit diamond lap with water dripping.

  6. Now check the size. You can adjust to the size needed before
    soldering to the back plate of the bezel setting. The gap can be as
    close as almost touching to around a half inch so you’ve got a lot of
    room to play with. I usually shape it a quarter ring size small.

  7. Solder the shank onto the bezel setting. Then hammer it to size
    on the ring mandrel.

There is also another method of when you split the ring shank and
before you shape it on a ring mandrel hammer the ends of the split
shank flat then shape the ring shank around a ring mandrel. These
flattened ends will solder to the bezel back plate.

Rick Copeland

Is there such a formula for a split shank? 

Not precisely, because the gap between shank ends, spanned by the
bezel, is variable. But you can start with the shank length you’d
get with your formula for a full round shank, then subtract the
estimated gap that will be there. The kicker is that this will fit
slightly differently, because of the flat section. The usual way to
size such rings is to use a mandrel with a groove or flat (made
originally to accomodate rings where the stones stick through and
would otherwise hit the mandrel). If the flat section is not too
wide, then the fit will be similar to a round ring with a similar

You might also want to think about the structure used in much
commercially made jewelry that solves this very problem. The inside
of the shank is fully round, but at the shoulders, the shank splits
in the vertical dimension, so it can come up to reach the edge of
the bezel. If the shank design is a split shank (looks like a Y on
each side, then this solution means that at the sides, there are four
"strands" to the shank, the Y on the top that bridges up to the sides
of the bezel, and the Y underneath (or it does not have to split,
meaning only three strands to the shank) which forms the inner round
shape of the ring. This is a little more work to build than the
classic “native american” silver/turqoise rings, but it does solve
your design problem, and looks nice too. Another way to do this
which you DO see in some of those native american traditional styles
is to make a simple fully round shank as you’ve done in the past, and
add a decorative shoulder to each side. That shoulder can be anything
from a simple scroll to an added shank section that blends in, to a
more complex added ornament, perhaps with additional small stones,

And finally, don’t feel constrained to do this exactly as some other
native american smith (or often, some asian smith copying the native
american work in quantity and sending it back to the U.S. where it’s
sold without bothering to mention that it’s imported…). There’s
nothing wrong with starting with silver, and turqoise, and making a
ring the way you wish to do and in the way that makes the most sense
to you. Your friend didn’t go to the shop and buy some native
american style ring, he asked you to make one. So make it the way
YOU want, and so you’ll be satisfied with the design and result. You
can be inspired and guided by the aesthetics of the native american
style work, without needing to copy every detail exactly, and I think
you’ll find your customer will appreciate having something that
reflects it’s maker’s aesthetics too.

Peter Rowe

1 Like

Indian Jeweler’s Supply has a wonderful metal measure that gives the
lengths of an OPEN Ring Shank (the ring shank that is being requested
in this subject) and a CLOSED Ring Shank. These measurements are
given in the even sizes on the scale, but with imagination the half
size can be figured. I use this entirely to figure ring shanks.

I find cutting two pieces of wire - preferably square wire - the
length of the Open ring shank measurement, slightly bending each of
them to have a nice curve and solder the two together where the
slight bend occurs. That way there is a “split” and no sawing is
necessary to get the “split shank”. After the shank has been bent
around a mandrel the ends are filed flat so they touch the base of
the upper portion of the ring and can be soldered.

This measure also has the lengths printed on it for different sizes
of bracelets. It does not say anything about adding 3 x the width of
the sheet silver when making a bracelet or ring form as the Raytech
measure indicates - it is not necessary!

Just a happy customer of IJS. By the way, I give each one of my
students this IJS measure when they begin classes.

Rose Marie Christison

1 Like


The way I do it is to make a round shank of the appropriate size,
clip or saw out a section appropriate to the width of the bezel, or
table if it’s that sort of design, file the ends flat so that they
lay flushon the back of the table,or file to match the contour of
the bezel sides.

Jerry in Kodiak

Hi Rose, Can you tell me what a split ring shank is?

Thanks, Vince LaRochelle

Hi Vince…Instead of a solid piece being the shank of the ring, the
solid piece is sawed or “split” into two pieces…or possibly into
three. So the shank is divided in two pieces - or three, etc., being
soldered to the base of the ring.

Clear as mud? Sorry I couldn’t find a picture to attach.

Rose Marie Christison

Hi Rose, Thanks, do you know the item # from IJS for measuring sizes
you were referring to?

Vince LaRochelle

Hi Vince

I have the IJS catalog in front of me…went into

found it under Measuring Tools. It is a JEWELERS GAUGE, ALUMINUM 8"

Whole price of $2.00 each - order 6 at $1.88 each!

Creating jewelry is a blast - have fun!
Rose Marie Christison

Rather than tedious sawing of flat stock and spreading, with
generally off-balance results (and sometimes a flimsy product if the
sheet is not of sufficient gauge), try using round wire. Bend to
desired shape straightened wire and solder with hard or medium in
the center while flat. Forge the ends lightly with a planishing
hammer and file flat what will be the inside of the band in the
center portion. I use 10G round for a two wire band and 12G round for
a three wire band. Calibration of the length to cut, then the length
after being snipped and the ends filed to a right angle prior to
mandreling is arrived at by experimentation :slight_smile: but once you have one
size, you have them all. Everything goes catywhompus when shaping
over a mandrel (best results using both tapered and step mandrels),
but can be brought back into true with pliers and a good eye. Get
all the ends into the same plane and give them a flat foot by
dragging the band over sandpaper on a clipboard. At this point, I
tumble the band (after filing and sandpapering) to a high polish, and
only then solder on the bezel cup. Lots of tricks learned only
through experience - I’ve made well over 1000 of these suckers - but
its a nice result, and is the only way to go with long narrow cabs
which need to be supported fore and aft so the stone does not break
if the wearer gets one end of the bezel cup hung up on something out
in the world.

Dale Repp The Silver Forge