Can I make my wedding ring from this?
November 10, 2008 1:23 AM   Subscribe

So I need to choose a wedding ring, but I'd like to have it made from something unique. I have something unique - but can I make a ring from it?

It's time I made a decision on my wedding ring, and I definitely want it making from something unique and 'cool'.

My grandfather was basically a rocket scientist - he worked on the British Skylark sounding rockets. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago but he's to blame for all my love for things technical.
He did leave behind to me a nosecone from the end of one of the rockets that had been launched - a cone of what I think is stainless steel.
It's the very end section of this.

While I don't want to completely destroy it - what is the possibility of drilling out some of the material (up through the base) and re-casting it into my ring?

I've sent an message to a local jeweller acquaintance, but I wanted to see if the Hive had any idea of the general feasibility of it.
posted by nafrance to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not a jeweller, but steel has a much higher melting point (~1400-1400°C) than gold, silver or other traditional jewelry casting metals. I'm also not certain if it is at all possible to cast something like a ring out of steel directly - I'd assume you'd have to cast a larger shape and then machine it to the desired shape and size. Depending on the size of the nosecone it might be possible to saw a disc from the end and then lathe that piece.

All of this information is just what I gathered from a passing interest in metallurgy, feel free to correct me!
posted by PontifexPrimus at 2:41 AM on November 10, 2008

You can make rings out of steel. When I bought my high school class ring one option was to get it made from steel instead of gold, there was no difference (in shape, details, etc) between the two metals. So yeah, you can make ornate rings from steel, whether you local jeweler has the stuff to do this is another matter, (they may be more focused on gold and silver).
posted by Science! at 3:02 AM on November 10, 2008

Your basic cutlery stainless steel, 18/10 aka 304, has a melting point of about 1400-1450 degrees centigrade while gold is more like 1064 degrees centigrade. So, yeah, stainless steel has to be got quite a bit hotter, but it's not an order-of-magnitude difference.

There are people who make and sell titanium rings, and titanium melts at 1670 degrees centigrade - of course, they might make titanium rings without melting the titanium, I'm not sure.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:39 AM on November 10, 2008

From a materials standpoint, yes, it *is* a whole 'nother ballgame to melt steel for casting vs gold. Most steel/titanium rings are machined from larger chunks. I'm afraid you'll be unable to complete your plans without either cutting a huge chunk from the nosecone, or spending a huge chunk of change to re-cast shavings.
posted by notsnot at 4:12 AM on November 10, 2008

Would it need to be recast, or could it be machined/welded/etc -- reworked without first melting and pouring it?

If so, then the work is easily within the competence of any decent machine shop, perhaps in consultation with a jewelry maker.
posted by Forktine at 5:16 AM on November 10, 2008

I just got married and had a titanium ring made. The jeweler didn't bat an eyelash when we asked about titanium, and we also discovered other metals are combined with gold and silver to make various alloys, one of which was stainless steel. You might need to ask the jeweler just to be sure, but I don't think you'd have difficulty finding one who can melt stainless steel.

Drilling out the nosecone is a different matter though, but that's a question for the jeweler. See how they'd like to tackle it.
posted by jwells at 5:42 AM on November 10, 2008

Best answer: If you can get a really accurate weight (within a couple grams) and determine it's volume (either by water displacement or using math) you can get it's density. If it's stainless, it should be about 8 g/cm^3. If it's about 4 it's probably titanium, and if it's 2 it's aluminum. (Or it could have some sort of internal hollow in either <8>
It's hard to say without seeing the piece, but if that last little bit is a big enough solid cone, a machinist could be mounted in a lathe, drill out the inner diameter, cut the outer diameter and then use the same sort of cutter one would use to do internal threads to free a piece of this tube from the rest of the cone. After that it's just a matter of cleaning up the resulting tube to make it a usable ring.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:08 AM on November 10, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input guys!
Kid Charlemagne - why didn't I think of that? My father-in-law-to-be runs a precision engineering company. I'm going to run it by him about the cutting, a jeweller for sizing/polishing etc. and hope it all comes together!
posted by nafrance at 7:15 AM on November 10, 2008

One thing to consider is the hardness of the metal. If you break your finger and it swells, will normal emergency room tools be able to cut the ring off? I was warned against titanium for that reason, steel would have the same properties I think. Might be a good discussion to have with the jeweler.
posted by reckman at 7:16 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


That, and (unless it's some sort of super-steel, which it might be) stainless steel rings are fairly common, one would assume that ERs know how to deal with them.
posted by Lucky Bob at 7:30 AM on November 10, 2008

reckman, that's an urban legend:
posted by chrisamiller at 7:34 AM on November 10, 2008

From the Snopes page that chisamiller linked -
Aerospace (or aircraft) grade titanium is more difficult to saw through because it is not pure but rather a special alloy meant to be used under high stress conditions, and it should therefore be eschewed by those seeking titanium jewelry in favor of its commercial grade version because its removal could present additional problems. One could still be cut loose from it, but the process would be a bit more involved.
So while pure titanium and stainless steel aren't problematic, other aerospace alloys might be. You'll definitely want to know what kind of material the cone is made from before you start in on it. Kid Charlemagne's advice about figuring out the density is good, and some Googling might help you determine the materials as well.
posted by truex at 9:30 AM on November 10, 2008

This was interesting, if somewhat gorey:
Recommendation on the risk of wearing rings and wedding bands
One of the conclusions is that you're more at risk of a degloving or amputation injury wearing a steel ring. Another result I found surprising is:
In daily life, taking every accident cause or degree of severity into account, hand accident circumstances are extremely varied. Accidents due to wearing rings and wedding bands seldom occur in “high-risk” situations (handling tools or cutting machines, violent sports, and so on) but on the contrary during routine situations of home life (doing housework, closing a car door, falling in the street, getting caught on fencing, falling from a stool, and so on).

While ER rooms these days may have the hydraulic cutters to cut off steel rings, EMTs won't, they only carry ring cutters that can handle sliver or gold. Although with a steel ring, getting the ring off may not be the hard part, the hard part may just be a question of reattaching the finger or finger-flesh in the case of amputation or degloving, respectively.

When picking a ring, you should consider that 20 years from now, your fingers likely be a bit wider or a bit narrower. You can easily resize a silver or gold ring and jewelers do a lot of that. You cannot resize a steel ring, aside from widening it on a lathe. If your and your wife's hands are a bit skinnier, those rings will end up in a drawer.

I would personally go with gold or silver rings, and make a bangle, armlet, or pendant out of the nose cone. You may be interested in a make your own wedding band workshop (Toronto) if you can find one in your city.

Sorry for the horror show, but silver and gold may actually be better, despite the current trendiness of other-metal rings.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:32 AM on November 10, 2008

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