custom signet rings
December 4, 2012 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Hit me with your best ideas for crafty ways of making my own custom seal signet rings. They cost above $300/each online, and more for a custom seal. I have access to a laser cutter, and am pretty crafty, but though I'm trained I don't currently have access to a jewelry studio. Any suggestions?

I thought of creating an inverse image out of lucite on the laser cutter and embossing it into silver clay, but I suspect shaping the actual ring would be difficult. Are there any creative ways to do it online?
posted by you're a kitty! to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Silver clay was the first thing I thought of when I read your post. When I've used it before, there were instructions on getting the ring sizing right. As the binder material is fired out in the kiln, the size of the the band shrinks up a bit. I could also imagine the seal impression getting a little less crisp - the corners of each raised area would be more rounded than sharp, for example. The surface of the resulting metal is not shiny, more a slightly pebbly surface like most plastics (I'm looking at my computer keyboard, for example) so you'd have to polish it (the ring at least, if not the seal) to make it look like jewelry.

If the laser cutter can do metal, you could make the seal out of sheet, and then affix that (lacework-type object) to a blank ring base. You'd end up with a layered look, but I could imagine using color in the adhesive to make it look cool and enameled. Don't ask me what kind of adhesive, though.
posted by aimedwander at 9:52 AM on December 4, 2012

How about 3d printing in metal? Both shape ways and Ponoko offer it I believe, and you can easily desig the actual ring in something like sketchup ( or slap your logo on an existing 3d ring you can download on places like Would be quite accurate/painless to produce and not so expensive for such a small object.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 9:56 AM on December 4, 2012

I've produced decent rings using a pretty minimal tool set (blow torch, mandrel, needle files, saw, flux and pickle) and D-shaped silver wire. If you're never going to make another ring, it would seem like a waste but you should be able to bring a tool set like that in for well under $300.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:56 AM on December 4, 2012

Carve one in wax, and find a casting house to make a mold from it - they can pour the rings for you, too.
posted by ersatzkat at 10:42 AM on December 4, 2012

You could also consider using an etching process to etch a design into a small piece of copper or brass and then affix that to a ring, ideally via soldering. (Though note that this will make a very binary design--everything either 100% raised or 100% recessed--unlike carving in wax and having it cast or using a 3D printing service.)

If you live in a city with access to adult ed courses, keep your eye out for "intro to metalsmithing" or "intro to jewelry" classes that teach soldering--you can use their equipment and probably even bring your project in to do in class.
posted by rivenwanderer at 10:54 AM on December 4, 2012

the corners of each raised area would be more rounded than sharp, for example.

If the impression is deep enough, this seems like something a pass with a file or stone could easily solve. (IANAJeweler, and my experience with metalworking is generally with harder metals, so I may be way off here).
posted by jon1270 at 11:04 AM on December 4, 2012

You could even 3D print the ring in plastic, and use that instead of the wax process ersatzkat linked to. The molten metal would burn/melt away the plastic... That would give you more metal choices than the ones you could typically get from Shapeways/Ponoko...
posted by PardonMyFrench at 2:07 PM on December 4, 2012

The molten metal would burn/melt away the plastic...

I am doubting this. Even with lost wax process (wax melting away much more easily than most plastics), the wax is melted out of the mold before metal is added.

I was a foundry pattern maker in a previous life, and we did make some large "lost foam" patterns from EPS, but that stuff vaporizes almost instantly when metal hits it.
posted by jon1270 at 2:50 PM on December 4, 2012

Jon1270, it could be that it doesn't work with all plastics and all metals... I just send my 3d printed positives to a foundry nearby ( I'm in the NL ) and they do their magic with it...
So far I've only gotten things made in brass... I have no idea what kind of plastic was used in the printer, could have been some sort of PLA.
They do ask me to print "chimneys", conduits for the plastic and air to escape, directly on my positives.
It is fairly cheap and the pieces are very intricate, so I can't imagine that they first reproduce my positive in wax, especially not considering the relatively cheap fee they charge me...
I know they use sand in the process...
posted by PardonMyFrench at 10:54 PM on December 4, 2012

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