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A DIY Proposal 2009-02-02 01:49:24

Two days, plenty of propane, and a lot of patience yields a one-of-a-kind engagement ring The One Ring: Sam Abbay When I finally made peace with the realization that I actually wanted to marry my ...

Two days, plenty of propane, and a lot of patience yields a one-of-a-kind engagement ring

The One Ring: Sam Abbay

When I finally made peace with the realization that I actually wanted to marry my girlfriend, thoughts about the typical next steps made me cringe: backroom bargaining in the diamond district, endless visits to mall jewelry stores to try to learn about cuts and clarity, spending way too much money I'd rather spend on traveling or tools or meat. Fortunately, my nascent furniture-building hobby has accustomed my girlfriend to appreciating my lovingly flawed home creations, so I decided to go the same route with the ring. Googling "DIY wedding rings" immediately brought me to Sam Abbay and his one-man shop in New York's financial district.

Sam is a 33-year-old who's been building jewelry since high school and set up business as New York Wedding Ring here in the city a few years ago to teach people how to create their own engagement rings and wedding bands. Since I had wanted to keep this a surprise, I didn't ask Lisa much about what she had in mind, but I knew she liked antique and estate rings, so I searched for images of Art-Deco-era designs. When I found one I liked, I met with Sam to talk about the build and materials. He walked me through the various metals and their properties, and we settled on platinum. Then we turned to stones. Lisa had made it clear she didn't want a diamond and let slip that she liked sapphires, so Sam explained lab-grown versus mined (the former is lighter, just as beautiful, and about a sixth the price), and showed me samples of different sizes until we found one that was right for my design. Then we scheduled two days for the build -- the week between Christmas and New Year's, when I could lie and say I was at work.

From This...:  Sam Abbay
Sam ordered the raw materials, so on day one of the build, I began with two four-inch lengths of platinum in different gauges, or thicknesses -- one for the actual ring, one for the details. As he typically does on more involved designs like this, Sam built the same ring out of cheaper palladium alongside me, so he could demonstrate each step but let me do it on my ring. Since I wanted the ring to have a groove down the center, I actually made two rings, slightly flattened, and soldered them together. Soldering at this scale is crazy: The solder is a platinum alloy that melts at a slightly lower temperature than the ring platinum, and it comes in sheets that Sam cuts into flakes about the size of glitter. With tiny tweezers, you set a flake over the joint you want to seal, try not to look at it wrong lest it move, then heat it with a small oxypropane torch until it melts -- and not a second longer or you could melt the ring. You also use the torch frequently to anneal the platinum: heat it red-hot for 30 seconds and then cool it, to realign the crystals and make it less brittle.
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