Silversmithing my own ring in León

As I’ve mentioned before, I love jewelry and have taken to buying jewelry as my souvenir from each country I visit.   Even better if I can meet the actual artisan and work with them to make it myself.   So in addition to the cooking workshop I did with NicAsí, I also signed up for the NicAsí silversmithing workshop.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

There was only myself and the guide, Hector, and we spent a great morning at the Joyería Camilla with Juan Carlos Narvaez and his wife Mayra Quiroz creating a piece of jewelry for me.  In reality, I didn’t actually need Hector since I can speak spanish – he just sat around chatting with the rest of us while we worked.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

Juan Carlos (waving from inside) and Mayna in their silversmithing and jewelry shop near the market in León.

The first step was to come up with the design.  I’m absolutely terrible at this sort of thing so stole inspiration from one of the catalogues Juan Carlos had in his store.  I chose to make 01.0981, but in silver and with a burgundy “stone” (for less than $1, it is more likely glass 🙂 )

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

The first step was to melt the silver with a foot-powered blowtorch until it formed a relatively narrow oblong block.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

This was then slowly flattened by passing it multiple times (I wasn’t actually counting but it must have been more than 50 times) through a hand-cranked machine.  With each pass, the silver would either be moved along into a different shaped groove, or the distance between the rollers would be adjusted to flatten it even more.  In this way, we shaped the width and depth of the band of the ring.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

It was then time to start shaping the ring.  The flat strip of silver was reheated, bent around a shaper and sized according to what we measured my finger to be.  This was a little tricky given how hot it was in the workshop (and León in general really) and we had to try to figure out how much smaller to make the ring to ensure it wouldn’t fall off my finger when the weather was cooler.  Given the design, Juan Carlos had to solder (yes, that’s what’s in the shell) the ring parts to stop them from coming apart.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

Next step was to shape the stone holder out of some of the remaining silver, so it was back to the hand-cranked machine to re-shape the base silver into something more appropriate to set a stone, and then make the holder.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

At this point, the ring had its form but it still looked pretty dull and crappy. Apparently this was due to the water and acid we were using to quench the hot silver each time we had to heat it. This was alleviated by the final step in the process – the polishing.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

Very happy with the finished product – particularly its imperfections that really highlight that it has been hand-made 🙂

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

Had a really fun morning learning the processes involved in silversmithing and chatting with Juan Carlos and Mayra and Hector about anything and everything.  And now my finger doesn’t look so bare for having left all my regular jewelry at home!

 

Recommendation: If you love jewelry and are interested in jewelry making, you should definitely do this workshop.

Booking:  The NicAsí silversmithing workshop runs out of the Vía Vía Hostel in León.  Just call by and ask when the next one is running, they actually did it for me alone so you never know your luck.

Time Required:  To make this ring, it took about 3 hours.  It would change depending on the complexity of the ring I imagine.

Cost:  The cost was dictated by the amount of silver I used.  To make this ring, the entire experience cost me US$40.

 

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