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A Refreshing Solution To The Wedding Band Hunt

By Guan Tan

 
2:00PM Workshop Begins

At jeweller Yuki Mitsuyasu's monthly silversmithing workshops, participants make their own sterling silver rings. It's a four-hour long session. Mitsuyasu begins with a start to end demonstration, before leaving participants to make their own rings at their own pace for the next three and a half hours. She will pace around the studio, guiding participants along.

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2:15 PM A Walkthrough

Each workshop holds a maximum of five participants. Mitsuyasu frequently sees groups of friends, or couples dropping in to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon together. Other than public workshops, she has held private workshops for soon-to-weds to make their wedding bands. The making of wedding bands requires prior design consultations, but the actual workshop session maintains at four hours.

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 2:30PM Hands-On

After Mitsuyasu's speedy demonstration, participants begin by measuring their ring size with a strip of paper. "If your knuckle is bigger than the finger, measure the knuckle so that the ring fits. If you're making for someone else, bring the ring and measure it." Add 1.5mm worth of allowance to your actual measurements for the sawing and soldering later.

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 2:50PM Piercing Saw

Outline your design onto a strip of sterling silver. With a piercing saw, move up and down to cut through the silver. "Don't try to force of push to cut it... The blade is very thin and fragile. If you force it to change direction, it will break." Later, file to smoothen the edges of the cut silver.

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 3:20PM Hammer

 With a soft mallet, hammer the straight silver strip against a ring mandrel to shape the ring. "At this point, don't worry so much about it not being round... This moment is to get the two ends to meet." The ends have to meet tightly here, such that "no light should pass through" the meeting line. "This is not easy," Mitsuyasu quips. "When there's really no gap in between, we are ready to solder."

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3:55PM Soldering 

Mitsuyasu applies borax powder and water to the soldering line to remove any oxidation present on the silver surface. A minute piece of silver is placed on the line, and firing begins. Mitsuyasu gently guides participants' hands to control the fire which averages at 800°C.  Heat up the ring from the bottom up evenly on both sides, "so the silver ring will expand and it will come even tighter at the joint". The silver will rapidly change from silver to black (oxidised), and red. "When it gets cherry red, that's when the silver will start melting. It is very fast." Once done, pop it into water, and then into Mitsuyasu's pot of safety pickle – a safer and environmentally friendly alternative to remove oxide from precious metals.

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 4:10PM Shaping

Once out of the safety pickle bath, briefly rinse the ring. Slot the ring back into the mandrel, and hammer it into an even, circular shape.  

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 4:15PM File, Sand, & Polish

With a file, "first get rid of the solder line". A nice joinery shouldn't have any visible lines or gaps. Later, file the entire ring inside out. "7.5% of [sterling silver] is other metals such as copper. When you heat up the silver, copper content comes up to the surface. It gives an ugly, purplish shadow." This is perhaps the longest and most strenuous process – filing over and over again. "Quite a lot of metal comes off." After filing, sand the scratch lines away with a drill. If you're looking to have a matte finish ring, you can stop here. Otherwise, buff the ring with a mop stained with polishing compounds.

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 5:30PM Finishings

If you're looking to have words on the outside of the ring, now is the time to punch them in with a hammer. Otherwise you could opt for a hammer-finished texture, or skip this step altogether.

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6:00PM End

Mitsuyasu serves a pitcher of ice-cold brown rice tea. Participants share conversations and snap pictures of their rings together.

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If you search hard enough, you'll find there are several notable jewellers hiding under your nose in Singapore. One of them is Japanese-born, Singapore-raised jeweller Yuki Mitsuyasu. Her eponymous label has been featured by local media but remains under the radar. 

Every month, Mitsuyasu holds silversmithing workshops in her home studio. It's open to the public and holds a maximum of five participants each round. Participants often arrive in groups or individually to make rings as gifts. Mitsuyasu often see couples drop in to make rings for each other. These public workshops are priced affordably, at S$105 all inclusive. Participants walk away with their handmade 92.5% – or sterling silver rings. 

"It's an easy material to work with. I think people enjoy the value of silver, but I can do a customised ring if customers want to do a wedding band." 

Two years since she started holding workshops, Mitsuyasu has held four private sessions for soon-to-weds. "For that it's a more customised workshop session. We will need to have a meeting before the workshop. For gold, you need to know how much metal you need exactly. We need to discuss in advance the ring sizes, and make sure we have everything [in place]." The rings are usually made in 18-carat yellow gold (or 75% gold) for its ease.

Couples may alternatively opt for rose or white gold, although Mitsuyasu advises that they are considered difficult metals to manipulate for beginners. 18-carat rose gold, for example, is 75% gold, 21% copper, and 4% silver. "Rose gold is a little difficult to work with... If you don't [fire] it in the right temperature and cool it down in the right way, the ring can just shatter." 

Likewise, white gold requires an additional step. It is conventionally sent to a plating facility after making, to coat the ring with rhodium. "We need to send it to get someone to plate it. If they can wait, it's ok," Mitsuyasu chirps. 

The prices for the entire process – consultation, design, materials, to the actual workshop comes up to approximately S$2,000. It's an accessible price for two wedding bands. Mitsuyasu maintains that she wants to keep the otherwise inaccessible craft of silversmithing affordable to the public. Her wedding bands private workshops remains relatively undiscovered since Mitsuyasu seldom markets her sessions. 

She reveals that it's surprising to see most of the male attendees enjoy the workshop. "It's the soldering and hammering... If you think about it, most [silversmiths or goldsmiths ] are men – not the designers, but when it comes to the actual making part, they are mostly men." 

Beyond the symbolic meaning behind couples making their own wedding bands, it's the pride of a day's work that anchors the customers who walk through Mitsuyasu's doors. "I think it's satisfying, you start off with a strip of silver and you have a finished piece of ring."