In the area of alternative jewelry, one of the most exciting new products are wood rings. People from all walks of life are realizing that wood rings provide a truly beautiful alternative to the metal that we have all become used to. Wood rings are warm, light and comfortable, and with the emerging fabrication techniques being used, can be very hard wearing as well. You may be considering a wood engagement ring or wedding ring, perhaps a wood promise or friendship ring, or maybe you want an eco-conscious alternative to metal.
How do you choose from the myriad available? There’s more to high quality wood rings than just a piece of wood with a hole in it. Broadly speaking, all fall into two categories:
- Drilled or lathe turned rings
- Steam bent rings
Drilling or turning a ring on a lathe is perhaps the easiest and cost effective way of making a piece of wood wearable. However, it has some major drawbacks. Firstly, this style is inherently weak, and rings created like this are prone to breaking at the weak point of the grain. This tendency can be mitigated by creating a ‘sandwich’ of different woods, where the grain patterns are aligned at 90 degrees to each other. This creates a stronger ring. Different woods can be used to for contrast. The second drawback is the exposure of end-grain. It’s an unavoidable result of this technique that end-grain will be seen, and this will detract from the look of the wood.
For those looking for a stronger, more beautiful product, the second option is by far the more superior. Steam bent wood rings are created by taking a thinly cut veneer of wood and soaking or steaming it until it’s pliable enough to be wrapped around a mould (usually a ring makers mandrel). The wood is wrapped multiple times and bonded with a high strength, waterproof glue. The technique is time consuming and difficult to master, since the slightest imperfection will be visible in the finished ring.
While being far more difficult to construct, steam bent rings such as these don’t have any of the drawbacks of drilled rings. The length of the grain runs around the ring, and this brings the opportunity to show off the best of the wood all around the ring. They can be incredibly strong as well. An expertly constructed ring using this technique would never be expected to break with normal use. Steam bent wood rings can also be made much thinner due to their inherent strength, and this leads to a more comfortable ring.
A number of exciting possibilities arise with this technique, each of which enhance the beauty of the ring. Wood rings can be created with two layers, one inner layer that lines the ring, and an outer layer that is most visible. In addition, inlays can be introduced using contrasting or complimentary woods. For those choosing, for example, wood engagement rings then two or three different woods can be combined in a complimentary fashion that differs slightly for his and her ring. The result – two unique, paired rings.
Inlays can be made from many other materials, not just wood. A variety of crushed minerals can be inlaid into the wood ring, as can mother of pearl. Really, the possibilities are many, and you should be able to discuss these with the craftsman creating your ring.
In summary then, of the construction techniques available for wood rings, steam bent rings offer superior strength and beauty. This technique allows for a wide variety of eye catching styles including ring liners and inlays from wood and precious minerals. It takes an expert craftsman to create high quality wood rings that will become heirloom pieces, but the results are worth it. Ringsmaker