Preserving the Past – Adding a Sleeve to Great-Grandmother’s Wedding Band

Precious metals are recycled time and again. When a jewelry piece is melted down, the material value remains but the history attached to the piece is lost forever. Sometimes retaining the sentimental value is more important than gaining the value of the raw materials.

Recently, one of my customers brought me a wedding band that she had inherited from her great-grandmother. The piece was made in yellow gold, but she much preferred white gold. Still, she wanted to find a way to wear her great-grandmother’s ring. To preserve the past and give the client a piece that she would love to wear, I encased the band in white god as a way to permanently change its color without damaging any of its historical details.

1. The original band has hand engraving on the inside, which needs to be preserved without damage. The half-round band has a 22 mm outside diameter and is 3.5 mm wide by 2.5 mm thick.

2. Cut a piece of 9 mm wide by 72 mm long by 0.5 mm thick white gold stock for the sleeve. I determined the length by multiplying the diameter by pi (3.142) and adding 3 mm to accommodate for the stock thickness.

3. Bend the stock into a band and solder the seam with hard solder. Lightly finish the metal by removing excess solder and sand it to a 400 grit finish.

4. The fit of the sleeve over the band should be snug, and the band should be held in place by friction when placed inside. Stretch the band if necessary to adjust the fit, and then push the band halfway through the sleeve, centering it.

5. Carefully use the ring compressor to bend the sleeve in on one side. Be sure to compress the sleeve only partially.

6. Once one side is compressed slightly, flip the band and repeat the process on the other side. Repeat until the sleeve is almost flat to the sides.

7. Once the sleeve is pushed over as much as possible, set a steel block into the compressor in place of the tapered tooling, and use the shaft to press the remaining gold flat to the surface.

8. Any remaining metal that does not fit tightly to the surface should be hammered with a rawhide mallet until tight.

9. Use a large dapping tool to finish compressing the outer sleeve. Hammer alternately on both sides to keep it even.

10. Use a carbide bur to grind off any excess material from the sleeve.

11. Holding the bur at a 10 – 15 degree angle to the finger hole will prevent it from hitting the inside of the band and damaging the hand engraving.

12. Finish the inside edges of the sleeve with an abrasive rubber wheel.

13. Shape the outside half-round band with a coarse file.

14. Finish the metal with sandpaper and polish to a rouge finish.

15. The finished band will be very durable and permanently have the desired white color, while retaining the personal hand-engraved heirloom on the interior.

Mark Maxwell is a Certified Master Bench Jeweler with 25 years of experience. He is the owner of Mark Maxwell Designer/Goldsmith (