I recently finished a custom order that I’m particularly proud of because it reflects a lot of learning over the last few months. The set features a bronze and coral ring and a coral beaded necklace. The ring, cast in bronze and lined with sterling silver, has a fine jewelry band with teardrop openings, widening into a bisected square platform where two large coral beads are perpendicularly set with silver tube rivets. The necklace is a short section of coral chip beads attached to 14K gold square chain.
My client, Angela, with whom I had worked on a previous custom order, requested I create a piece with the remaining beads after refitting her coral bracelet to fit the smaller wrist of a relative she loaned it to for a wedding. A concept for a ring design was developed, though at the time I had intended to fabricate it. Lucky for the both of us, I picked up a casting class at my local community college (give it up for continuing education!) and had the opportunity to apply my newfound skills to this project.
A number of sketch drafts eventually led to a final sketches, which I thought were a good balance between industrial/modern and feminine elegance.
A mold of the ring was carved in wax and casted in bronze.
After sanding and polishing, a silver lining was added to protect the skin from reacting to the bronze. This was done by rolling and cutting a thin sheet of silver, soldering (brazing) the ends together, and fitting it into the band using a ring stretcher. The edges were flared and smoothed using files and a burnisher.
Tube rivets were soldered to the top of the ring and the side of the dividing “wall” to mount the coral; due to the irregular surface of the coral beads the design was adjusted to add sterling silver pins, which were made and inserted into the tubes with epoxy to give a more finished look.
The overall look is bold, clean and elegant with a clear African aesthetic. Having Nigerian heritage, I’m aware of the significance of coral in the culture. Used prolifically in weddings and other ceremonies in certain parts of Nigeria, especially Edo State where my dad is from, and worn by chiefs as symbols of royalty and power, coral — known as ivie — is perceived more valuable than gold. Even my name, Omonivie, roughly translates as “Our child is more precious than coral” — thanks, Dad!
The ethics surrounding the use of coral in jewelry and its sustainability is important to me. The fact that these beads were reused from the client’s own collection rather than newly harvested not only adds value to the piece and eases concerns around using such precious material, but also inspires me as a designer to create around an existing element.
Angela was very happy with her custom jewelry set; she’s already worn her new ring and received compliments. Having a one-of-a-kind piece made just for you, is a treat unto itself. Having it made from something you once loved and can now love again is more precious than ivie.
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Read more about coral in Nigerian fashion and culture: