There's always something new happening on the workbench here at Silver State Foundry: ringing out a rare and valuable coins; exploring new coin jewelry designs; inventing new techniques that help the industry evolve.
Here's a sneak peek behind the scenes here in our Reno, NV studio.
And Now For Something Completely Different
Besides being a jewelry studio, a portion of our space is dedicated to leather work. You see, my wife, Christina, makes custom leather bags, belts, and various other items.
So a quarter of the studio is set up for fine leather work - hand tooling, cutting and stitching, dying and finishing, etc.
And when our new pup, Donovan, was ready to graduate from a choke chain to a "big boy's collar", it only made sense to make him a custom collar here in house.
Now you have to realize, Donovan isn't your typical 'shop dog'. He is a little bit of a prima donna. As a Golden Doodle (more Doodle than Golden), he is a bit of a metrosexual. Fancy 'lion cut' coiffure. A regal prance.
I've even gone so far as to occasionally call him 'Versace' as a joke. So the design of this collar had to match his personality.
Then when I came across a set of vintage Versace coat buttons from the 1980s on Etsy, the die was cast.
Christina started by cutting the band out of top grain black cowhide. We then stitched in the buttons and added a black suede backing, all held together with cream colored tiger thread.
The hardware is all solid, polished brass, except for the keeper, which I fashioned out of sterling silver that I cast here in the studio, then plated with a gold vermielle.
As you can see in the pics below, Donovan rocks it like a champ - no shame in his game! The other dogs at the dog park may snicker behind his back, but they're just jealous.
Introducing Spiral Coin Rings with Gems
One comment I get a lot is, "Most of your rings seem like men's rings. What do you have for the ladies?"
And I admit it has been a struggle to find US-minted coins that make great ladies rings. Most US coins that make great coin rings are half dollar sized or larger.
The half dollar coins (Walking Liberty and JFK) make incredible unisex rings, but due to their size, I cannot be below about a size 7 with them. And the dollar sized coins start at 9 and go up from there.
There simply isn't a way to make large coins into smaller sized, traditionally shaped rings.
(All that said, some of my most beautiful coin rings do come in ladies sizes, they just aren't US coins. The India Rupee, the Canadian Half Dollar, the Newfoundland Half Dollar, and the Swiss Fran coins are dazzling in smaller sizes!)
But this week I started playing around with Ben Franklin half dollar coins using a new technique, and voila! - a new design that has been incredibly well received right out of the gate.
Basically, I make a traditionally shaped coin ring, then cut it and form it into a spiral. This allows me to get the size down as small as a 4.5, smaller than most women need.
Then, by easing apart the overlapping sections apart, I have a place to set a gemstone.
The ring below is a 1958 Ben Franklin half dollar, set with a Kashmiri Blue Topaz in a sterling silver prong setting. The lettering on the coin reads Liberty on one side of the stone and In God We Trust on the other - forever reminding you of God and Country.
I have numerous round stones to choose from - topaz, aquamarine, citrine, sapphire, emerald, ruby, diamond, and just about any color CZ you can think of. And sizes are anywhere from 4.5 to 9, and everything in between.
So if you're looking for a custom made, one-of-a-kind coin ring, send me email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's get started co-designing the ring of your dreams.
Outer Space On Your Finger
I usually stick with making rings out of coins, but I came across a few ring blanks taken from the Gibeon Meteorite in Namibia, Africa and had to give them a shot!
Unlike coin rings, which require a process of heat and pressure to change the shape of the metal, meteorites are more like sculpting from a block of stone, removing the unwanted parts until all that is left is a ring.
So this required firing up the lathe.
Starting with a pilot hole, I gradually used larger and larger bits, removing all the inside material to make a size 9.25 ring. A series of face cuts then removed the outer material. Finally, a few shaping cuts rounded out the edges.
With the lathe work out of the way, a series of sandpaper grits took care of the final shaping and gave the ring a bright polished finish.
The interesting thing about meteorites is that they are basically a mix of various metals - iron and nickel, predominantly, but also traces of a few others. Formed in comets and asteroids as a boiling mix of molten rock and metals, there is no uniformity to their content.
In other words, there are streaks and veins of the different metals throughout the each piece, all intertwined.
And herein lies the cool part. By placing the ring in a strong acid, the surface layers of the iron are dissolved and reveal the matrix of other metals, creating a completely unique and natural design.
I'll certainly be making more of these in the future, so stay tuned if you might be interested in one for yourself or a loved one.
What an Honor! Editor's Pick in Hook & Barrel Magazine!
It is quite the honor to be selected as the Editor's Pick in the latest issue of Hook & Barrel Magazine!
If you aren't familiar, Hook & Barrel is the premier lifestyle magazine for modern outdoorsmen. It covers gear, food, music and entertainment, trends, and a whole lot more. This latest issue coincides with their third anniversary.
On page 26, John Radzwilla (the magazine's Editor-In-Chief), wrote an article about the Silver State Foundry ring he wears - a Morgan Silver Dollar coin ring.
What makes this ring so special for him is that he originally received a Morgan as a gift form a friend. This friend had carried the coin for many years as a good luck charm, including through a battle with cancer. Then John carried it for many years while serving in the military.
Unfortunately, it was eventually lost. But John asked us to replace it with a ring, which we were more than happy to do. Now John wears this replacement daily, both as a reminder of his friend, as well as a touchstone to his faith.
To read the full article online, visit the digital version of the magazine here.
An 1890 English Crown, .925 Sterling Silver, Size 9, Patina Finish
This beautiful coin depicts Saint George Slaying The Dragon on one side and Queen Victoria on the other. Most of these coins are very worn, but I came across this nearly uncirculated example and paid a premium for it before it disappeared.
To preserve as much detail as possible, I punched a 1/2" hole in it. Typically, a coin this size calls for a 5/8" or 3/4" hole. While a 1/2" hole creates a wider band, in this case it was worth it to show as much of the image as possible.
Luckily, all three heads are situated on it so that they are perfectly preserved when turned into a ring - Saint George, his horse, and of course, the dragon.
Given the rarity of this coin, I won't be offering them for sale on the website, but if you have one or want me to source one for you, send email to email@example.com.
Silver Quarters Locket, .90 Silver, .925 Sterling Ball Chain Necklace, Polished Finish
Playing around with a similar design I saw from Stacey Lee Webber, we decided to use silver quarters to create a locket.
Made from three silver proof quarters commemorating US national parks and other historic locations, the center coin is punched to 3/4". With both the front and back domed, this leaves a perfect gap between the center and back coins to hold a picture of a loved one.
The hinge is hand fashioned using .925 sterling tube and a sterling pin we smelted here in the studio from scrap silver. The chain is also sterling and comes in multiple lengths.
We decided to keep the design simple, and with gravity keeping the cover closed we decided the piece doesn't need a bottom clasp.
Starting in 1999 the US Mint decided to issue 'statehood quarters', five per year for ten years, commemorating some unique feature of each state. The mint followed up with a series of similar quarters featuring national parks and historic places.
Besides the common nickel/copper clad versions of these quarters released for circulation, they also issued silver proof versions to collections in .90 silver - perfect for coin jewelry.
We offer these lockets with your choice of state on the cover.
Peace Dollar Stash Box, 1923 Peace Dollars, Brass Chamber
Using Peace Dollars for the cap and base, this fun little box is great for stashing all sorts of things - use it as a pill box, a holder for small keepsakes, a 'God box' for paper prayers, or even to store a little bud (if that's your thing).
Given the time it takes to make them, we are not offering them on for sale on the website. But if you are interested in a special order, let us know - we can make different sizes and use different coins for the cap and base, as you wish.
Pricing on a special order like this starts at $250 and goes up from there based on the coins you want to use.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire.
Domed State Quarter Ring w/Rope Bezel, .90 Silver Nevada State Quarter, .925 Sterling Findings
Here's a different take on the the 'traditional' silver statehood quarter ring. Rather than turning the coin itself into a band, we domed the coin, added a sterling backing and a sterling rope bezel.
It's for when you want something a little more eye-popping than a the subtle sophistication of a band. This one says, "look at ME!"
Personally, we think the Nevada state silver quarter is the most beautiful of all the state quarters, with it's herd or galloping Virginia Range Mustangs. But then again, we're a little biased.
We'd be happy to make one for you with the state of your choice. Just send email to email@example.com to inquire - they're not for sale on the website.
All the sterling components were smelted and formed here is our studio - the ring shank, the rope bezel, and the coin backing. American made from silver mined from the Comstock Load, just a few miles away from the studio.