The Vintage/Antique ring has consistently show itself to be a strong favorite of the Bridal Marketplace. This is for several good reasons: It can be a nostalgic choice where a ring is passed forward through generations; a continuation of tradition. It's also because this genre coupled some of the most pleasing jewelry designs and effective manufacturing techniques. Not only was your grandmothers ring beautiful, grandmothers ring was tough, durable and stood the test of time!
Here are two of the filigree ring models manufactured by HUGO KOHL.
These are the hubs from HUGO KOHL's vault used to create the die sets for the above rings.
Here is a selection of the fancy wedding bands manufactured by HUGO KOHL.
These decorative engagement rings and fancy wedding bands that I'm talking about are from a period between the mid 1800's to 1940's and they are "die-struck". For those of you who don't understand "die Struck" think: irresistible force meets immovable object with a sheet of gold in between...somethings got to give, and its the gold.
It all starts with a hand engraved master model in steel called a "hub", or "hob" or my favorite term in Italian, "La Creatoria". This block of steel is carved with small hardened chisels called gravers.
In this image is shown a hub and the gravers used to carve the main body of a filigree ring called a "T" shank in tool steel.
Here is a close up where you can better see the detail of the carving and the tools used to do the work.
After the hub was created, it was tempered to full hardness by heating it in a tempering furnace to 450-500 f and than cooling at a prescribed rate depending on the steel. After the carving was hardened it was placed against another un-hardened block of steel in a 500-600 ton press and forced into it so that the "hub" created a "die" in the softer steel. The Hub is stored away in a vault for protection and possible future use and the die is used to create the forcer (a copy of the hub) and on and on until you have a complete die set consisting of blanking, trimming & piercing dies.
Sheets of gold, sandwiched in between die and forcer in a press are stamped into elements and parts that are solders together to make a filigree ring. This stamping process actually changes the molecular structure of the metal, transforming the metal into hardest, toughest form. To me, besides the incredible craftsmanship involved in this process, the phenomenal detail and design content coupled with the strength of the stamped gold/silver/platinum make these pieces the most important and desirable jewelry ever made.
Understanding the background behind these great pieces of jewelry is part of enjoying the pieces itself. They were not simple things to make, but represent the zenith of craftsmanship and artistic integrity as it applies to personal adornment. I hope that this short, simplified explanation will help people who care about this period of design better enjoy the pieces they own.