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Monday, October 3, 2011

My gorgeous client Christine has an affinity for tigers. It started in childhood, when the sight of a tiger in a zoo brought her to tears. She says:

“I first saw a tiger in a typical 1960s zoo, when zoo meant a line of small cages.  I can still clearly see the brown bear in a cage, standing up, looking around and I looked at my father, who looked sad.  I remember asking something like ‘Why are they caged like this?’ and thinking that a zoo was not a place for animals.  The tiger we saw there looked sad and old and he was just lying in a cage, hardly a symbol of power, strength and great beauty, though his beautiful colouring and face made me fall in love.  I think we all started to cry and we left soon afterwards. “

Later, her parents got her a subscription to National Geographic. “There I saw pictures of tigers in the  wild,” she says:

“I discovered I had been born in the the Chinese Year of the Tiger.  The tiger came to be my personal symbol of strength, passion and independence.  When I felt weak I put on my ‘tiger’ mask to convince myself and the world that I was indeed powerful and strong.”

Christine’s handsome husband Rob was intrigued when he saw my Empress Wu dragon ring earlier this year. Knowing Christine’s passion for tigers, he asked if I could do a tiger ring in a similar style.

Empress Wu dragon ring. Click for more information.

Of course I could! I always say that if you can describe it, I can create it. Not that it was that easy. First, I had to find someone who could sculpt a Christine-worthy tiger out of wax. I rejected one person who wasn’t skilled enough. The second prospect did excellent work but seemed indifferent to the project despite demanding twice the usual fee for a wax model. The next artist seemed promising. She got the job. Here is the first model.

The first wax model.

It was a good start but it wasn’t perfect. I made some changes and then had a mold made from the changed wax model.  Then I had another model made from that mold.  I could get a better look at the details on the second model.

The second model.

Compare the two models and you’ll see I changed the shape of the ears, among other things. After making some more adjustments to the second model, I used it to create a second mold. Then I used that mold to create an 18K gold version of the ring.

The Empress Wu dragon ring holds a lapis lazuli globe in its mouth, but the tiger was going to have black-diamond stripes, so Rob and I agreed that it would be better to go with a matching gem. I picked out a black pearl. While I did that, the gold tiger underwent some plastic surgery, because I had some issues with his snout. He endured quite a bit of hammering in the snout area. I don’t recommend that kind of surgery for humans. Run away from any doctor who wants to hammer your snout.

There was a lot of running back and forth to fetch black diamonds. Sometimes you think you know what size diamonds you need but, when the setter gets to work, different sizes are required. Luckily, diamond dealers accept returns in certain situations. I think I exchanged some 1.4 mm diamonds for 1.3 mm diamonds. Every fraction of a millimeter counts.

Two of the black diamonds weren’t returned because of their size. They’d had been intended for the tiger’s eyes, but I made an executive decision to give the tiger green eyes instead, using two tsavorites, which are green garnets. I’m very into tsavorites. They liven things up.

Last but not least, I used black rhodium to bring out the details of the tiger’s fur. Rhodium is a precious metal that’s more commonly seen in its white form. White gold often isn’t really white. It’s more of a pale yellow. A thin layer of rhodium is added to make white gold look perfectly white. I often use black rhodium to add contrast to yellow gold.

I shipped the ring to Christine. While it was in transit we both broke down and couldn’t stand the suspense anymore, so I sent her this picture.

Christine's tiger ring. Click for more information. Photo by SquareMoose.

When Christine got the ring itself, she emailed me: “It is so much more than the photo!  The detail is stunning … the stripes, the eyebrows. Rob said it’s as much a work of art as a ring.”

Christine's tiger ring. Photo by SquareMoose.

She added, “I’ve had ideas about what the ring would look like but this surpasses all my expectations.” I love getting emails like that. There’s nothing like making someone even happier than she dreamed she would be. Enjoy the ring, Christine!

If you’re dreaming of a special piece of jewelry, you can contact me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com (read this first so you know what to expect). I can create new designs from scratch or customize existing designs. Browse a gallery of my custom work here and let your imagination roam free … like a tiger.

UPDATED TO ADD: Here’s what gorgeous blogger Marian Kihogo had to say about this piece.

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49 Responses to “Jewel of the Month: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright”

  1. Mary says:

    Wow, just wow! Stunning.

  2. Tammie says:

    Stunning; as always !!

  3. Christine says:

    Rob and I both want to thank you for making the ring! You were so wonderful — and I never realized the work that went into getting this ring from beginning to end! Thank you for not giving up.

    One day this piece will be in a museun.

  4. Sally
    Twitter: sallymcgraw
    says:

    Absolutely STUNNING!

  5. déjà pseu
    Twitter: dejapseu
    says:

    WOW!!! That IS a work of art…incredible, stunning!!!

  6. I’m in awe. Beautiful art.

  7. Debbi says:

    You are an amazing artist! This is just perfection! The black pearl is the perfect jewel. Like the tiger, my eyes are green with envy. WOW!!!

  8. Winnie says:

    I love this post, the story is so sweet and I love the process and passion leading up to the final, impressive design. It’s such a beautiful and stunning ring!

  9. Tina says:

    That is a super fabulous ring! Gorgeous!

  10. Susan Tiner says:

    What an artist you are! The ring just blazes like William Blake’s tiger. I agree with Christine, it’s a museum worthy piece.

  11. Amanda says:

    That ring is stunning, Wendy. She is right, I could not have imagined it turning out any better than that. It is a work of art!

  12. Christine says:

    Hi there…I’ve been out and about part of the day and everyone loves my ring. I have never had this kind of reaction to any piece of jewelry I have owned. I’m getting more attention than a 10 month pregnant woman. Everyone wants to touch it and several people have tried it on (and tried to steal it, you know who you are Sandy Kornfeld).

    I keep him facing me because I am in love.

    • WendyB
      Twitter: WendyBrandes
      says:

      That’s what I like to hear…the way I think is why buy jewelry if no one is gonna notice it! Oh, and Sandy, call me for your own ring!

  13. Just love the detail and thought that went into it!

  14. Megan Mae says:

    Wow! That’s just beautiful! I think switching up the eyes with tsavorites was a great choice, the eyes really shine.

  15. I would love to see a photo of it on her hand..

  16. Rosie says:

    It’s stunning! I love how it looks so different from different angles, like it’s two separate animals.

  17. Wendy, well done! That is a stunning ring. Thank you for posting the photos of the wax models and for discussing your creative process with us.
    Most people have no idea how much work goes into creating a piece of jewelry.

  18. Miss Janey says:

    Wow! Freaking gorgeous!

  19. Amy Nievera
    Twitter: pintucked
    says:

    This is so awesome!

  20. Bella Q
    Twitter: citizenrosebudz
    says:

    amazing is a gross understatement. wow.

  21. tina m says:

    That is such a gorgeous piece of jewelry/art! I freaking love it!!

  22. Oh la la… now I am scared! Something softer for me… like a rose with a pink pearl in the heart.

  23. The Style Crone
    Twitter: judithstylecrone.com
    says:

    Beautiful work of art! I loved the story behind the ring and your complex process.

  24. qin says:

    one of my fave of yours <3

  25. Jill says:

    I wish I weren’t a monkey!

    That ring should be in a museum someday…it’s truly beautiful.

  26. GRIT & GLAMOUR
    Twitter: gritandglamour
    says:

    Wow…that is a LOT of work for a ring…totally impressed. What a lucky lady she is!

  27. stacy says:

    Unbelievably stunning and well crafted. Christine is right… museum piece.

  28. WendyB
    Twitter: WendyBrandes
    says:

    ^^Thanks to all of you for your kind comments!

  29. Pearl Westwood
    Twitter: pearlwestwood
    says:

    What a super stunning piece, you put more love and detail into your work than anyone I know!

  30. One of the most beautiful things you have made. No wonder she is thrilled x

  31. The Styley says:

    Wendy, that ring is absolutely gorgeous. I’m so impressed.

  32. TheShoeGirl says:

    THIS IS SOOOOO BEAUTIFUL!!! You are so talented woman! <3

  33. Ann
    Twitter: ann_lou_hotmail.com
    says:

    This ring is simply stunning!

  34. Incredible. Just astonishingly beautiful.

    You’re my standard of success; I’ll know I’ve made it when I own a Wendy Brandes custom piece :)

  35. Julia, the Thanksgiving Girl
    Twitter: juliaohso
    says:

    “It is so much more than the photo! The detail is stunning…” – Isn’t this what I also told you when I got my Swear Rings? The photos really don’t do your jewelry justice!

    And I love it that you went for the green eyes – they look stunning next to the black pearl that gives away a bit of a green-ish shine also!

  36. what an amazing, amazing ring! it is indeed a work of art. it truly would look at home in a museum….stunning work, as usual!