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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.