Commission Spotlight: Horsehair Ring
Silver Horse Hair & Diamond Ring
Two years out of university and at the very beginning of Kirsten Manzi Jewellery, I received one of my first big commissions. To make a ring using horsehair and diamonds. Having no experience of using either diamonds or horsehair and with the voice of one of my lecturers in my head: “say yes, and figure it out later”... I did just that.
I googled horse hair jewellery, read about using resin, watched youtube videos of people setting diamonds and thought, “How hard can this be? I can do this.” Well, I was in for a surprise. Luckily I had a very lovely and understanding customer who was happy to wait, far longer than is reasonable for me to wrap my head around making the ring.
This is the story of the first Kirsten Manzi Jewellery Commission, a story of perseverance, a massive learning curve and a lot of horse hair!
In 2015, I was approached by one of my mum’s friends to make a silver ring using hair from one of her horses and diamonds from a ring she didn’t wear. First of all, I had to figure out how to incorporate horsehair into the ring. I decided to create a channel for the horsehair to sit in, with two textured edges. This was not as easy as it seemed.
First I made the edges too high and the area to set the diamonds too low, leaving me with a wonky looking ring. So, I had to start again.
On the next try, I had issues with solder running into the textured wire, ruining the textured pattern. I tried to replace sections, but in the end, had to start again.
Finally, third time lucky, I managed to solder the textured edges a tiny bit at a time without the solder running too much, I had a flat section for the diamonds at the correct height and a deep enough channel for the horsehair to be set into.
Next, I had to remove the diamonds from the unworn ring. Looking back this was not nearly as scary, or as complicated as it seemed. However, I had never worked with gold or diamonds so, the thought of cutting into someone's gold diamond ring terrified me. I managed to remove the diamonds and mulled over setting them myself for a while. I attended a fantastic stone setting class at Vanilla Ink and had almost talked myself into doing it, but I just couldn’t face the risk of messing it up and having to recreate the ring for the FOURTH time! After cleaning up and polishing it, I decided to send the ring and diamonds to V Jewellers, who flush set three diamonds into the band for me.
Meanwhile, I had what seemed like an entire tail of horsehair to work with. I washed the hair, untangled the strands and separated enough to make a braid. The braid ended up being very stiff, it wasn't as easy to shape as I expected. I needed to find a way of moulding the hair to fit and hold the round shape of the ring.
Once I had the ring back from the setters, I soaked the hair again and pinned it into the channel in the ring, holding it in with kirby grips. I left it like this for a few days, letting the hair dry into a round shape. I then trimmed the ends and got to work using resin to set the horsehair in the ring. Not as simple as I’d thought. I had to try 3 different kinds of resin before I found one that held the hair in well. (It would seem that the “third-time lucky” saying is true.)
After a stressful few months, many hours doubting myself and wondering if I was ever going to finish the ring, three attempts, multiple strands of horsehair and lovely stone setters in London, the ring was finally done. By the end of the making, I was so relieved that it was finally finished, I didn’t really reflect on the learning curve this commission took me on and actually didn’t think about how proud I was that I actually managed to complete the ring.
Although I'm now much more aware of what I can and can’t do, when to ask for help and when to say no, I still think back to this horsehair ring whenever I have a particularly difficult job and it gives me the little push I need.
Three attempts and a hell of a lot of blood sweat and tears later I managed it and the end result was an unusual ring and a happy customer, which in the end is all that really matters.