We got our rings!! And they are EXQUISITE. We hired a wondrously gifted jeweler, Carol Mortensen, to create them for us by delicately carving a wax model, then casting the rings using the lost-wax method. This assures an exact duplicate of the wax model, and a one-of-a-kind ring.
At the Contemporary Craft Show at Fort Mason, Carol had shown us a beautiful ring she had created for another client, with three Chinese dragons chasing each other around the ring. This was beautiful, but we really wanted a more “wedding-oriented” design. We also wanted something that would be unique to us…so I delved into Chinese symbolism and discovered that the dragon-phoenix was a common motif in Chinese weddings. The dragon represents the male principle, the phoenix the female. (In the Imperial Court, the Emperor’s sigil was the dragon, and the Empress’s sigil was the phoenix, so these are powerful symbols!)
So, we asked her to carve a dragon and a phoenix, along with a flaming pearl, into our rings.
Carol did an impressive amount of research to get the carvings right: first she researched the legend of the phoenix (the dragon she had researched for her previous client), to understand what it would look like and what each part symbolized. Then she looked for other phoenix art, searching not only through the Internet but also through books on Chinese culture. Finally, she settled on one photo I had given her, which (by a curious coincidence) was a photo I had taken of a phoenix woodcarving in China.
Now she set to work. First she carved several “test” phoenixes on a flat piece of wax. She took some components of my photo, mixing and matching with pieces of other images until she was happy with the composition. Then she carved out a rough model on a round ring, since that would alter the proportions.
And then it was time to carve the real thing! This time Carol went to work with her finest tools, creating intricate detail. She works under a low-power microscope, with exquisitely delicate tools – her carving tool is only .17 mm (6/1000 inch) wide! That’s about double the width of a human hair. It took her one entire month, working every day, to research, carve, cast, and finish our rings.
But it was totally worth it. Every millimeter of each ring is covered in delicate carvings – the scales of the dragon, the feathers of the phoenix, and the gentle waves of the background. It is exquisite – museum quality work.
And…the moment you’ve been waiting for….the photos!!
(I took the photos of Mike’s ring – it’s slightly bigger than mine, which made photography easier. Please do click on the photos to view the larger versions – it’s well worth seeing the details up close.)