Artist Project Series: Nesting ring by Tracey Spurgin


Nesting Rings

Level: Intermediate

UK Jewellery Artist Tracey Spurgin is the next master to present in the “Artist Project Series” proudly presented by Cool Tools.  Tracey has challenged metal clay artists to create a nesting ring and shows us step by step in close up photos how to create two beautiful rings. This Nesting Cocktail ring is a stunner, the design allows you to wear each of the two rings individually as a stand alone, or simply nest them together to make one statement cocktail ring.

EZ960 Sterling
1 fireable square 6mm gemstone
8 x 1mm fireable faceted gems

Ceramic tile work surface,
Grid mats
Assorted Spacers
Needle tool
Rubber tip tool
Tissue blade
Mini diamond files
Sanding grit or plate
Fine pointed tweezers
Wet wipes
Kitchen roll
1mm drill setting burr
Digital calipers
Snake roller
Paint brush, water pot
Badger balm
Ring gauge
Ring Mandrel
Freezer paper
Scotch tape

Step 1: Determining shrinkage for ring size.

To begin this project, the EZ 960 was tested for firing to check the shrinkage rate for a ring.  By making a simple flat band ring, after a though drying, the piece was fired at the recommended firing schedule. This resulted in the ring shrinking by 5 full UK sizes. ( A conversation chart is at the end of these notes.)

Step 2 Determining ring size for project ring.

Use a ring gauge to measure the finger for the intended ring size,  worked up to increase 5 sizes larger to account for shrinkage. Use straight mandrels rather than the tapered mandrels. Take a strip of freezer paper and draw a pencil line down the length of the paper, wrap this tightly onto the mandrel. tape this securely and neatly.


Step 3 – Cutting ring band.

Lightly badger balm the work surface. Using 1.5mm spacer bars or 6 cards thick, roll out a piece of clay to a long strip, to add a little texture this example uses a little textured wallpaper. Lightly balm the wallpaper, place the clay strip on top of the wall paper, replace the spacer with 1mm thick, these need to sit on top of the wall paper texture. Roll firmly then use a 8mm craftworx strip cutter to cut the parallel strip for the first ring band. Or use a tissue blade and a ruler to cut the ring band strip.


Step 4 – Forming ring band.

Lift the clay strip a little and begin to pick up the strip into the ring mandrel, use the pencil line as a guide to keep on edge of the clay straight along the pencil line. when the clay overlaps use a craft knife or tissue blade to cut through both layers. Remove and store the excess. Use a rubber tip tool to “smudge” out one of the cut edges, apply a little paste to this edge and bring the opposite edge over to meet this, next use the rubber tip tool to blend the join. Place this to dry.


Step 5 – Setting focal gem.

To set the square gem stone, Stack the spacers to be around 5mm or 20 cards thick. Roll out a piece of clay, pop the gemstone onto the clay then use the snake roller to push the gem into the clay, As the table of the gemstone needs to be level with the surface of the clay leave the spacers in place as these will control the depth you can  push the stone in.


Step 6 – Focal Gem examples.

Use a tissue blade to remove the excess around the stone you will need to cut through the clay perpendicular leaving approximately a 2mm boarder around the gem. Here there are a few examples these need to be left to dry for a day or several hours in a food dehydrator.


Step 7- Using digital calipers.

Once the gem setting is dry, this may require a little sanding to neaten and tidy up, ensure you maintain the square shape and checking with digital calipers will help.


Step 8 – Forming center of the ring front.Once again stack the spacer to around 5 mm thick and roll out a piece of clay. Place the clay onto a laminated graph card and use the graph to cut out approximately 15mm square, use a cutter or craft knife to remove a little from the centre of the square, this cut out needs to be smaller than the square gemstone piece you have just previously made. Then place this to dry.


Step 9 – Refining shape.

Once again when this piece is dry, a little sanding and refinement may be required, check the shape to ensure the angels are at 90º and the measurements are the same in each direction.


Step 10 – Finishing frame for focal gem.

Next to file out the aperture inside the larger square this will need to be done carefully to ensure the hole is only just big enough for the gemstone block to sit in neatly. This then creates the frame nesting the gem.


Step 11. – Creating a curved back for nesting gems.

The nested gem and frame now needs sanding on the reverse side. So they will sit into the curve of the ring shank. Take each piece one at a time. Once the ring bands have dried remove these off the mandrel. Wrap a course sanding grit onto the ring mandrel you used to create the ring, begin to sand the lower edge of the gem and frame. In one direction only to create the arch, until the piece sits neatly onto the mandrel .


Step 12 – Align ring fronts.

Measure the frame and mark in pencil the centre point, this will need to align with the point the two rings separate.


Step 13. –  Attaching front of nesting frame to ring shank.

Next using a little paste attach the nesting frame to the ring band line up the centre mark on the edge of the frame to the edge if the rim on the ring band,  dry thoroughly, then use a file to remove the excess section of ring band inside the frame.


Step 14. – Repeat for second ring band.

The second ring band will need the half square section filing out to accommodate the gemstone mount. take time and patience to do this a little at a time, to ensure the neatest fitting. Once this has been achieved use paste to join the mount to the ring. Dry this thoroughly.


Step 15 – Leave parts to dry thoroughly.

Once both sections have dried they will now nest neatly together.


Step 16. –  Marking for accent gemstones.

Use calipers or a ruler and a sharp pencil to measure and mark increments where the small 1mm gemstones will be positioned.


Step 17. – Shoulder supports.

To make shoulder supports. Roll out a piece of clay 1.5mm thich cut this into a 0.5cm square, place this onto the ring band to take on the curve of the band, this will need a little time and patience to begin to dry. once thoroughly dry one end will need reshaping to butt neatly up to the nesting frame.


Step 18 – Attaching supports.

Once this has been dried and shaped this next needs attaching to the band Place a little cling film between the two bands to prevent the clay piece attaching itself to the second band. Allow the rings to dry.


Step 19 – Repeat.

Repeat this process for the opposite side.



Step 20 – Final check on Bands.

The two rings will now separate. Do a final check on surface finishing on the bands and shoulder supports.


Step 21. – Adding details.

Use a pencil to measure and make the further shoulder details.


Step 22 –

Lay the ring on its side and begin to sand to remove the excess band along the side. Until the band is level with the nesting frame.


Step 23. –  Carving details on shoulder supports.

Use a file to carve in the additional design onto the shoulder mounts.


Step 24. – Creating embellishments.

To create some spot embellishments. Roll out a small piece of clay 0.75mm thick. Lift the clay once again and re apply the balm place the clay down with a piece of cling film over the top using tube cutters, press these firmly into the clay. Remove the cling film and remove the excess clay, the spots should stick to the work surface, leave them there while they dry completely.


Step 25 – Adding tiny dots of clay as decoration.

Once the spots are dry use a tiny amount of watery paste to attach them into position. To set the 1mm gem stone begin by drill out in the marked positions with a 1mm drill setting burr, check as you go along to ensure the table or flat top of the stone is level with the surface of the clay.


Step 26. –  Securing tiny gemstones.

To secure these tiny gemstones in position use a tiny drop of water. As the water soaks into the plaster dry (bone dry) clay, it will draw in the stone to the seat of the burred hole.


Step 27 – Final check and firing.

One last alteration to observe before firing.  If your nest section is a tight snug fit, then file a little more away from the inside of the frame, as the clay shrinks the gemstone will remain the same size. Preventing the separation of the too sections. To ensure your ring will still function and separate after firing. leave “wiggle” room in the nesting section.

Make you final checks to the gemstone, make sure they are clean and free of any clay dust or excess. Fire,  according to the manufactures instructions. Here the ring has been sat nested together, with a little corn starch dusted onto the piece to help prevent contact fusing. Balance the piece on a piece of fibre block with the stone facing up.


Step 28 – Polish and patina.

After firing there may be a little distortion in the ring band shape, place this onto a metal ring mandrel and using a raw hide mallet gently tap to reshape the ring. Finally separate the nesting ring to polish and oxidise to your required finish.

Trouble shooting tips.

If the ring is difficult to separate due to the shrinkage, sand the raised inner gemstone section a little, then gently work until the rings is coaxed out from the frame.

Tracey Spurgin: Is the owner and principal artist of Craftworx studio. She is a Master Art Clay Instructor also in PMC.  She is a writer and Jewellery Maker TV Guest Designer. Email: Website