Spending time swiping through an endless stream of Facebook posts typically doesn’t lead one to accomplish anything of great significance. But to every rule, there’s an exception. In this article, Justin Sully of CoinRingsbySully.com, shares how one unsuspecting image sparked a passion for creating beautiful coin rings…
Justin Sully – I was browsing through Facebook and happened upon a post of a “coin ring” that someone had made in honor of their father. I was fascinated by the ring and decided to track down the gentleman that made it with the idea of buying one as a gift for my grandfather. We struck a deal and I purchased a ring with the date of my grandfather’s birth year.
Once the ring arrived, I was in love. I carefully studied the ring, becoming more and more fascinated with it at every glance. I began to ask myself: What coins can be used? Where does one start? What tools are used? Can I do this?
I’ve always been of the mindset that the best way to learn how to do something is by doing it! So, I decided to make a go of it. I did my fair share of research, purchased some specialty tools, and even made a few tools of my own. After a lot of trial-and-error on inexpensive coins, I started to get the hang of it! Since then, I’ve improved my skills, taken on challenging coins and designs, and decided to make a business of it.
For those of you that are interested in how one goes about making a coin ring, I’ve documented my process below. Enjoy!
Step One: Choosing & Center Punching a Ring
I start by selecting the best coin I can find. Once I’ve settled on the coin, I punch a hole in its center. Being centered is the key to making a good ring. The size of the initial hole also helps determine the target size and thickness of the ring.
Step Two: Sanding, Heating, & Cooling
Once the hole is punched, I sand or “deburr” the inside edge of the coin. This helps prevent micro-tears. If you have a micro-tear, the coin will split as you begin to shape it through a series of stretches and folds. Once I have verified a clean edge, I anneal (heat) the coin and quench (cool) it in a water solution. This allows the silver or gold to soften so it’s easier to work with.
Step Three: Folding & Stretching
After I’ve dried the coin, I then proceed with the folding process. To do this, I use custom dies, a dapping block, and ball bearings to begin the fold. When folding, it’s important to go slow. This ensures the coin stays centered and folds evenly. Moving slowly also helps you “feel” the metal while you’re working it. The metal will begin to harden as you fold it. When you feel this taking place, it’s time to anneal again.
Once you have bottomed-out in the dies, it’s time to move to the ring stretcher. This is a crucial step that will take a lot of patience and practice in order to keep the details on the inside of the coin.
Understanding that the “cut” side of the coin (center) isn’t as thick as the reeded edge of the coin (the edge of the coin with grooved lines), I typically stretch the coin 2-3 sizes above the target size. This must be done to ensure a symmetrical shape and fit. This process also includes regular annealing to keep the metal soft.
Step Four: Finishing Touches
When I have the ring sized, I then reduce the reeded edge of the coin and sand down the inside edge, removing all sharp spots. Once the ring is the size, shape, and texture that I’m looking for, I then heat the coin and quench it into a liver of sulfur solution. This chemical mixture will tarnish the silver, giving it a dark patina. I then use various sanding and buffing blocks to produce the desired finish.
A Few More Thoughts About Coin Rings
As I’ve honed my skills and started my business, I’ve learned a few things. For one, there is a lot of time and patience that goes into the making of a ring. I’ve also learned that not everyone views my craft favorably. From time-to-time, I catch grief from the traditionalist coin collector that believes I’m simply destroying coins. On the contrary, I believe I’m preserving history.
Coins tell a story of how our country was built, or any country for that matter. Future generations will be able to see the beauty of our coinage as they hold and wear these rings. If coins are to remain locked away in a collection, no one will be able to enjoy them. I believe I create memories and heirlooms that can be passed down for generations. I love what I do and I love being able to make something special that everyone can enjoy.