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Behind The Scenes at TurtleLove.com


Making rings from magic. And...wax?

by Maddie Eisenhart, Digital Director & Style Editor

Behind The Scenes at TurtleLove.com | A Practical Wedding

One of the most rewarding aspects of working with APW’s sponsors on your wedding (other than getting to collaborate with rad indie businesses, which is a reward all in its own) is that the independent businesses owners who make up the sponsor community are just like you; they are passionate people who work really hard to create meaningful products in a way that’s both respectful to the environment, your wallet, and society at large. In short: when you buy something from an APW sponsor, you’re not just getting something for yourself (though, bonus! Shiny things for you!), you’re also giving back to small businesses and local communities in a big way.

For TurtleLove.com, (who you know for their gorgeous vintage engagement rings and artisan jewelry), this means custom-made designs that are created with care and love, out of recycled precious metals (so there’s no new metal mining for any of their rings), with stones that are fair trade certified, and made specifically to order by an amazing team of skilled artisans. It means that when I wear my own TurtleLove.com jewelry (have you seen their state outline necklaces? Go. Get. One.), I’m proud to know that my purchase goes to support a system of small businesses and local artists that sustain themselves ethically without succumbing to all the awful practices of wedding jewelry industry.

While talking with TurtleLove.com‘s Head Honcho, Adrianne Zahner over the holidays (girlfriend used to live in my hometown before recently moving to Costa Rica), she let it slip that TurtleLove.com‘s designs aren’t just ethical, handcrafted works of art, but that she’s often the artist behind the works herself! So I asked her to give us a peek into the TurtleLove.com workshop to show us how the jewelry gets from inside her head and onto your body. It turns out, most of the rings offered at TurtleLove.com start right here, at Adrianne’s desk. And now I’ll kick it to her for the official tour:

Behind The Scenes at TurtleLove.com | A Practical Wedding

Here’s my bench (that’s what jewelers call their desks). It’s kind of unorthodox, but it was already in the house that I’m renting, so that makes it easy to move and free (and therefore, perfect). And, since I just moved, I haven’t had the chance to hang stuff on the walls to cover that horrific wall color. But you get the idea.

Behind The Scenes at TurtleLove.com | A Practical Wedding

Our artisan rings are all cast in a single piece of metal, rather than being fabricated from various pieces of metal.  The casting process usually begins with a wax model of the ring. Here you can see me carving a ring—the wax is spinning on a lathe, so my hand makes tiny movements while the wax cylinder spins and wax “sawdust” flies ALL OVER THE PLACE. (Also, my six-year-old daughter took these photos of me, so you’ll have to forgive the craziness.)

 Behind The Scenes at TurtleLove.com | A Practical Wedding

Once the basic ring form is almost finished, I cut it off the larger piece and make some finishing adjustments. Now I have a wax ring, which I can use as-is for a gently-curved classic ring. If I like, I can also add texture by filing the ring, or by adding material to the outside of the ring.

Behind The Scenes at TurtleLove.com | A Practical Wedding

Once the wax ring is complete, we have a mold made of it. Once the mold is made, we can inject hot wax into it to create additional wax reproductions of the original design. If necessary, these wax rings can be sized before casting in silver or gold.

When the rings are cast, the caster specifically arranges the wax rings in a cylinder and surrounds them with a plaster-like substance called investment. Once the investment has solidified, the wax is melted out and molten metal is poured into investment, filling all of the spaces where the wax had previously been and making exact replicas in precious metal.

Behind The Scenes at TurtleLove.com | A Practical Wedding

Above you can see our Tree of Life engagement ring, which features a tree with branches reaching up and roots trailing down each side of the ring. All the way in the back is the original wax model. (I made a technical drawing of the ring, but I didn’t do the carving myself. While I make most of the wax models, occasionally I want something more complicated than I can carve, so then I make a detailed technical drawing of the ring I wish I could make, and ask a master carver to render the ring in wax.) The big white thing is a silicone mold of the wax model. The light bluey-green wax is a wax that was made by injecting hot wax into the silicone mold, and the finished piece is in the front.

Behind The Scenes at TurtleLove.com | A Practical Wedding

It’s no secret that the jewelry industry (and more specifically diamond jewelry) is one of the seedier components of the WIC. But companies like TurtleLove.com are working hard every day to change that.  Plus, when you shop TurtleLove.com, you can rest assured knowing that the person creating your engagement ring cares as much about your wedding as you do. Which I know, because she told me.

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is the Managing Editor of A Practical Wedding. She’s been writing stories about boys and crushes since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) in the art of talking from NYU in 2008. In her spare time, she takes pictures of people in love. Maddie lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband Michael, her Mastiff named Juno, and her roommate named Joe.

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  • Kats

    Turtle Love did our travel rings – we got a ton of compliments while overseas. The whole experience of working with them, start to finish, was a complete and absolute pleasure (and Adrianne’s little notes and updates most welcome). We found them through APW and have recommended them to others!

    • Lindsay

      what is a travel ring?! it sounds interesting and maybe something i need…. :)

      • Kats

        Travel rings – we’ve spent a decent amount of time in third world countries where you don’t really want to call attention to yourself or do things to make yourself a target. While neither of our wedding rings are super blingy, they could be tempting to the wrong sort of person, might mark us as tourists, and regardless would be very hard to replace. This, we wanted something a little more classic/simple, and were thrilled to find Turtle Love’s branch rings. They are interesting and funky in cool ways, yet not going to make use a target. Plus, the patina the silver gets over time with the grooves in the rings is gorgeous.

  • Rachel

    My engagement ring is from Turtle Love, and as soon as we can afford it, my wedding ring will be as well (wearing a temporary wooden band until then). I love my ring, and since I wasn’t really on board with the whole diamond engagement ring from shady company thing, I am happy to be wearing a sapphire ring from a cool indie creator. I get compliments on it frequently, and I love that it is unique without being flashy. Yay for Turtle Love!

  • http://rationalcreature.com/ Amy

    This is like a throwback to watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and getting a tour of the crayon factory. SO COOL.

    I’d love to know more about the process of adding texture or designs to the ring, but that’s mostly because I’m nebby. Yay, handmade!

    • Kayjayoh

      I will always love that crayon factory tour.

    • Adrianne

      OMG! The crayon tour. I LOVED THAT.