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Inlay Engagement Rings and Why They Are True Works of Art

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Browse and Learn about Inlay Engagement Rings

Think art is limited to oils on canvas? Not so! Inlay engagement rings, and inlay jewelry in general, are perfect examples of wearable art. The technical craftsmanship and artistic vision required to create inlay jewelry is simply astounding. 

"But what is inlay jewelry?" you may ask. Inlay jewelry is the fusion of metal and gemstone, creating a seamless organic look bursting with extraordinary color. Simply put, a jeweler grinds and fits a piece (or pieces) of stone into a recessed metal setting, or “channel.” This skill set and idea was recently expanded to encompass inlay engagement rings. Faceted gemstones, especially diamonds, are often incorporated into the ring design to give the engagement ring more of a traditional “bridal” feel.

Many people are not familiar with this wonderful style of wedding ring. Even within the southwestern states, where inlay jewelry is more common, this unique style is rarely seen. Though the inlay technique has been around for centuries, its use in wedding and engagement rings is very new and very exciting! The inlay process requires remarkable skill and craftsmanship, especially when used to create such a precious piece of jewelry, one that will be passed down for generations. Below we’ll explain what makes inlay wedding rings, and jewelry in general, so intriguing.

Creating an Inlay Engagement Ring

Since we offer many turquoise engagement rings, let’s use turquoise as our example. First the raw turquoise must be purchased! This involves a lot of skill on its own and often requires the purchaser to travel and bargain his or her way to the best material. This is not a job for a wallflower. To be a competent materials purchaser, you must be able to look at the rough material and know if it will be suitable for inlay jewelry. Is it gemstone quality? Does it have large veins of host rock running through it, making it difficult to cut? Does the price make sense or are you being swindled? How is the color? There are many factors to consider and trade secrets to learn.

Next, someone must cut the turquoise into a rough shape, a process called slabbing. This is followed by blanking, a further-refining of the slabbed stone. By holding the gemstone against a quickly-rotating grinding stone, the artist is able to cut it more precisely. This is generally done under running water to avoid overheating the materials. Bit by bit the turquoise is slowly formed to the exact shape of the channel in which it will live. During the grinding stage, the turquoise is constantly rechecked by holding it against the metal recess until it is able to be dropped into the setting, on top of a secure bed of epoxy. The artist then performs a final polishing to ensure the stone is perfectly flush with the metal.

Jewelry inlaying is a precarious exercise, as the gemstone could crack or chip and the entire process would have to be restarted. Imagine being the spouse of an inlay artist, and having to hear about how many stones they cracked on an off day! Understandably, it takes years of training to become a Kabana inlay artist. Even after all this training, only the most skilled inlay artists are permitted to work with opals, since they are the most valuable stones available for inlay. If you ever meet a Kabana opal inlay artist, know that you are gazing upon the best of the best!

Some inlay artists do all of this themselves. Hats off to them! Kabana; however, is a very successful jewelry company that employs many people for each specific step of the inlay process. This allows each person to become highly skilled in their area of inlaying. In fact, each piece of Kabana jewelry undergoes twenty five steps to creation, with an additional 10-20 quality control checks along the way. This tightly controlled process ensures each and every one of their creations conforms to the highest standards of quality.

With that said, all inlay jewelry is not alike, and we cannot stress this enough. Quicker and less-skilled workers, along with less precious materials, will create less valuable but cheaper jewelry. Cheap inlay has its place in the jewelry world, but it is important to be aware of what the differences are.

  • 1.Use of Fillers: When the stones do not fit precisely within the metal or against each other, filler must be used to close the gaps. This can be seen in between stones or along the edges and is usually a dark color. The more obvious the filler, the less skilled the inlay artist is and the less valuable the jewelry is. Kabana ensures their artists get an exact fit, even if it means scrapping valuable materials in the process. They never use fillers in their jewelry.
  • 2.Cracking: Though cracking is possible with any stone, it is more of a problem with thin uneven inlay. To save money, some artists use the thinnest inlay possible, which is more prone to crack. Furthermore, the inlay is more likely to crack if proper care is not taken to ensure the bottom of the inlay isn’t fully in contact with the metal recess.

  • 3.Separation and Condensation in Opal Doublets and Triplets: Opal doublets and triplets are techniques of using the minimum amount of opal to save money. This can be a problem because the opal may become separated from the jewelry more easily. Condensation can occur under the clear cap of an opal triplet.

Beautiful and unique, inlay engagement rings are continuing to rise in popularity due to the increased number of options available. Some customers even like to have their inlay stones swapped out every few years for a new look! Some, for example, start with a more traditional white mother of pearl just to play it safe, and later request a vibrant blue-green opal.

At this time, all of our inlay engagement rings are crafted by Kabana Jewelry and we stand by their exquisite work. However, despite being of the highest quality, all inlay jewelry does require special care. Please take a moment to read our jewelry care guide to decide if our inlay engagement rings are right for you.

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