Contrary to common belief, not all rings are made by elves or dark lords of Middle Earth. It turns out that some are also made in tiny shops in small towns, in rural Nepal.
We set off the other day (a public holiday) to search for just the right bit of metal for our latest project. Unlike rock climbing metal bits, or bicycle metal bits, neither of us really knows how to shop for jewelry, particularly in Achham. After extensive wandering in the bazaar, during which we found nothing promising, we opted to venture across the river, to a tiny shop we had noticed a few weeks ago. It had caught my eye then because the goldsmith inside was directing flames onto his project with a tiny metal pipe, which was very interesting to watch.
When we arrived, a young man greeted us with a smile, and we began trying to communicate what exactly we were looking for. The problem was that we didn’t know what exactly we were looking for. As a crowd of people gathered around the entrance to the shop (which seems to occur pretty much everywhere we go), the man began to inquire about how many grams of gold we wanted. Not only were we completely in the dark about how many grams of metal should go into such a thing, but we were also a bit shocked when he produced actual nuggets of gold from a dusty drawer to show us what 2, 3, and 4 grams of gold looked like.
After another thirty minutes or so of confusing conversation, we opted to let him work his art and sat back to see the outcome. He set to work with a hammer and a tiny anvil, and had soon transformed a chunk of gold into an oblong block. He heated this block with a blowtorch, and directed its heat with the same tiny metal pipe that had caught my attention the first time we walked by.
He seemed unfazed by the crowd of giggling children, the ten or so other people huddled around the door, and the two of us taking pictures and asking his apprentice questions about the process.
The whole process was fascinating, and cultivated an immense amount of respect for the time and energy it must take to learn this sort of trade.
As the project began to take shape, he pulled all sorts of other tools out of his bench, and set to work curving the band, firing it again, cooling it, soldering it, and curving it some more. Once it was properly sized and shaped, he produced some sort of white stone, which he used to thoroughly polish it, removing all of the tiny hammer marks. After this came a series of washings, dryings, re-polishings, etc.
In just about 2 hours, as promised, the final product was ready. We had just watched a chunk of raw metal turn into a shiny bit of ceremonial ornamentation, without the use of anything more modern that a hammer, anvil, and hose of combustible gas. Very impressive.
The goldsmith’s nephew and apprentice, who we had the pleasure of conversing with during our time there, explained that in 5-7 years of training, he too would be able to perfect this art.