Homer's Odyssey and titanium wedding rings

Chris writes…

Here’s a fascinating connection between a technique I use with titanium wedding rings and really, really ancient knowledge. I am using a twentieth-century metal employing a process that was first described by Homer in The Odyssey circa 800600 BCE.

In a 2005 paper, “The Heart of Steel: A Metallurgical Interpretation of Iron in Homer,” Ruth Russo, Whitman College, points out that the tempering of iron was discussed in Homer’s Odyssey. This very useful metallurgical process is portrayed in the following quote where the hardening of iron is compared to the attack on Cyclops by Odysseus and his men, who were using a hot spike of olivewood:

…as when a man who works as a blacksmith plunges a screaming great ax blade or plane into cold water, treating it for temper, since this is the way steel is made strong, even so Cyclops’ eye sizzled about the beam of the olive.

By using some of the ancient metal-working techniques described by Homer, along with many newer developments, I’ve been able to facilitate many customers’ ideas into unique and personal wedding rings.

My specialty is custom titanium wedding rings. A customer calls and says, “I want a guy riding a mountain bike on my ring.”

Titanium Wedding Ring by Exotica Jewelry
Titanium Wedding Ring: Montrose

And, from a bird keeper at the San Diego zoo, “I need to have a particular bird feather embossed on my wedding ring.”

Titanium Wedding Ring by Exotica Jewelry
Titanium Wedding Ring: Eugene

And then there were the mathemeticians who wanted Euler’s identity

Titanium Wedding Ring by Exotica Jewelry
Titanium Wedding Ring: Formula-Euler

One technique I use to transfer designs onto titanium rings is known as embossing. This requires me to first cut the design into tool steel in order to make a die. I use gravers, tiny burrs, and grinders. Then, using a torch, I temper (harden) the steel die by getting it red hot and oil-quenching it which produces lots of sputtering, smoke, and strange odors. At this stage, the steel is glass hard. If I tried using it, it would shatter so now I must anneal it by slowly reheating it until I reach a particular color: the brown right before purple is what I’m after. Too much heating and the die becomes soft; too little and it would break upon striking the titanium ring.

I then take this die and put it in an old kick press, one of the precursors to a hydraulic press. The titanium ring sits below the die. And with a swift kick, the die comes down and embosses the ring. As you can imagine, titanium is strong—three times stronger than steel—so the die has really got to be tough. I love the idea that, to make my custom titanium wedding rings, I’m using this ancient knowledge on a metal which wasn’t discovered until 1790 and wasn’t widely used at all until the aerospace industry got involved in the 1950’s.