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Ring Sizing Tips

April 24, 2012

One of the hardest tasks when ordering an engagement ring is finding the right ring size, especially if it needs to be a surprise. I often send plastic ring sizers to those customers to at least get within a close  size range. They then have to wait until their partner is asleep and try out those sizers on her hand. If she wakes up, just come up with a cheesy line that you wanted to hold her hands because you missed her.  :) Or try to get creative and involve other family members that might be able to get that information with less suspicion. If it's not a surprise I recommend going to a local jeweler to get professionally sized with calibrated metal sizers.

Note that often each finger on someone’s hand has a different size and even left and right hands are different. In my case, since I am right handed, my right hand fingers are half to 1 US size larger than my left hand fingers. Don’t just assume one ring that she wears on her hand somewhere will also fit on that special ring finger. There are also multiple fancy online sizer options that have printable charts or use credit cards or driver licenses as a measuring tool like this site. Still, the margin of error is pretty big as the scale can be off when printing those sheets or trying to measure something on a screen. All the customers that told me they used these methods were often of by 1 or more sizes. Best is to get professionally sized at a store with metal ring sizer's that are similar in width as the desired ring band. Please note that even those calibrated metal ring sizers that stores and shops use vary a bit from each other. I have 3 mandrels and 2 sets of metal ring sizers and they are all slightly off from each other. Those tolerances can easily mean to get different measurement for the ring size (mostly within a 1/4 size up or down). Chances are that if one gets sized at different stores, one comes back with multiple measurements. Unfortunately there is no universal sizing method or even chart when it comes to ring sizes.
If in doubt it's best in my experience to order a ring slightly smaller (1/4 to 1/2 US size less).  It is easier to stretch a ring by hammering it on a steel mandrel or to grind some metal from the inside of the band if it's thick enough. Making a ring smaller after the fact usually requires cutting the shank and resoldering it.

Measuring tools for ring sizing
It’s not always possible to resize a ring. It has to be evaluated case by case. If the ring has no gemstones and no special texture, it’s usually not a real issue. Sizing can be done by removing or inserting a piece of the same metal in the ring shank and soldering it. For textured pieces this could be a bit trickier as it’s not always possible to reapply the same texture on the inserted metal in case the texture was done on the wax models. A seam may be visible on the cut line. A hairline seam may also be visible for ring in some alloys were the solder color does not match exactly the shade of the alloy. This happens frequently with Palladium white gold alloys and also with the new silver/palladium alloy I use. I haven't had any issues with solder matching for purer alloys such as 950 Palladium or Sterling Silver.

Once gemstones are set in the ring, and it can’t be removed, it becomes a totally different deal. Only a few stones like diamonds, sapphires and rubies without inclusions or some lab created stones can take heat from the soldering. Removing stones is often only possible for gems in prong setting as prongs can be bent slightly away from the stone to be able to get it out. Most other setting types could get destroyed easily because the metal around the stone needs to be removed from the girdle to be able to get it out.  Protecting gems in place during soldering by different types of cooling is often used in those cases but still involves risk of damage to the gem. 
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Ring sizing soldering setup. The set gemstone is emerged in water while the shank gets heated to soldering temperatures. This only really works well on narrow bands when the required heat can be reached very fast. I don't have success with this method with any heavier silver shanks.

To my knowledge Platinum and Palladium rings with set stones that can't be removed, can not be soldered as no gemstone - not even a diamond- can tolerate the high soldering temperatures of these metals. Gold and silver soldering temperatures are lower. Gold rings are usually easier to size due to the properties of the metal. Sterling silver gemstone rings are very difficult to size as the silver has a high conductivity and it’s very hard to get the solder to a flow point without overheating the gems. When purchasing sterling silver rings make sure a person gets the correct size. When resizing needs to be done, depending on how the rings were made, in some cases resizing will cost more than the ring is worth. Stone set rings may also get sized using a laser welder, as it does not heat the entire ring during the sizing. But not many small jewelry artists have access to those very expensive tools. It sometimes can be done in a jewelry store that specializes in jewelry repairs. It will still cost time and money. I do work with a laser welding specialist in downtown LA in those cases, he can size stone set silver, gold and palladium rings for me.

Resizing more than 1 full US size up or down can destroy the structural integrity of a ring especially if the ring has stone settings. Sizing can introduce too much stress in the setting and the stone, resulting in cracks or gems falling out of the setting. In such cases the rings will have to be completely redone to the correct size. If unsure about a right ring size, check with the artist before ordering if resizing can be done, what costs apply or if exchanges are offered. Or better get the correct ring size before ordering.

Please note that ring comfort depends also on the shape and width of the ring. Wider bands tend to feel tighter than narrower ones of the same size. Same goes for stacked rings that all together will end of fitting like a wide ring. If you size a finger with narrow ring sizers like the plastic one's from my shop, then a wide band made for that finger will often need to be a little larger in size in order to fit the same. How much larger depends on the person, but an 1/8 to a 1/2 size is common. For very wide rings (10mm and wider) some people need to go 1/2 size up or even more.   The right ring size depends also on personal preference. Some people prefer a tight fit others like it loose just shy of being able to fling the ring off. Heavy rings often feel tighter than lighter rings. Top heavy rings with large gemstone settings high up on a narrow band often should fit tighter to avoid the setting from sliding from side to side. It's a hard thing to get right especially if the knuckles of a finger are actually the widest part.

To convert sizes from other international measuring systems I recommend this handy site.
Here are a few steps to make your measurement more accurate:
  • When measuring, keep in mind that each finger could have a different size, so don't presume that a ring that fits your left ring finger will also fit your right ring finger or vice versa.
  • Measure when your hands are warm, not cold.
  • Make sure the measurement you choose easily fits over your knuckle.
If for any reason a ring you ordered does not fit, please contact me and we will work something out. It will be evaluated on a case by case basis what the best way is to make it a well fitting ring. I usually do one ring sizing for free if needed plus material cost if a larger size is required.



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