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Emotional Alchemy

What do you do with the remains of a relationship that no longer exists? What happens to the most symbolic emblem of a relationship, the ring, that now has no purpose?

Both of my parents had, at separate times, given me their wedding bands after they divorced. Tucked in my safe, they were a symbol of a relationship that didn't work; but out of that union came my sister and me, proof that the relationship was once tangible.

Three bands of gold, one diamond. Two people became four. Human alchemy. How to celebrate and honor this?

Three weeks ago I started a class on gold alloys at the Baltimore Jewelry Center, learning how to calculate the intricate math of pure gold, alloyed along with smaller amounts copper, fine silver, and paladium that, once mixed in the proper proportions, would yield yellow, pink, red, white or green gold. How to take 10k gold and alloy it with the proper proportion of 24k gold to create 18k or 14k gold.

Facts, math, cold hard metal.

The rings in my safe...cold, hard metal, no longer the warmth of a loving relationship to warm the rings.

Yesterday I finally pulled out the rings and looked at them. Noted the engraved inscription inside my mother's wedding band was all but illegible from wear. Saw again my father's hand wearing his ring, paddling the canoe down the rapids near Charlottesville with me when I was ten.

I almost couldn't do it. But these lifeless pieces of metal had so much energy, good and bad, that brought a huge flood of memories. It was time to make them into something else, and set them free from the energy of the divorce that brought these rings back to one place, after all the years, from where the once were joined together at the wedding in 1964.

I first removed the diamond, cutting the entire white gold mount, with the diamond in it, free from the yellow gold band with my jewelers saw. I then cut out the section of my mother's band with the inscription, thinking I might be able to repurpose it as is. But I soon decided against it...better to let it all go.

Later that afternoon in class, I held my parents rings in my hand for one last time. I placed the gold bands carefully in the crucible, and fired up the acetylene torch. Brilliant orange heat, hissing of the flame, I held the torch in my left hand; smooth ceramic crucible, rings, held by handle in my right.

Swirling the flame, the edges of the rings began to glow, soften, and brighten to golden orange. Slowly the hard shapes of the rings began to puddle, pulling together, swirl. In minutes the original shapes had disappeared, leaving a mercurial swirling blob.

Once fully heated, I poured the blob into a cast iron ingot form, the liquid quickly disappearing into the blackened hole.

After a few minutes, I carefully opened the ingot form, and there was a small rod of gold, with flashing "wings" on either side. I quenched it water and held in in my hand.

The rings had been truly been joined, made into one form, inseparable. No longer symbolic of a relationship that a didn't work, the gold now, through fire, became a piece of material to use, with potential for creativity, joy, giving. A new life of possibilities for this gold.

The magic of emotional alchemy.

What's next for this gold? Stay tuned!

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