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In the jewelry industry, there are many different techniques used to create timeless designs on your jewelry. Many details added to necklaces, rings, and bracelets may seem insignificant but have a purpose and have been used for countless years.
Today, we are going to look at a common element of jewelry design: milgrain.
What is Milgrain?
Milgrain (sometimes spelled “millgrain” or “milgraine”) is a popular design technique used to add detailed borders or other designs on rings or pendants in the form of tiny metal beads or dots. Milgrain is often seen on the outside surfaces of rings to add a border of detail to an otherwise bland surface.
Milgrain is an old design touch and was used for more antique-style jewelry. As of late, milgrain has made a comeback and is seen on various jewelry pieces common today.
One of the best things about having milgrain added to your new jewelry is it doesn’t always demand a higher cost. The quality of diamond you buy is a much more significant determinant of price than milgrain, so don’t think that by choosing this option, you’re guaranteeing a huge price increase.
It is often an added feature for engagement rings and is a way to help set your ring apart.
The History of Milgrain
Milgrain has a rich history, dating back several centuries and originating in Asia. Archaeologists have discovered ancient artifacts from this region that suggest earrings were some of the first jewelry pieces to feature milgrain.
Rings were later found with milgrain years later.
Throughout the years, the milgrain technique was improved upon and demonstrated by many jewelers across the world. During the 20th century, milgrain took off and became a widely used jewelry technique.
At the time, it was reserved for wealthy people and viewed as a delicate and high-end addition to jewelry. It was mostly seen on platinum jewelry, and jewelers started to develop elaborate designs with milgrain as the main feature after the invention of the acetylene torch.
During the Art Deco period, jewelers incorporated milgrain into more jewelry as it became available to more people. This is when milgrain became a common feature on engagement rings and wedding bands.
Now, milgrain is used by nearly every jeweler and can be placed on almost any type of jewelry piece with enough space. While it’s not held to the high standard it used to, milgrain is still a way to make a one-of-a-kind jewelry piece with an added touch of detail.
How Milgrain is Designed onto a Ring
Milgrain is designed onto a ring by one of three methods. These methods include two traditional techniques incorporated by master craftsmen. The last method requires the use of computer-aided design (CAD).
All three methods create stunning designs; however, depending on the manufacturer, one or a mix of the three will be used. Let’s take a closer look at each method to give you a better idea of how they work.
The first method involves crafting each tiny bead by hand and then hand-soldering them onto the jewelry piece. Due to the time-consuming, detail-oriented process this technique requires, it is only used by master craftsmen. It’s usually reserved for custom pieces of higher value.
The second technique requires a knurling tool. The knurling tool is similar to a small pizza cutter and is used to hand-press the milgrain into jewelry. This requires the specialized-hand of an experienced craftsman to ensure it’s transferred correctly.
Lastly, the simplest and most modern process is through CAD. The jeweler designs the milgrain in the CAD program, and then it is transferred to a wax mold. Cast metal is poured into the wax mold to create milgrain jewelry.
While this is the easiest method, and most cost-effective, it lacks the intricacy found on handcrafted designs.
How It Enhances Jewelry
Milgrain is used to add intricate details to the jewelry piece. Whether it’s placed on the original ring or is part of a ring reset, it can create stunning borders or fill in areas on a ring or earring that has bland or flat features.
It not only looks stunning, but it creates depth and dimensions.
Since milgrain adds tiny dots to your jewelry, it then has a new texture. The dots are raised parts on your jewelry, which adds dimension and a custom, intricate look.
It’s an effective way to add personality to your jewelry and makes the overall feel much more intriguing. With its vast history, the texture of milgrain can add a vintage look to the most modern of pieces. The texture on jewelry can help your ring, earrings, or pendants stand out from others.
A Frame For Gemstones
Milgrain is the perfect addition to rings with gemstones.
Milgrain can be used as a frame for gemstones, giving your ring an even more custom look. Gemstones added to the ring are usually encased by a metal gemstone holder. Milgrain can be used instead to complement the features and depth of the gemstone.
A halo design, with milgrain wrapped around the gem, results in a perfect transition from the metal beads to the center stone.
Creates A Border For Rings
A popular reason milgrain is used on rings is to add a border around the ring. Rings are usually flat or concave, leaving much to be desired on the simplest of designs.
A border of milgrain helps accent the overall look of an engagement ring or wedding band. It can turn a basic look into a custom jewelry piece designed by a master craftsman.
You can also use it to border other items in the ring such as diamonds or other accents.
Problems with Milgrain
The biggest problem with adding milgrain to a ring is it must be maintained to preserve its detail. Over time, depending on how it’s worn, milgrain can wear down, causing it to slowly disappear.
This can be remedied by taking your ring to a professional jeweler for milgrain restoration. Fortunately this should only have to be done every 10 years, meaning you will not have to worry about your milgrain wearing down often.
Additionally, due to the texture and depth that milgrain adds, dirt, grime, and debris can become lodged into the valleys of the milgrain.
Depending on the amount your ring is exposed, it may hold more dirt than rings without it. This can be avoided by regularly cleaning your ring and its milgrain to ensure that it is properly maintained.
If neglected, the dirt and grime slowly wear down the metals used in your ring, causing your ring to dull around the milgrain. If you don’t feel comfortable cleaning your jewelry, consider taking it to a professional for cleaning regularly.
Types of Milgrain on Jewelry
Wedding Ring With Milgrain
Though the beads are often metal, milgrain doesn’t have to be silver. Whiteflash offers a 14K yellow gold wedding ring with milgrain. While you might assume the milgrain adds a level of discomfort, this “comfort fit” band is designed specifically for everyday wear.
The milgrain wraps around the entire ring on the top and bottom and would be a perfect match for an engagement ring that also includes milgrain.
Milgrain on an Engagement Ring
The milgrain on the above engagement ring runs alongside pave set brilliant diamonds. The uniqueness in this ring is in the intricate details, with milgrain beads arching up and down before arriving at the center stone.
It’s proof milgrain doesn’t have to only run in a circle around the shank. It can be fashioned into patterns that surround multiple diamonds — in this case, round or cushion.
Milgrain with Pave Diamonds
The milgrain on the diamond engagement ring above runs along the v-shank to meet the top and bottom of the round diamond. It’s placed on the 14K white gold along with the brilliant pave diamonds that lead to the center stone.
While some shanks might feature either pave diamonds or milgrain, this ring is the right fit for someone who doesn’t want to hold back on the sparkle, even when it’s not involving the main diamond.
What to Consider When Buying Jewelry with Milgrain
When purchasing jewelry with Milgrain, there are a few aspects to keep in mind.
Maintenance: The most important aspect you will notice with jewelry that contains milgrain is you will have to maintain it more often than other jewelry. The fine details make it easier for particles to become lodged in the jewelry, meaning you will have to clean the ring more often. You can easily clean your jewelry with warm water, a mild soap, and a very soft brush.
Lifespan: Since milgrain is made from tiny beads of metal, the milgrain will wear down eventually. Since you will only need to have it restored once a decade, this isn’t too big of an issue, but it is certainly something you will want to consider when purchasing jewelry with milgrain.
Design: There isn’t just one type of milgrain for a ring. Because it’s a custom addition, there are many design options to choose. Whether gold or silver beads or large or small, you can add dazzle to your ring any way you want it.
Milgrain is a unique addition to any ring and is found on a variety of them, whether engagement rings, cocktail rings, or wedding bands. It’s a special touch that won’t draw attention away from the main gem but instead embellishes the shank to ensure each part of your ring is special.
It’s also an update that won’t break the bank.
When choosing milgrain for a ring, consider the maintenance it may require, but mostly focus on its exact design and how it can add a new style.