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Ring Stretching and What You Should Know

Annabelle / April 10, 2020

Ring sizing can be a harrowing experience, especially if you really love the ring and you don’t want to subject it to any risks at all. While doing your research, you might have come across the term “ring stretching.” But what is it and how exactly does it differ from regular ring sizing? Here’s what you need to know.

Ring Stretching Vs. Ring Cutting

ring-sizing-process

A jeweler cutting into the back of a ring.

A jeweler can use two ring sizing processes. Traditionally, most jewelers will cut into a ring, at the back of the design, and open it up. They measure the correct desired size by sliding the ring onto a mandrel, and then they remove or add metal until the ring is at the right size. Then the cut is soldered shut, and the item is given a proper polish to remove any tool marks or signs of work.

Ring stretching, on the other hand, is the process of sizing a ring without the invasive cutting procedure. In order to stretch a ring, a jeweler uses a ring stretching machine that works as a kind of “press.” The jeweler slips the ring onto a mandrel-like appendage of the machine and a lever is used to crank the machine until the ring is the correct size. This part of the machine is used to size the ring up.

Below the mandrel, the machine also has several ring sized circular slots used for compression. These slots are used to make a ring smaller. The jeweler inserts the ring into the slot and uses the same lever to exert pressure on the slot, causing the ring to shrink. 

Why Ring Stretching Isn’t Used All The Time

You might be wondering why jewelers don’t use the ring stretching method more, considering how it appears to be much simpler than the cutting method. While it works wonders with plain bands, the truth is that ring stretching is incompatible with a lot of ring designs and will actually damage the ring. Here’s a quick list of rings that cannot be placed into the ring stretching machine.

  1. Anything with stones: If you attempt to put a large solitaire ring into the compression slots, we wouldn’t want to imagine the result. Settings and stones can be affected during the stretching and shrinking of the metal, and in worst case scenarios they can suffer damage.

    ring-sizing-beads

    A stainless steel eternity band set with diamonds.

  2. Patterns: While patterned bands can be placed into the stretching and shrinking machine, the ring won’t come out looking the same. Stretching pulls out the patterns, widening and distorting them, while compression removes any raised texture and flattens the pattern. 
  3. Designs: The stretching process will distort milgrain detailing, and the shrinking process can remove a beveled edge due to the compression of the metal.
  4. Engraving: In the same lines as patterns, engraving will also be distorted in the stretching process.
  5. Enamel & Plating: Hard enamel will crack and splinter if subjected to either stretching or shrinking. Plating will be scratched and removed in the process, requiring the ring to be replated again at an additional charge.
  6. Non-circular rings: If you’ve got a funky ring that’s square shaped, octagon-shaped, or flat-topped like a class ring don’t count on getting them stretched or compressed. The process will remove or damage the design.
  7. Metals: Only sterling silver, gold, and platinum bands can take to the process. Anything made from tungsten or ceramic carbide cannot be stretched because the material is not conducive to the process.

As you can see, ring stretching works best for plain bands. In addition to these criteria, it can only be used to stretch or shrink a ring approximately one to two sizes up and down. Any larger size difference and the cutting method has to be used. 

Another important thing to consider is the thickness of the metal if you’re stretching the ring up. Don’t expect the width to stay the same if you want to size up without using the cutting method; the ring will shrink in width and thickness if you stretch. It may not be a great difference, but if you’re particular about that, opt for the cutting method instead. We generally recommend ring stretching only for men’s wedding rings, if they want to go up or down around half a size. 

Now you’re up to date on ring stretching! If you have an item you want to size, you need to consider what’s the best method for your precious ring. Comment below if you want to get started today!

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