Lord of the Rings

Berlin (dpa) - She picks a heavy material, platinum, while for him palladium, which is less dense, is the desired metal, but that's not the only choice now when a hip couple chooses rings for their wedding.

Jewellers are now letting couples do the ring-making as well. It's the perfect way to get ready for the romantic big day.

Thirty-seven-year-old Hendrik and his bride-to-be Leila, 26, went to a goldsmith's workshop in Berlin recently to forge their rings out of blank metal with Jens Martens at hand to help them out.

Martens is a goldsmith and runs a workshop with his colleague Michael Andres von Hobe where he provides wedding-ring courses to couples.

"We began as a classic jewellery-making business," explains Martens. But then he and his partner decided to specialize. Twice a month, up to three couples at a time come to the workshop to learn how to make wedding rings.

Martens takes a small plastic bag out of drawer. It contains two metal strips, about two centimetres long, flat and grey. They don't look very romantic, but these are the strips of platinum and palladium to be turned into Leila and Hendrik's rings.

It's the process of turning the metal strips into rings that's the exciting part.

"There's a lot of romance involved in making a ring for your partner," says Hendrik. "When you buy a ring in a shop you don't know its story," adds Leila. That's how the couple got convinced to make their own rings.

The first step in the process is bending the metal strips into ring shapes. Using pliers, Leila and Hendrik slowly twist the strips into a circular form. A small piece of tin is inserted between the two ends of each ring and then soldered.

Martens takes charge and uses a soldering torch for this stage of the process, which is too difficult for non-professionals to do. Hendrik gazes intently at what is now a glowing, orange ring.

"Just like in The Lord of the Rings," he jokes to Leila.

Next, Hendrik and Leila begin working the rings with rubber hammers. This stage of the process makes the rings harder, explains Martens. It's also a way for testing whether the rings have been properly soldered together.

The rings have survived this stage and are now on their way to the anvil where a metal hammer comes into use.

"The only thing that can happen now is they become round. Nothing can go wrong here," says Martens. However, both Hendrik and Leila have to apply some manual dexterity to get the rings into the correct shape.

The next step is to press the rings through a machine. Both rings are a little too large and would fall from the couple's fingers. With some help from Hendrik, Leila pulls a lever and the ring is squeezed down to the right size.

The final stage is polishing. While holding the ring with pliers with one hand, the other is used to rub the ring with a polishing tool, which is driven by a wheel powered by foot.

"If you have never done that type of hand-foot coordination before, it can be quite difficult to master," says Martens.

"Oh, there's smoke!" calls Leila from the other end of the room where she's polishing her ring.

"That's perfect!" says Martens. And indeed it is perfect. The result is two polished and shiny rings for Leila and Hendrik. Both look in awe at their handiwork. "I really feel it's going to happen now," says Leila. Wedding bells can soon ring out.