Margaret Wegener From Australia

Ring of Sterling Silver With Laser-cut Amethyst

Part of my story in physics is represented by this ring that I made. I began silversmithing as I was finishing off my PhD in laser physics. When I saw this unusual gemstone — a laser-cut amethyst — it called to me to make a piece of jewelry for myself.

I’ve discovered that understanding of physics really empowers my jewelry design and making process. The properties of materials, application of forces and torques, heat transfer, and optics are all important. Also significant is the problem-solving approach that physics training instills. With this ring, I wanted to minimize metal surrounds distracting from the stone. This meant that traditional gem-setting wasn’t suitable. I used my physics knowledge to work out what was possible, to create an original and successful design for the gem setting and ring band. Art and science come together here.

I get pleasure from knowing, as I look at this piece, that the variation in color from one end of the stone to the other is due to variation in dopants in the crystal. As a woman in physics, the stone’s purple color, with its links to the suffragette and feminist movements, seems
appropriate.

Projects such as this have led to interesting collaborations, for example, with engineers researching laser welding of titanium for jewelry. In another direction, I’m collaborating with an artist to create jewelry and small sculptural objects from lab junk and other physics artefacts (like graphical representations of theoretical models, experimental results and astronomical images). This ‘Labpunk’ work is being exhibited at this year’s Australian Institute of Physics
conference, which is themed ‘The Art of Physics’. It will later be displayed in a museum/gallery setting for the general public, fulfilling a science outreach and communication role, and so addressing my professional responsibilities and interests in physics education.